When I am required to write down my “special interests” on any paperwork, reading is almost always the first thing I list.
I have loved to read since I was barely running, as my parents tell me I was picking words out of the newspaper at age two.
Reading has been a big part of my life ever since, but my attention to it recently has definitely been reminiscent of starvation.
I went through phases where I wouldn’t find the time to read even a page of a book I enjoyed– for months– and then I would start to feel the pull. I would keep my busy life going until suddenly I couldn’t take it anymore. All I wanted in the WORLD in those moments was to sit down quietly with a good book. So I would– I would sit down and binge read for an entire weekend, and then “get on with my life.” I was back to slaving through hundreds of textbook pages, journal articles, and reading reviews.
Needless to say, the longing to read for pleasure came back for me again and again.
Over the past year, I have made significant strides with my schedule. I have creatively removed, pared-down, and slimmed my working hours to the bare minimum in order to try to find some balance between the workaholic side of me, and the side of me that desires to truly live.
This semester I have found myself with a luxury that I haven’t experienced in years. I have successfully built free time into my days, so that I am able to read DAILY! I sometimes have a full hour to read before bed each night, and then more time before I leave for school in the morning.
I feel like this announcement requires a big, huge, happy dance!
But, of course, there’s always a catch. While my schedule has improved, my mindset, sadly, has not.
I still read books like a person who is dying of thirst. I tend to see each one as a little checkmark that I can cross off my to-do list, and as quickly as possible. I tear though them as though I’m trying to win a contest.
Often, I can get to the end of the novel and not be able to tell you the names of the characters. Because I skipped over them. In order to read faster.
As pleased as I am with my new-found freedom to pursue one of my life’s greatest interests… I need to take a moment to slow down and chill out.
I need to stop letting the pages fly, and instead learn to savor the very letters they’re composed of.
Have you ever sat in front of a novel and covered the opposite page so that you won’t read ahead? Imagine needing to do that on every single page! This is where I am.
I am now making a conscious effort to slow down my reading. I try to read every word– and not to skip any. I try not to rush through a longer-than-normal paragraph. I remind myself to take a moment to REALLY picture what’s going on– not just in a fleeting, fast-forwarded-movie sort of way, but in an admiring-a-masterpiece sort of way.
Stop. Actually picture this character’s facial features as they’re being described. Can you see him? Actually imagine smelling the scents of fire, mildew, or home cooking.
Pause. Read. Repeat.
In this way, reading can become an exercise in learning to live in the moment.
As students, most of us are trained to read as quickly as possible. We focus only on completion, and absorbing the material becomes an afterthought. If we complete our reading assignments at all, we set out with a conquering mindset that we will finish– and SOON!
Here is an invitation to stop and smell the new books.
When you’re reading for pleasure, make sure that it’s pleasurable! Release any pressure you feel to compete, perform, and overachieve. Free your mind from the need to tear through the pages.
I am on a journey to learn how to savor those pages once again. I think it will be a very enjoyable one 🙂
“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”
― Oscar Wilde