So in a pretty bummer turn of events, I no longer know how to read.
Words, yes. Sentences, for the most part. But full paragraphs, an article, a book – no way.
This may seem surprising slash impossible because I am a writer. I deal in words all day every day, on purpose and for money. But I can’t read those either which proves this isn’t an issue of snobbery.
Here is an example of how one recent attempt at reading a chapter of a wonderful (I’m sure) – Little Nothing by Marisa Silver – went down.
I sit down on my bed to read.
I get up because I’m wearing running socks and I’d prefer to be wearing reading socks, which are thicker and fluffier and come up over the pants so there’s no unwanted breeze up the leg to distract you from reading.
I sit back down on my bed.
I get up because I’d like a cup of room temp water beside the bed because I’ve been trying to drink more water for the past 20 years and 2017 is going to be my year.
I sit back down on my bed.
I call my dog, Louie, up to join me.
I pet Louie for a few minutes and we have a quick convo about his behavior of late. It’s better, which I’ll get to in another post.
I open the book and begin to look at the words.
I send the words, in succession, to my brain hoping it will make sense of them. My brain sends back: have we read this section yet? I don’t know. Seems familiar. Go back a bit and see.
I go back a bit to see. I can’t figure it out. I go back a bit further. Still nothing. I’m only 23 pages into the book so I just go all the way back to one and start again.
I get three lovely sentences in – Wow! I like this book, I think. Reading is wonderful! I have to go to the bathroom!
I go to the bathroom and decide that since I’m in the bathroom I should just quickly tweeze my eyebrows.
Ten minutes later I drag myself out of an eyebrow tweezing trance just in time to still have eye brows.
I force myself back to the bed. This is reading time! I have set aside this time to read.
Okay. All set. Socks. Water. Dog. No pee feeling. Begin.
Paragraph one… Paragraph two… Paragraph three!!!
This is a good book, I think (again, I realize). The language is so descriptive and edgy. And I know from the author’s talk at the reading where I bought this book that she simply writes every day without direction. This book was one long thought experiment. How crazy. How impressive. I wonder if I could do that… I wonder why I haven’t done that… I should do that…
Shit. Where was I?
Have we read this section yet? I don’t know. Seems familiar. Go back a bit and see.
Five more minutes of this and I’m checking my Instagram feed.
I have become a five month old puppy, reading wise. Though, this is also how I eat dinner, run errands, clean my apartment and watch television (except for So You Think You Can Dance, duh.)
My focus has gone the way of my ability to drink.
This is troublesome specific to reading because I believe all good readers make better writers. But this is troublesome specific to life because this whole stand up, sit down, fight fight fight brain has got to be doing a number on other parts of my body – including but not limited to my eyebrows.
I’d blame my iPhone, but that feels like too much of a stereotype. Same goes for social media and my loud apartment building and my needy dog and the fact that I work in words so much that reading it just exhausting.
I no longer know how to read because I don’t read enough.
It’s the same reason I no longer know how to play the piano or do a french braid on myself (which I only successfully did once, but still). Ditto ride a bike well. The ride a bike lie is the biggest lie going, as far as I’m concerned. And there are a lot of really big lies going right now.
So I’m going to try to read more and more often. Yesterday I sat down and read a chunk of the newspaper. I wanted to get up a thousand times to do a thousand different needless things, but I willed myself to stay on that couch and read about how our nation is crumbling before our very eyes. When my mind wandered, I pulled it back like you do in meditation (which I only successfully did once, but still). And I kept my phone in the other room the whole time. I recently discovered a new Instagram account, The Pink House. I love it so much, and it provides endless distraction from my more annoying, less pink life.
But obsessing over an Instagram account is easy, mindless pleasure. Reading is challenging, mindful self-improvement. Seems like we need to be consciously choosing the later or else we might find ourselves in a world where people let insane things happen because they’ve lost the ability to focus on focusing on the truth.
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