Sunday, June 03, 2018

Fahrenheit 451

According to Goodreads I am currently reading more than 40 books. I just can’t seem to find a reading groove. Though I suppose I shouldn’t say that as if it’s a new problem. This book, though, I think this has a decent chance of being finished. The first five pages went quick. Plus, it’s only 146 pages so how daunting could it be. If the reading muscles are out of shape it’s probably a good strategy to pick shorter books rather than the 800 page behemoths that don’t do much except cause me such silly guilt.

Friday, June 15, 2018

History is Made by the Historians

I’ve never been able to keep a diary, or, as the grown ups like to call them, a journal.

I’ve wanted to, that I know. I wouldn’t be able to tell you how many times I tried or how old I was when I bought the first diary but in the recesses of my mind, the poor beleaguered thing that my memory can often be, I have fuzzy visions of small, square, fat little notebooks, with delicate locks which, really, were only for show. I would crease the spines, date the page and write in my imperfectly messy round script the very important happenings that a little girl thinks to record. Each time I did this for a day, maybe two, perhaps a week but slowly, the blandness of my days would devour any desire to write. Of course, as I type that I stifle a cynical chuckle because, if you’ve read me for long enough, or if you know me well enough then you know that my childhood, well into my early teens, was full of chaos. But in between the cyclones of dysfunction, there was school, and then home, and then school and then home, and on and on.

Is it any wonder I quickly put aside the blank pages in favor of already full pages of stories from much more creative people than me, and chose to get lost in those stories?

Still, here I am at 45 years of age and I still have this wish that I had shelves - or probably more likely, boxes tucked away in some closet, of fat, little notebooks that graduated to more mature, grown up vehicles that stored my words.

Partly because my memory, as mentioned above, and on many entries previously, isn’t great. As recently as today I shared as much with a coworker - shortly after confessing that I sometimes forget words. Not names for that is a common enough thing but every day, common, simple words. Like ambulance, for example. Why this particular loss of memory should so stick with me I cannot say but I still distinctly remember, funnily enough, being in the car, driving to who knows where but I was doing something I often do - crafting a story, an entry. And I got to a point where I needed to think of the thing that takes you to the hospital. The vehicle with the flashing lights - no, not a police car, not a fire truck, that thing, damn it. The rest of the story went by the wayside as I struggled to pull that simple little thing from the brain only to come back with confusion and, okay, I’ll write it since I’m here, fear. When these moments happen there is always fear. “That isn’t good,” the coworker said, about the loss of memory. “I know,” I said. “But at this point, I’m dealing with about 25 years of poor sleep habits, chronic sleep deprivation and that’s gotta have taken a toll.”

But before this entry gets away from me and we go merrily down the path of a game I (and many others, I believe) like to play called “Is this a tumor? It’s not a tumor!” let me quickly go back to the point of this.

Our day to day matters. We may think not but it does. We’re not famous so who’ll care what we were doing, thinking, feeling on that Monday in May in 1995? Maybe no one else but ourselves but that’s enough. I truly believe that.

I was speaking with a new colleague a couple of weeks ago and she shared with me that with every new job she keeps a journal her first year on the job. Then, in the second year, she’ll go back and look at all the things she’s learned, the accomplishments, and, yes, even the “mistakes” so that she can assess how far she’s progressed, feel good about the things she did well and improve on the things she didn’t. I appreciate that level of introspection, of the constant learning and the desire for personal growth. I love that she recognizes the power of journaling.

A week ago, while listening to a new podcast (Making Oprah), well, new to me as it ran a couple of years ago, Oprah was asked what she was thinking and feeling when she got the opportunity to start her show. She didn’t have to rely on memory; she simply went to her journal for that year, that fateful day of and read her entry. It wasn’t earth shattering. It’s not as if she forecasted the empire she would build but just the sheer ability to say, “Here, let me turn to that page and tell you exactly what I wrote that day” - that moment is powerful to me.

And maybe that’s my vanity. Maybe that’s my ego. The belief that my words matter but I think it’s checked somewhat by the fact that I’m not saying my journal would matter to anyone else. It’s not as if I think my ramblings will do anything but maybe mildly entertain me in my old age. But I do think, in an age when facts and truths are being rewritten on a nearly hourly basis, maybe each of us writing down our own stories, our own histories, is a small step to keeping things on an even keel.

Or maybe it’s just me liking the sound of the keys as I type into the abyss. Only time will tell.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

Reading Requires Muscles, Too

I used to be a voracious reader. I used to run through two, three books a week. While I know there are others that read faster, for me, that was a nice clip. Although I can’t pinpoint when that habit slowed down, in my head, despite evidence to the contrary, I’m still a reader. However, right now I think I’m more of a “thinking about reading” type of person. Given my extensive collection of books - I say that but, really, I only own about 800 or so books; a number that I don’t really think merits the use of the word extensive but I have been told that I have very little perspective on the matter so I allow others to influence my vocabulary here. But back to my point, I do believe I had one. While I have all these books, these last few years they feel more like art, or a security blanket. I love the look of my books being out on the shelves. I feel better just by looking at them. Better, that is, when I push down the good amount of guilt I feel at not reading more.

2018 Reading Challenge

Every year I log into Goodreads and set my reading challenge. Every year, despite seeing the small number of books I actually read the year before, I set a goal of 20+ books. And around this time of the year I start to realize that unless I start calling in sick to work and read nonstop day and night I simply will not meet the challenge. It’s quite annoying really. So, in the last month I’ve been reminding myself that reading is brain exercise and that I need to just practice my reading habit again.

Currently Reading number

I’ve not set anything as ambitious as reading a number of pages each day but I have set a goal of not starting new books so that I can work through the 58 “currently reading” titles on my Goodreads aptly named “currently reading” virtual bookshelf. If i buckled down and simply read these books that are in various stages of completeness, reaching my goal would be a cinch.

Of all the books I have started, I decided I’d try to finish Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot - partly because I saw the movie and liked the story, partly because I read better when I’m physically holding a book and, honestly, it also just seemed like an easier read than some of the others on the list.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot book cover

WTF reading progress

I started the book in May of 2016, May 15th to be exact. You gotta love stats, right? 10% of the book was read in 2016, when I bought the book. Another 5% read in 2017. All of 2017, wow. And here I am, set to finish, finally, in 2018. You know, as bad as my memory is, it’s a good thing I have a relatively good memory for what happens in books otherwise each book would have so many restarts!

It’s a bit sad that I’m so excited about finishing a book but, hey, every little bit helps is the motto for this, and pretty much everything else in my life at the moment so I’ll take it.