I was recently lamenting to a friend the fact that I've drifted away from "serious" reading. It is hard to admit that. But I have.
"Oh I remember those days," she said. "Life with small kids doesn't much allow for reading. Quality literature was better than NyQuil in those days. All I had to do was pick up a book and I was fast asleep."
Another friend with grown kids said she re-entered the reading world through New Yorker articles after a long hiatus filled with Goodnight Moon and The Berenstain Bears.
I know my intellectual life is suffering from lack of good input. My brain, I'm afraid, is atrophying like a dying limb. How does this happen? Once upon a time, I would have described myself as an "avid reader" who read "everything I can get my hands on". I would have listed reading among my hobbies. And I read good stuff, too. Theology and congregational theory, good novels with critical acclaim. I thought about what I read.
Maybe more importantly than "how did this happen?" is HOW DO I GET MY READING MOJO BACK??
Like my friend, I'm working my way up to finishing a WHOLE New Yorker article without getting distracted, falling asleep or needing to tend to someone else's bodily needs. Baby steps, I guess. But it is honestly, something I miss about myself. I like being an intellectual. I like being able to have intelligent, informed conversations about something other than child-rearing.
Lately, like so much else in my life, my reading has been anchored in whatever present crisis (or blessing!) we find ourselves mired in. I live very much in the NOW and my looking ahead doesn't really involve big dreams as much as it involves making sure that childcare is covered and that soccer practice doesn't overlap with church and that everyone is getting to bed on time. My reading is the same: My last great read was The Other End of the Leash, about dog training. Stimulating stuff. And the dog is still a jerk on the leash. I read to solve immediate problems, not to grow my brain. Just like these days I cook to make sure we eat, not to experience the wonderful flavors and savor the meal.
To be clear: this does not mean I have no time for myself. It simply means that I am whining about the fact that I've only been given 24 hours in each day. And I'm making choices. I get up early to run instead of read-- choice. I painted the bedroom this weekend instead of tackling the dusty, neglected stack beside my bed-- choice. I'm spending half and hour writing about not reading instead of... well, you know-- choice.
I look forward to flipping that switch back on, figuring out how to get my brain back to a place where I crave that magic that only good books can bring. I will get back there. For now, it feels like one more chore, one more thing I'm failing to accomplish (that is a VERY long list). The New Yorker will have to do for now.