I have always loved reading. I was that kid, you know? That kid who was NEVER not reading. My mother would have to chase me outdoors to get me to play outside with friends. I LIVED in books. I ADORED books. I was, am, and always will be a reader.
Those of you who have been to college can sympathize with me when I say that I didn’t get to do a whole lot of pleasure reading during my undergrad. My degree required reading of its own. LOTS of reading, usually long, tedious, technical reading, which I was supposed to substantively reflect upon and crank out review papers for. I enjoyed a lot of it, but it was a different kind of enjoyment–the kind of enjoyment that you sometimes hate. When I wasn’t up to my elbows in homework, I had a job, a boyfriend/eventual fiance/husband, friends, church involvements, drama ministry, and I think I had to eat somewhere in there too. College is an insanely busy time of life, and I knew I’d have to put my pleasure reading mostly on hold for a few years while I got that whole “life” thing sorted out.
Of course, I could not have anticipated how my final year of college would turn out. I got married a month before school started, and was learning the whole “having a husband” part of life. I graduated a semester early. One month after that, I found out we would soon be having our first child. I won an award guaranteeing me an almost completely free first year of graduate studies–studies which would begin that summer. I was accepted for a job as a T.A. Fresh out of college, I had about a thousand different forms of “real life” hitting me in the face at once: starting a family, preparing for graduate work, figuring out post-undergrad life and finances with my husband. . . it got busy. Really busy. Once again, pleasure reading just sort of had to wait.
Those of you who are mothers and/or grad students know what has happened since then: namely, baby and graduate studies. Exhaustion. Late nights. Crying. Oh, and the baby sometimes cried, too. Even more reading, the kind that I sometimes loved and sometimes hated but always HAD to read rather than WANTED to read.
And so it came to pass that I could scarcely remember the last time I actually sat down and read a book just for myself, just for fun. And it broke my heart.
You see, there are very limited times when I can actually devote the time to reading any more. Oh sure, I have plenty of “down time” during the day when my son decides to be agreeable, but I can’t read during those times. I am not one of those people who can read and simultaneously pay attention to things like my child’s well-being. I don’t so much read books as I disappear into them for hours on end and only come up for air when I realize I need to eat or I’m about to collapse from sleep deprivation. When my son is up, I have to do low-investment activities, like light homework reading or internet things, so that I can drop them at any time to spend time with my son if he needs or wants me.
This, of course, leaves the evening and naptimes open for high-investment activities. Unfortunately, there are plenty of those, too. Heavier homework reading. Paper writing. Work for the church where I am a part-time associate. Spending time with my husband, who does actually enjoy doing more with me than just staring at me while I finish my latest assignment. Devotions. The list goes on and on, and doesn’t leave a lot of space for me to vanish into a book for several hours like I used to.
That is, until last night.
The snow wasn’t awful, but it was coming down hard enough in my neighborhood that I questioned the sanity of driving to class. It isn’t far. I probably could have made it. But the nice winter preparation folks in my town don’t actually plow the roads immediately surrounding my house–the ones with things like long, swervy S-curves and sharp turns. If I had made it to the main road, it would have been a cakewalk. I’m a bad enough driver, though, that I questioned whether getting to that main road would be worth all of the fear that I would be dealing with until that point. I decided it wasn’t, sent an e-mail to my professor, and proceeded to make dinner for my family at a more leisurely pace than usual, knowing that I wasn’t going anywhere.
After dinner, my son went to bed and my husband drifted into a work exhaustion coma on the floor. I poked around on the computer for a little while, finishing some outlines and checking blogs and then suddenly, it hit me.
I have nowhere to be and nothing to do for the rest of the night.
I glanced down at my husband. Completely asleep. Our son wasn’t making any noise. My homework was done. I couldn’t really do any more studying until I got to a library, which wasn’t going to happen tonight anyway. Oh, I could probably do some much-needed cleaning, but in that moment, I realized that I finally had time to read. I could pick up a book and enjoy it tonight with absolutely no long-term consequences. There was even a book on the shelf that I had been dying to try, the last in a series that my husband had finished ages ago and had dutifully refrained from spoiling for me.
I crept over to the shelf, softly, so as not to disturb my husband. I gently removed the book from the shelf, as though I were doing something rebellious or dangerous. I returned to my seat, cracked open my treasure, and spent the next three hours in a world of dragons, magic, epic battles, and adventure.
I plowed through 242 pages in three hours, and enjoyed every second of it. I didn’t get to stay up into the wee hours of the morning like I did when I was young, because I do still have responsibilities and such in the daytime. But for one night, one wonderful night, I got to return to my love. I got to read. And whatever it takes, I resolve not to lose that love again. I may not be able to enjoy a good book every night, but I can set aside time more regularly to do what I love. I’ll be better for it. I’ll be more energized for my everyday tasks if I do this simple thing.
Look out, books–I’m coming home.