No, not “I like to read”, although I do. No, not “Reading (or English, or Literature) was my best subject in school”, although it was. I am a reader – reading is actually a defining characteristic. I really cannot remember not being able to read – I was allowed into the 1st grade at 5 because I was already reading on a 5th grade level, and spent 12 years of school in trouble for trying to read when I should have been doing math or science or recess. I was the only person I knew who ended up grounded from reading – take away the TV, the phone, playing outside, going out with friends, and I was fine. Not allow me to read, and suddenly I paid attention!
Reading is my favorite for of entertainment (tied with loving, passionate sex – but that requires the right partner), it provides comfort when I am sad, bored, stuck at a doctor’s office. It provides the information I need in my life. Difficult child – there’s a book for that. Sudden need to design a web site for work (you want me to do what?!) – articles abound on this topic. Breast cancer diagnosis – read current medical journal articles. Did I spend time exploring cooking, sewing, gardening – only a little because there were too many books begging to be read – too many murders to solve, too many planets to explore, too many castles to visit, too many spies to catch, too many characters to know and love.
Did that mean I didn’t and don’t have a “real life”? No – it means that reading was just woven into the fabric of my life. I survived a chaotic childhood (bipolar father, mother with narcolepsy – that’s a blog in itself) by immersing myself in other places. My high school and college friends loved me, but thought the reading was just another quirky part of my personality – like not being able to find my shoes or losing my keys. Did the 100+ Barbara Cartland books I read mean that I had unreal expectation about true love and romance? No – I have always clearly differentiated between fantasy and real life. I knew my husband was “the one” because he also loved to read – and had read some of the same authors. My daughter and I have shared books since she was born – at first I shared the books appropriate for her age, but by junior high we were exchanging books and sharing tips on new authors. One of the difficulties we faced when she first moved into her own house was splitting our library – who got custody of which books, which authors…. That dilemma was solved with a trip to Half Price Books 🙂 Most of the friends I have made in adulthood are readers with whom I exchange books, and who have introduced me to new authors, new genres, new formats (although I am still not sure that the ebook is for me, and I still prefer my novels wordy rather than graphic).
How did I really know that I was depressed in the fall of ’09? I stopped reading – even old favorites. I wasn’t even tempted to pick one up. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have a book with me at all times. Instead I spent all my spare time staring into space, or planting and harvesting fruit and rearranging and decorating my farm on Farmville, or completing sudoku puzzles (to prove my brain still worked!). I still went to work, I still cooked dinner, I still watched TV (although I can now watch programs from that period, and I don’t recognize them at all). The fact that I would rather plant fantasy raspberries than read a new novel by a favorite author finally scared me enough that I scheduled an appointment with a therapist, took her advice and started an antidepressant, and low and behold, I started reading again.
So what did I do when my marriage blew apart a month later? Well, for the first five months I read everything I could find on emotional affairs and reconstructing a faltering marriage because that’s what I thought I was dealing with. With D-Day version # 2, I started reading everything I could about physical affairs, and then physical affairs in long term marriages, which led to the male mid life crisis, which led led to Irritable Male Syndrome, which explained a lot. I read about stress and its impact on marriage. I read about self esteem and living an authentic life (I actually spent 2 weeks wanting to kick Phil McGraw!). I work in an academic library as a research librarian (I’m not a librarian – but that is a separate topic), and read academic articles on effective counseling for marriages struggling with infidelity. I ordered ebooks from online infidelity gurus. I read books from the library, and books from Hastings, and books from Amazon.
One area I avoided. I read nothing that involved anyone else’s experiences – I read online articles, but never the comments. I read counseling blogs, but not the comments. I avoided personal blogs. Why? I told myself other people’s stories weren’t relevant, other people’s pain just made me feel bad without adding to my understanding of MY situation. After D-Day Version # 3, I realized that those were all excuses. The reason I was avoiding was because I AM A READER. I started reading other accounts of infidelity – not just the advice or the counseling issues, but others revealing their discoveries, their pain – and was unable to avoid seeing the parallels to my own situation. When I read, I analyze, I look for the threads that apply to me, I look for the life truth – even in fiction. Seeing the life truth in someone else’s pain was unavoidable.
So, after DDV3 I spent 3 months reading blogs from others in my situation and eventually reached a point where I commented. After DDV4 and DDV5, especially when the OW started reaching out again, I started reading blogs written by other women and eventually by married men who had strayed. All of this info led me to some useful truths that have been addressed in putting my marriage back together, as well as some truths that I wish I knew how to share with other women – both those in my situation and those who are the other woman. Basically, I feel like I have survived all of the crap in my life because I read and analyze and look for truth.
I still have not been reading fiction – in the last year and a half, I have read only 4 new novels – something a used to do in a week. I have, however, given up Farmville and puzzles and Law & Order. Instead, I am writing and reading blogs to help me understand and make peace with the truth of my life. I am reading books on co-dependence, midlife, and attention deficit disorder to become a better me. I am reading library journals and books on library studies to become the best librarian that a historian can be. I do still, however, long to just sink into a day of exploring David Weber’s future world, or the alternate present of Laurel K. Hamilton and Jim Butcher, just for the joy of it.