Who doesn’t want to get ahead in life and do more than they had set out to do? I’m so excited to report I am making significant progress in one area of my life which has suffered severely in the last fifteen years.
When I was a kid I read all the time. I first loved Boxcar Children, then The Witch of Blackberry Pond, Hatchet and everything by Gary Paulsen, any Jack Weyland book I could get my hands on and the list went on and on. I don’t think I really stopped enjoying reading for a long time by I always took a very rigorous class schedule with several honors, CC and AP classes each year. There just wasn’t time to read.
Eventually I finished high school but the homework load didn’t let up in college by any stretch of the imagination. My recollection is that I read the Children of the Promise series in those years and that is it. By the time I finished my degree I had completely stopped reading all together. The thought of opening a book made me want to roll my eyes and fall over to take a nap.
I remember we got four books for our wedding, halfway through our college years. I never read a single one. Finally I donated them to the good will after about six years, with the thoughtful notes of those well-wishers thoughtfully inscribed in the cover. Each one had been about how to raise good Christian families or have a healthy marriage. It wasn’t that I didn’t want those things but I sure wasn’t going to read about it. I would rather have wed the garden in the hot Texas sun without mosquito spray.
I once had a friend loan me Harry Potter. I hadn’t asked for it, but she insisted that if I would just read this book I’d be hooked on reading again. I warned her of my history and promised to return it but made no promise on timelines. Harry Potter #1 sat on my night stand for a year and a half. After a year of me having it her husband was home and was organizing their bookshelf on his Christmas break. He asked where the book was. She made him call me. I was mortified to admit I’d had it over a year. He said he’d just buy a new one. I said I’d just return it. She intervened and told me to keep it another month and for heavens sakes, READ IT!! I tried. That’s probably when I made it to page 100. When they moved six months later I crammed to finish the book but really didn’t enjoy it one bit. Her husband just shook his head when I returned it so they could pack it in their boxes.
My time in Fairfax exposed me to some brilliant people that I truly stood in awe to watch them live their lives. They were so smart. So cultured. So well spoken. So perfect. (Catherine comes to mind.) I luckily by this point was well grounded in my personal worth and knew I had unique and special gifts to share with the world but still I wanted to be more. Over time I came to conclude that basically everyone that fit that Super Woman Mold I was aspiring too went to book club and read on their own to learn, to grow and to expand themselves. I determined to go to book club. Maybe that could expand me and stretch me in a way I would be pleased with myself.
For four years I wrote down the title of the monthly book. For four years, almost every month, I would look up which library had the book on the shelves. For four years I would even occasionally make it to the library and check the book out. For four years the books set on my counter/bookshelf/passenger seat of the car/nightstand. For four years they went unread an I stayed the same old little me.
One New Years I set a resolution. Read ONE book a year. Most years I failed. Not even one measly book a year could I churn out. I failed and I felt like a failure.
Finally, with our impending move upon us, I determined that I would NOT move without attending book club a single time in four years. I was busy preparing for the move so looked at reading the December book. It was supposed to be Little Women. Gag me. I can barely watch the movie. I’m not reading a 1,000 page book. Again, I choose weeding in Texas. Despite my schedule I determined I would have to do this in November.
The book for the month of November was A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute and it was available, unabridged, on CD. I got the CD and listened in the kitchen everyday as I made breakfast, lunch and dinner, washed dishes and cleaned kitchen counters. I hand sewed on all of Ben’s cub scout patches the a needle, thread and thimble (it would have taken thirty minutes on the sewing machine but I swear I spent six hours by hand). In the end, I finished the book and though I hadn’t actually read the book, I had finished it. I was ready for book club.
I felt a little foolish coming to book club. I felt such an amazing sense of “I DID IT!!!!” I wanted to shout as I entered the door to the Proctor home, “I RULE THE WORLD!! I READ A BOOK!” Of course I didn’t do that. I socialized like a normal educated and cultured woman here to discuss a great book. When it came time for the group discussion I didn’t know what to expect. It was a good “read” (listen) but what is there to talk about? I had no idea. Within twenty minutes I was ready to sneak out the door. Seriously? Who cares what so and so said to that person and how it would have been written differently if the book was written through Mr. X’s eyes instead of Mr. Y. Question like this seemed to really perplex the women and they had serious, deep, thought provoking discussion. Only the only thought I could provoke out of my pea sized brain seemed to be, “Why the heck to I care????”
My conclusion? I’m me. And that’s okay. I will never write a novel, but I can change the oil in your car. I may not be able to recall and recite verses from the Bible but God has blessed me with a strong, strong faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t have to read books to have value as person.
Crazy thing is, I’ve read five books already in 2011. Not much for the average adult but a total miracle for me. I read The Help, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, Children of the Killing Fields of Cambodia, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and one more something I can’t recall. Five books. So I’m proud of me even if they aren’t classic literature or adding to my value in any way.
By my reckoning, I don’t have to read another book until 2016 if I don’t want and I’m on target for my one book a year.