all of the selves we Have ever been
I have come to understand binge watching.
It feels good to get caught up on something.
Life is a perpetual game of catching up…housework, homework, emails, bills, laundry. No matter how much attention we give to things, there is never enough time or energy to get caught up and stay that way. It is much more fun to crash on the sectional and watch all of the episodes of Mad Men or Grace and Frankie. Ah, to be caught-up on something—that fleeting sense of accomplishment. Better yet to be caught up and have it take nothing out of you. That’s like winning the daily double without buying a ticket!
Most of our demands come from the necessities of life. If you don’t pay the rent or mortgage, sooner or later, you will get kicked out of your house. At some point recycling dirty clothes will not pass the sniff test in polite society. Parent-teacher conferences can be time-consuming and discouraging, might as well get that homework completed. A child’s future is a terrible thing to waste.
But some to-do lists are entirely self-imposed. For me, the problem presents itself in the various forms of the printed word. I love books, magazines and newspapers. Not counting the books sitting neatly on their shelves, I have books and magazines in every room of my house. In my kitchen there are cookbooks on the counter as well as recipes torn from the newspaper that are held to my freezer door by magnets shaped like fruits. There are books on the table next to the front door to remind me to go to the library and to always have a book with me wherever I go. There are books on the coffee table and on the end table in the living room. In my study, there are books on the desk. Small piles of books are neatly organized on the floor according to their potential usefulness. In my bedroom, there is the novel I keep at my bedside, and the one in the basket of my recumbent exercise bike. Often, there are magazines in the bathroom. If not, I just read the bottom of the tissue box or the label on the shampoo bottle. I try to understand “the science of healthy hair.” (And what is stearamidopropyl dimethylamine?) Why waste time when you can read?
That leaves the mobile units. I have to carry a purse with a large enough pocket to hold a book or folded-up magazine. I am a mother. I have spent a lot of my adult years waiting. Mother’s invented the motto, “Be prepared.” The Boy Scouts only borrowed it—from someone’s mother. I also keep reading material in my car in case I finish the book or magazine that is in my purse.
From time to time, I wipe the slate clean. I finish every book and article that I started. I then swear on my honor that I will not get involved in more than one book at a time. But it doesn’t last. I have no honor. For me, saying no to a book, is like turning down a great conversation. If you had the chance to meet the people in the books or the ones who wrote them, would you turn it down? Could you?
I am terminally curious. I will go to my death asking, "Why?" Books give me new ideas, revelations even. The words in books force me to re-think my old ideas. Books introduce me to new people and experiences I could not otherwise know. Stories offer a chance to feel deeply and to be surprised. From a book I can hold greatness in my hands and feel the call to action.
When I am engaging with a writer, I do not have to yell to get a word in edgewise. I hear every word the author says and, in my mind, the author listens to me. When rebuttal is necessary, the author does it firmly but politely. Books balance my view and inform my opinions.
Reading widely, I come to see the big picture. From David McCullough and his beautiful books on American history, I feel pride in my citizenship. I read Colson Whitehead and I have a deeper understanding of the unspeakable horrors of slavery. I realize I cannot be an educated citizen without appreciating both stories, both points of view. Both happened. Both are true.
I read Where the Crawdad’s Sing, and I am transported to a marsh I likely never will see with my physical eyes. I am mesmerized by the sounds and beauty of that natural world. I can see it all clearly in my mind’s eye; I can hear the crawdad’s sing through the wonder and beauty of the written word. And I wonder how long the beauty of the natural world will be with us.
Right now, included in my scattered piles of books, I have professional continuing education materials on mass shooters and murderers, a book on marital therapy, a memoir, another Colson Whitehead book, a book on women writers, and a long text on healthy aging. I hope I live long enough to finish it....Gosh, I have a lot to do today! But first, I think I will call a friend. We have a lot of catching up to do.
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