Saturday, March 03, 2007

When do you read?

It happens every time a list of books gets posted. Books read, or books hoping to be read, bring up the question, "When do you have time to read?" I take it as an honest question, and I decided I would take a few minutes and give it an honest answer.

I posted a photo response to this question in this post , but I thought I would elaborate. Years ago I read a list by M-mv that detailed out what she does not do in order to have time to read. It made me want to evaluate little (and big) chunks of time more carefully. What was draining my energy and my time, and how could I spend it more productively?

Catalogs and worry were two things from M-mv's list that immediately caught my attention; what great examples of the big and small ways our time is eaten away. I don't know what your catalog pile looks like, but we get far too many of them. I no longer give them a glance. I don't have the money for any of it, and they pull me in for five, ten or twenty minutes of coveting things I don't need. With that gone, I probably found at least thirty minutes a week. Worry is something that doesn't match with my view of the world and the power of its Creator, but it is an easy choice nonetheless. When I can choose faith, I have more time for what I should be doing.

I am not a perfect housekeeper. We keep the clutter monster barely at arm's length, and we clean deeply only as often as really necessary. My laundry is rarely done for longer than an hour, I don't answer my phone very often, and my cooking is healthy but very simple. I love creating a relaxed and comfortable environment for my family, but sometimes "relaxed" is not a strong enough word. We have some property, but we like it mainly for the privacy it provides. We no longer have chickens, because we kept forgetting to feed and water them. We have a garden plot that may or may not get use this spring and summer. I love our front garden beds, but my oldest daughter does the regular work and I enjoy photographing the blooms. I think there is a tremendous amount of beauty in my life, but I can see it over the pile of laundry as some others could not. Does that give enough of an idea? No white glove tests here, please. If you want to come in, curl up your feet, pet a dog and a have a good talk over a cup of coffee, this is the place to be. If you want to be inspired with decorating or organizational ideas, I would disappoint you many times over.

Another piece of my internal puzzle is the fact that I did not start to care much about learning until I got married and went back to college at the age of twenty-seven. I graduated at thirty, seven months pregnant with my first child, and we were blessed with five children in eight years. I still had a ravenous hunger to learn, but I also had to figure out meal planning, money management and raising children. In those early years, we lived out in the middle of nowhere, we had no money, and I was surrounded by babies. I began to learn, even then, to carve out time with books. They became a good visit during nap time, a spark to my imagination before I went to sleep, an armchair travel opportunity when I was home in the country with my little ones. Reading one book would lead to dozens more. This author mentions that author; this one quotes that one; what is that a reference to? My lists just grew.

And, slowly but surely, I have been reading. Some months and seasons I read more than others. Some years more than others. But always I am reading. As my photos show, I read when I cook, when I am waiting for my mother at the store, when in the restroom or in bed, early in the morning or late at night. I need a lot more sleep than some people, but I need a lot less socializing, too. I have many dear friends, and we love to have time together, but I have to balance it out with plenty of alone time.

I wrote to a blog reader the following comments on reading:

I read other blogs where they read piles of books, comment far more intelligently on them than I could, and I wonder how they do it. They might have fewer children than I do, they might need less sleep or read faster, they might...etc.etc., but I have come to realize this is not a comparison game or a competition to see who can read more. I post the books I have read on my blog as a way of remembering what I have read; I find it much too easy to forget what has influenced me, thus I blog.

... I will go to my grave defending the idea that one book, well read, can be enough to change an entire life, so it doesn't really matter how much we read. What matters is the way the reading causes us to grow.

I readily admit that my hunger to read and learn is bordering on lunacy, but it is a happy lunacy. I have been thrilled to listen in on the great conversation between authors and ideas, fellow-autodidacts and their epiphanies. It's been a life line for me as I grow as a woman, wife, mother, and daughter. Yes, even if the laundry has to wait to be folded until the chapter is over. I have learned that it will be there when I am done.

Happy reading.

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