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Hi, my name is Carol and I have a reading problem.

I can’t remember when I started reading. It seems like I’ve always had this habit, although there must have been pre-literature days in my past.

When it first started, it just seemed like a recreational thing.

The books were short and didn’t take much time – Frog And Toad Are Friends, Millions Of Cats, The Velveteen Rabbit, Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel – that kind of thing.

Then I started getting into harder stuff:

  • Charlotte’s Web
  • The Witches
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • A Wrinkle In Time
  • Black  Beauty
  • White Fang

By the time I was 12 years old, the habit was worsening.

  • Watership Down
  • My Family And Other Animals
  • If Only They Could Talk
  • The Sword In The Stone
  • Jurassic Park
  • Beautiful Joe
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Animal Farm

I knew that I read more than a lot of people I knew, but I didn’t think I was that unusual. I just happened to know a lot of non-readers.

It wasn’t until University that people began to broach the subject with me.

“Pride and Prejudice? What class is that for?”

“Um… it isn’t for class. I just like it.”

“You’re reading FOR FUN? Where do you find the time? I haven’t read for pleasure in months.”

Considering that this sort of conversation would take place IN CLASS, usually in the few minutes between the doors opening and the professor getting started, the question “where do you find the time?” seemed fairly self-explanatory.

I carried a book on me at all times. I read over meals. I read while walking to class. The occasional bumping-into-a-tree incident didn’t really seem to break the habit. I read between classes. I read in the greenroom between scenes of whatever play I was in. I read in the evenings, between writing papers. I read in the bath. Finally, I read in bed at night.

I should have known then that I had a problem. But, see, I knew that while I certainly read more than a lot of people I knew, it wasn’t a PROBLEM. It didn’t interfere with my life. I could function just fine.

Sure, my boyfriend at the time sometimes complained when he discovered that I hadn’t heard a word of his last 5 minute ramble because I was “listening to the people in my book”.

And yes, he sometimes complained that I spent too much time with my books and not enough watching TV with him. But I dismissed such complaints out of hand.

Our mutual love of reading brought PH and myself together. Originally just a fellow cast member in several plays, we went out for drinks a couple of times and found ourselves deep in discussions about whether or not Who Is Bugs Potter? was a better Gordon Korman than I Want To Go Home! or whether the world a fiction author creates constitutes the “truth”, and therefore, when a book such as Wide Sargasso Sea contradict the original book, whether they are “lying”.

But while PH is certainly a reader, I’m beginning to be aware that he doesn’t seem to have the same… difficulties with it that I do.

Reading really IS becoming a problem.

Just like in University days, I still read in every spare moment. I read over meals, unless PH is trying to engage me in conversation. I read in the bathroom. I read while running Owl’s bath. I read while nursing Owl to sleep at night. I read while Owl plays. When Owl wants me to play with him, I read to Owl. I read in bed.

Despite the fact that, word for word, PH is a much faster reader than I am, I blast through books at probably triple his speed. The books on my bedside table pile up in precarious towers, a visual tribute to my literary gluttony.

I’m beginning to realize that I don’t find time for reading in my life – I find time for life in my reading.

And I’m not doing that very well.

I think I use books as a way to hide from life. They are no longer recreational. They are like AIR.

At what point does it become a problem?

Should I really be spending so much time burying my head in the sand of a story?

How many hours of my day are eaten up by my ducking into my literary universe?

How much of the dirt in my house would be vanquished if I spent half as much time cleaning as I do reading?

How much exercise am I missing out on by curling up with a book instead of going for a walk? (Hell, when I was pregnant and spending all my time in the pool, I started reading IN THE POOL too)

Is it healthy that I consider the things I need to do in life – get up, walk the dog, CARE FOR MY CHILD, as mere interruptions?

Would I have been more alert, more rested, at my job if I hadn’t spent so many nights reading late?

I may also be passing my obsession down to the next generation

Sometimes I think that I should try to give up reading.

Think of the hours gained!

But I find the thought of going through life without books to hide in to be a frightening future.

Would I want such a barren life?

Besides, I NEED books. I really don’t sleep well without a book to read at night. I need to settle down in my warm bed with my blankets and something to drink and shed the detritus of my day by entering a book for a while.

Unfortunately, if it’s a new book and not one I’ve read a (figuratively) million times I also end up staying awake late into the night. So I need them to sleep, but they also rob me of sleep at times.

I could try to swear off books outside of bed time, but that seems like a plan that would backfire. If I knew that I wouldn’t get to open my book again for 24 hours, how much harder would it be to close the book and turn off the light?

My friend The Farm Fairy suggested getting a timer, but I have a feeling that I still lack the self control to stop myself when the timer dings. It’s hard to explain how out of control I feel when it comes to reading. I think that my inability to control my book habit is as bad or worse than my emotional eating problems.

At least I admit that I have a problem.

What I’m not sure about is how to deal with it.

Enabler #1

Enabler #2

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