In the not so distant past, a day spent curled up on the sofa reading a really good book, was a fairly run of the mill thing to do.
Years ago, before electronic gadgets and other many contemporary distractions consumed our lives, being an avid reader meant that one often became so consumed by a book as to have no desire to be anywhere else except inside the book. Once a friend said to me that he half expected to come over one day to find my glasses on top of a book and that I would have disappeared into the book.
On a recent Saturday, I realized how long it had been since that image could have represented me.
Although still a consistent reader, I have found myself reading in snatches—thirty minutes here, an hour there. Meanwhile, like most folks on any given day I am juggling life—including text messages, email and social media updates.
The sinister truth I realized, was that reading was no longer a hobby that I loved and devoted time to, but had instead become another should or have to in my life. Not wanting to fall completely down the electronic media rabbit hole, I told myself I had to read at least two books each month.
Because we all have so many pulls on our lives (some real and some, I fear, imagined) we tend to self-distract. Rather than becoming completely engrossed in something—since there’s just never enough time—we opt for distractions, which are ultimately a quick-fix for what our creative selves ultimately desire.
In a recent article called, Why Having a Hobby is Good for Us, I wrote,
“When we do give ourselves a break, it often comes in the form of fiddling with our infinite number of devices—checking-in or checking Facebook, Instagram, texts, or some other easy to click on app for a few minutes of relief from the things we should be doing.”
So, back to that recent Saturday—that’s the day I usually do my laundry and clean my house—a ritual dating back to childhood Saturday chores. But on this particular Saturday, I couldn’t stop thinking about a book I had begun the day before that had completely captivated me in the first twenty pages. I think it helped that it was a rainy, dreary day outside.
I looked at my vacuum cleaner and I looked at my sofa. I looked at my vacuum cleaner again and put it back in the closet. The sofa won. At 11 a.m. I grabbed a cuppa, a throw blanket, and curled myself up for the day. My intention was to actually finish the novel I was reading that day.
My little dog Maxx thought he had died and gone to heaven, so unused to being able to curl up next to me for more than thirty minutes at a time. Even my cat got in on this idyllic day. He climbed onto the back of one of the sofa cushions and remained there for hours.
For the rest of the day, I snuggled with my dog and my book in sheer ecstasy. It really was. I got up only to make a quick lunch or to make popcorn or go to the loo. By 8:30 or so that evening I had finished the book and felt like I had had a vacation. That’s how utterly joy-filled, delightful and peaceful the day had been.
For the most part, I ignored electronics, although I do admit to a couple of peeks at Facebook on my way to or from the bathroom or kitchen.
So here are my thoughts after the day was done:
Reading books for pleasure enhances our awareness and empathy, takes us outside of ourselves and connects us to the larger world.
A day spent totally immersed in something that we love whether it’s reading, baking, crafting, or whatever, is an elixir for the soul.
We shouldn’t have to leave our homes to have such a day.
Rituals and habits are good but rigidity isn’t. (So I didn’t clean my house.)
I’m really glad I’m old enough to remember just how normal it is to spend a day doing nothing and something of consequence at the same time.
As much as I love my Kindle Fire, the day would not have been the same had I not been reading a real book.
This day was mindfulness and one-pointedness in action.
Author: Gayle Fleming
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Photo: Unsplash/Tamara Menzi