Monday, April 20, 2015

Sibling Assignment #160: Crack Open Some Books....It's All Right

It's been a hectic time for me and my two sisters -- I've been seeing doctors, nurses, and technicians over the last seven weeks to establish my readiness for the kidney transplant that lies out there in my future sometime; Christy has decided to retire, sell her house in Kettle Falls, and move to Kellogg; in addition, she has been doing all she can to help Carol, whose busy life has been made even busier by the way she has committed herself to Mom's care and well-being since Mom fractured her arm on March 5th and then, a while later, had surgery.

The upshot?  We haven't been writing our Sibling Assignments.  

But, things settled down, slightly, and my sisters reminded me that it was my turn to give an assignment and here it is:  

Do you have anything in your life that you've not been doing that you used to a lot more of?  In other words, have you let something important in your life slip away -- maybe not completely, but more than you'd like in a perfect world.
Write about it -- why it matters to you, how you miss it, and how you think you'll go about getting back to it. 
Carol got right on this one and wrote about the way she has let writing her books get away from her, here, and in the busy rush of her life, Christy has lost track of the act of just being, of quieting down, of being still, here.

Where was I?

Right.  I remember.  I was seated in Panera Bread just down Colesville Road from the American Film Institute movie theaters, enjoying a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin before going to see Citizen Kane.

Seated with me, in London, were Herbert Pocket and Pip Pirrip.  Herbert was telling Pip all that Pip didn't know about Miss Havisham and my mind went wandering to two other fictional characters, women,who, because of heartbreak or disappointment, freeze time.  I was thinking of Faulkner's Emily Grierson and of Norma Desmond from the movie, Sunset Boulevard.

I thought someone, somewhere must have written about these three women and I wondered if maybe Miss Havisham was written about in Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's seminal study, Madwoman in the Attic.

I didn't know because I've never read Madwoman in the Attic and suddenly I felt melancholy about how little I have read and how little I do read.

Reading is the thing in my life that I used to do more of that has slipped away, even as I have been reading bits of Great Expectations since October.

Not reading.


It's about guilt.

For years, my reading was connected with getting something done.  I read for courses and exams, especially in graduate school and all of it was, in my mind, preparation for teaching.

When I landed a full-time teaching position, my reading was almost always connected with my job and when I read different books, I always justified the time I was spending not getting anything else done, by asking myself, "How can I use this in class?"

Somewhere, sometime, I can't pinpoint it, I connected reading with getting in trouble because I wasn't getting something done.  Most recently, when I was a homeowner, I'd try to read and my mind wandered to the weeds that needed pulling, the lawn that should be mowed, the laundry that was piling up, the papers I hadn't graded, and on and on.

I didn't think about these things when I was out enjoying some beers with the Deke or with the Troxstar or other friends in Eugene.

If I was out walking, taking pictures, I didn't think of myself as being unproductive, needing to get things done.

No. It's a guilt connected to reading.

There was one summer, back in 1992, when I read for about a month without stopping.  I used to be able to rattle off all the titles, but, right now, I mainly remember reading Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy and a ton of stories by P. G. Wodehouse and I love into the novels of David Lodge and I know I read Brideshead Revisited.

Why all the reading in the summer of 1992?

I had folded up the tent on my dissertation.

I didn't have that to do.

I was living alone, though married, because my ex-wife was in Micronesia.

We were renting.

I remember watching our landlord coming over to the duplex we lived in and working in the yard, pulling weeds, mostly, and thinking, "I don't have to do that. I can just read."

No guilt.

I've never done again what I did that summer -- just read.

I don't know exactly who, in my mind, I hear telling me to get up off the couch and get things done when I read.  I don't know exactly who I think is keeping score, marking down when I've done enough house cleaning or gardening or other things to get come reading done.

But someone is and I've got to tell that voice to shut up.

I want to finish Great Expectations (maybe I'll get to it after I finish this assignment and after I put money on our laundry card and do some washing and drying and after I move the boxes out of our bedroom into the back closet.....see? this is what happens!).

I want to keep reading Marcus Borg, not just at the bus stop across from the Co-op or on the Metro, but in this chair I'm seated in with a nice light above me and a stout cup of tea.

I write every day.  That seems fine.  I guess it's because I'm getting something done.

Now I think it's time to enjoy some reading -- find out what happens to Pip, enjoy the insights of Marcus Borg, read the memoir my friend Jose wrote, and possibly read the books the mystery series I'm enjoying so much are based on.

I think I've gotten enough done now and can read.


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