I've kept up my soon-to-become-a-habit practice of writing in the mornings, but it has been off-blog for the past few days, with long emails to friends and thank-you cards (thoughtful ones, not rote "fill in the blank" mad libs). I like it. I'm happier. And getting back to reading makes me happy, too - though now that I've got other things in the balance of my life, I'm reading far fewer books per day than I estimated. I used to be able to devour 5-20 books per day with no problem (5 if they were thick classics, difficult technical material, unfamiliar subjects, etc - 20 for lighter sci-fi novels, business books, and so on), but I'm creaking by at 1-2 books a day right now - and sometimes not even that.
It's not my reading speed or my ability to handle fast thought; I blazed through the first 93 pages of Guns, Germs and Steel (a semi-academic book on the impact of geography on cultural dominance, written in "intellectual whirlwind" style) in less than 10 minutes. It probably would have been less than 5, but I got distracted by text messages partway through. I still have that mode, and I still have that reading skill, and that's good to know, especially since I should find out about my graduate school admissions status in a few weeks. But I am also turning my attention towards reading other subjects in other ways.
My old reading list:
- science fiction books
- classic literature (Shakespeare, Dickens, etc.)
- thought-provoking "business books" (Getting to Yes, Good to Great, etc.)
- science/mathematics/technology-for-the-layman (Guns Germs and Steel, Emergence, etc.)
- live-vicariously-through-writing books (anything written by Bill Bryson, etc.)
All are aimed at information acquisition, or in the case of sci-fi, good clean intellectual fun.
My current bookshelf:
- a book on mindfulness and posture
- a dialogue between Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama on emotions
- a workshop-in-a-book on what it means to be a powerful woman
Books that are meant to be worked through, thoughts that are meant to sink in. I've barely inched halfway through the Ekman/Dalai Lama book because every other paragraph hits unfamiliar territory and makes me stop and think awhile. I deliberately got a number of books on emotions because I knew it was one way to make me think about my own; it is tremendously unexplored territory for me, so I use reading as guided thought - almost like meditation - stepping in someone else's mental footsteps to help me find my own.
It has been satisfying and challenging to relearn how to read slowly, though I do have to fight the impatient voice that goes "what's wrong with you? You're reading how many books a day? So slow!" To balance that out, I got a couple books to zoom through (Guns Germs and Steel again, as well as a memoir by a judo student, and one on starting small businesses, and... you get the idea). I gulp them down in an hour or thereabouts and my "but I read fast!" voice is thereby sated. It's nice to be able to mix up my reading style, mix, and strategies a little; reading is something I've always been very good at, so it's like being a (slightly rusty) world-class sprinter who's chucking in a little cross-training to get back in gear, and easing fluidly into a richer, deeper practice.
The exploring emotions stuff, on the other hand, makes me look like an uncoordinated infant with frequent temper tantrums. I hereby apologize to all my close friends in advance.