Over the last couple of years I have stopped reading. Rather, I have felt guilty about reading. For the couple of years that I was actively pursuing my masters degree the only things I read were books or articles that related either directly or indirectly to my thesis. I strayed to other words but very rarely. And when the plan of completion stalled I stopped reading. Cold turkey. I stopped reading because I felt guilty. Anytime I picked up anything literary it put a knot in my stomach because I felt like I should only be reading things that were somehow putting me closer to finishing my thesis. I felt like my free time shouldn't be used for flipping through pages of words that weren't educating me on race or feminist studies or film theory or any combination of those things. And I hated that. I hated feeling guilty for something I have always loved to do.
I got my love of books, of words, from my mother. She has always been a reader and she encouraged me to read as a child and thoroughly supported my love of Nancy Drew books. I remember teaching other students to read in the second grade because I had a knack for words. I studied for my spelling tests and wrote poetry and, to this day, write down and look up words in the dictionary when I don't know their meaning. I collect quotes and phrases and passages from books and song lyrics. I applaud those who can string together words in a way that moves people. I love book stores and libraries. I love the smell of books. I love the way the pages feel and the sound they make when you flip through them. I love the look on people's faces when you catch them in the middle of a book that you can tell is touching their life. I read the last sentence of every book I read before I start it.
Not reading feels a little like not living.
Since I started talking to someone about my life I strive daily to make progress. The list of things on which I am working is long and some items have been easier to work through than others and somehow reading has been one of the hardest hurdles to climb over. But over the last few weeks I have done some reading. It started as a final push to finally brush away the gray cloud hanging over me, the one for which I feel guilty and ashamed about daily. I am making progress in so many areas of my life and my masters degree is one of them. But more importantly I have started reading a novel...for pleasure. A novel that has nothing to do with my master's work but everything to do with doing the work. And the feeling, much like the book, is amazing.
I am happy to report that I am making progress, of both the literary and emotional kind. And it feels a little bit like it used to, in a word, it feels a little bit like love.