I feel that in the last couple of weeks, for a reason I have yet to know, I feel more at ease, more tranquil, more at peace, content.
This week I have been able to do a lot of reading. It feels wonderful. I used to read a book in a few days, and when I was busy, I would finish it within the week. Now I feel like I only read neverending stories. Novels I begin and then don’t pick up again for weeks, months even. It takes me more than six months to finish a book these days. There are such gaps between reading moments that often I have to re-read what has already been read, making me feel that finishing the book will be a great obstacle.
These days, we all seem to read things so quickly, in quick bursts, fragments, one line, one sentence, a title, a tweet. Everything is moving so fast, changing so quickly. The way we get information and news, headlines and updates, it switches and changes so rapidly and is never very long. Books and novels all of a sudden seem so overwhelming to tackle, so long and time consuming. Has new technology ruined our attention span?
You would think with the change in medium, reading headlines on Twitter as opposed to the front page of the actual newspaper, that my reading ability, the technique of reading would be quicker and that I could read a novel in record time. I think I’ve accomplished this skill for newspaper articles and magazine columns, blog posts and web pages. I do read quickly, my eyes jump to a word, skip a few, read a word, skip a few. With just a glance, I do read the words, I do absorb the facts I do retain the info, I can even share the info with my entourage which means I must have comprehended it. (About a month ago my aunt posted an article in her notes section of her Facebook page. No sooner had she posted it, did I make a comment to the article. My aunt did not believe that I had read the article ‘that fast’. But I had! And I remember what I read. I can tell you about it now – it was an article on Cancer. What brings it alive and active in us since it is present anyway, and what we can perhaps do to prevent it from awakening – some suggestions where to drink red wine, use only olive oil to cook and no red meat… but I won’t go into all the details of the article here….)
Reading a novel is different though. You don’t want it to go too quickly. Albeit, you don’t want it to last for six to eight months either, but you do want to savour the words, indulge in the imagery, bask in the poetry.
In addition to using modern technology, I am also the mother of two children. I have thus clearly forgotten what it means to sit for long hours at once and stay on task for that extended length of time. When I am with my boys, which is 24/7, (except when they nap and I have some me time, or when they are sleeping at night, but essentially I am still right here with them) we tend to do things in thirty minute shifts, maximum. Thirty minutes between getting shoes and coats on and walking to the bus stop. Thirty minute bus rides. Thirty minutes or more at our destination – story-time, or window shopping, seeing an expo or walking. Library visits when there is no story time is excalty thirty minutes. Playing at the park went from twenty-five to twenty minutes today. If bus rides last longer Thibault will acutally turn and say to me “Au revoir bus, y a plus”. I have come to realize that when the boys nap, I have the chance to do one thing within that time frame. One. I can either nap myself, or make a phone, or write an email, or do a load of laundry, or read. But it is never an accumulation of all those things. If I make a phone call and we chat, that is it. Bing! time’s up. If I read and respond to an email, that is it. Bing! time’s up. If I take a nap myself, then for sure, that is it. Bing! time’s up for doing anything else.
Where then is the time to read? Time meaning an accumulation of minutes, several minutes, at regular intervals. Not just once a week, but regularly, daily… extended minutes, where we are focused, where we are not distracted by the chirp for a new email message received in the inbox, tweets to write, tweets to read – free from obligations and interuptions from the kids.
This week was a little different than usual. My husband was away on business. And while I love my husband and prefer when he is here to when he is not here, I can’t help but feel a little sense of liberty when he is gone. Not that I am limited when he is here, but naturally with a family, there is a certain routine that sets in with taking care of them, there is an order to doing things, a schedule to follow, a minimum to respect. Grocery shopping for meals, fixing dinner, bath-time, laundry. I admit that when my husband is away I tend to cheat a little. Lunch might be leftovers heated in the microwave – no cooking! Dinner might be microwavable dinners and a jar of babyfood, no cooking! little clean-up! I would never serve a bowl of cereal for dinner to my husband, but for me, on occasion, that’s fine.
Reading in bed, when my husband is here, can be irritating. For him, not for me. He lets me read in bed, but I never read for too long, knowing that we’ll both be up at quarter to six the following morning. But when he is away, reading in bed doens’t have a time limit. And early morning rising is not habitual for us three when he is not here to lead the way.
I remember one time, when we were living in Brazil, I was chatting with a friend, the wife of a colleague of my husband. Both of our husbands would be traveling on business, and we discovered we both had the one simple pleasure that would sooth us in our solitary evenings – we would be able to read in bed, without any concerns!
So this week I got to read, carelessly, with no time limit and without feeling guilty for negleting my husband. Monday night I read in bed till 11pm. Tuesday night I read in bed till mid-night! Last night I read again till very late. This morning the clock on the microwave read 8:38 when Thibault and I got up. Damien woke up at 9:26! I also read during the boys’ naps.
For me, reading is like coming back from the well. The bucket is full. I am no longer thristy. I feel refreshed. Rested and energized. I feel like I can now move on to accomplish other things because I made it through so many chapters. I feel Giddy. It allows me to not be frustrated with the frequent stopping as we walk so that Thibault can show me each detail he sees, the buses, the leaves, the motorcycle, the helicopters, where the sidewalk is dirty, that there is a man sitting there, that there is a dumptruck, grass, steps to climb up, walls to walk on, walls to make toy cars drive on, other strollers, other babies, bikes, and skateboards, that the park is that way and all the other little details that make a quick ten minute walk to the bakery turn into a thirty minute stroll, to go, and a thirty minute stroll to come back.
I am not complaining in that I don’t have enough time for me. No! I am thrilled that for Thibault the same walk that we do every day, twice a day, remains so exciting to him, so new and fresh. In our quickness and attitude to rush and go go go, it is amazing the things we overlook and miss because we don’t take the time to look and see… to observe the details around us, especially on a walk that we do daily.
But I do see that I need books, that I need reading. I feel mentally goofy without that kind of exercise for my brain. I see the good that reading regularly has done me this week. Reading regulalry. A once such common habit. I must force myself to read again, atleast one chapter a day whether it be at breakfast, during the boys’ naptime or before going to bed. I must renew this habit and make it once again a daily priority.
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