My eyes are raw and scratchy, the lids nod closed, the thoughts stutter fuzzy and disconnected. I try to harness my attention, to inject one more word, one more page into my skull. I try to shove words into my brain like Gluttony topping his gullet in Seven.
The sun has moved across the window pane, bathing me in warmth and stupor, and still I cannot put down the book. I sneak glances at the clock like a school mistress, waiting for it to chide me, to alarm me out of my torpor. But it only peers back at me with curiosity, head cocked, asking, Now?
No, I tell it, defensive, defiant, perhaps rabid. No, you cannot take this moment. This is mine, and my couch’s, and my book’s. And besides, reading is good for me. For anyone. Mine. …
In the circles in which I’ve run, I know many people who learned very early in life that a book could not only be a pleasure, but it could be an escape, a haven, a protectorate. And many of us found that we could hide inside the pages of a book from all the chaos outside the binding. I certainly did.
I’ve been an avid reader since childhood, eventually picking up longer and longer books left by my mom from the library — including Stephen King’s 787-page horror/delight Insomnia in middle school, and staying up ’til the wee hours of the weeknight, ’til 1 or 2 am, before I felt sufficiently zonked that I wouldn’t be scared to walk upstairs in the dark alone.
I hopped on the Harry Potter train just before the 7th book was released, and read the whole series in a mad, head-long, eye-straining dash. Same with many other novels…many other Saturdays…many other Sundays…afternoons…evenings…
As I listened yesterday to the The Success Principles audiobook when I returned from work (continuing my newly-formed habit of cleaning up for 5 minutes when I arrive home), I heard the author say the following:
If you eliminated one hour of TV from your day, you’d have freed up 365 hours in a year. This translates to 9 weeks of a full-time job.
At the time, I’d been waiting to finish my cleaning so I could continue haunting the pages of Game of Thrones (which I’m not convinced I enjoy, but I certainly appreciate disappearing into). I’d already exercised, blogged, worked — what was the next 2.5 hours to me anyway?
But it struck me: If I eliminated 1 hour of reading from my daily life, what could I accomplish?
I’ve already begun to tease apart my “Time Indifference” (not using the time I have to pursue my goals), and I’ve located so many places where I feel inefficient and blindered: The goals I write on my January list that recur annually; the writing I must do for my weekly Goals Group that I put off until the 45 minutes beforehand; the practicing of the piano so that I can actually play, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Christmas…
What could I be doing if I weren’t reading? What could I be accomplishing if I weren’t fogging out in the words of another land?
I love reading. But I do also know when it tips over from a time of rejuvenation and enjoyment to a drooling, mindless binge. I love reading, but I don’t need to spend ALL of the hours I have free doing it. I want to read, more and more and more, and into the future and always — but not at the expense of everything else I’m called to accomplish this lifetime.
Inside a book, I can hide from actions that are in service of a bigger life.
So, for now, maybe only for Lent, I am instituting a habit that I will only read for pleasure for 30 minutes a day (outside the 10~20 minutes I get before bed!). I don’t actually find this to be limiting or depriving; I find this new edict to open a world of possibilities directly into my hands.