7.8.06

Confessions of a Reading Addict

Hi, my name is Carrien, and I’m a reading addict. I have been since kindergarten. Words have been my friend, solace, and constant companion. They have sheltered me through childhood, cradled me through adolescent despair, and guided and distracted me into adulthood. I read everything almost without discrimination. If there is time to sit and something to read, it will be in my hand and I will be unable to put it down until I’m satisfied that I have gotten everything from it that I can.

This love of reading was seen as a blessing when I was a child, I got good grades, I have a large vocabulary, I aced english lit. and the IB exam, I didn’t get into the kind of trouble most teenagers find themselves in, I was too busy on Saturdays. I would read late into the night, inhaling every story I found, classics, science fiction, fantasy, teen romance novels, historical fiction, anything that had enough of a story to keep my attention. I would wake up the next day and read in bed until noon, eating chocolate that I was supposed to sell for fundraisers. I had very little taste, in either literature or chocolate, I ate everything that came my way.

As I have grown older I have come to see this addiction as more of a curse than a blessing. Though I have successfully weaned myself off of my addiction to crappy candy bars, one hit of pure chocolate with more cocoa butter than wax in it cured me for life. I can’t say the same for literature, I still read insatiably, and it rarely matters what. (Though I can now truly appreciate the good stuff when I find it.) I would find it hard to study for tests in university because I would keep reading other parts of the text that weren't on the exam when I was studying. I let it keep me from living my life with full presence, and from the things I need to do in order to successfully navigate reality; like sleep, or loading the dishwasher before bed so I don't wretch in the morning at the smell and feel frustrated and angry because of the over whelming work load in front of me, which drives me back to the computer in order to escape it all.

When I was in school there were those who speculated (mainly counselors, teachers, my mother) that my reading was an extreme form of escapism, a way to run away from the constant fighting between my parents, a way to ignore the pain that for no apparent reason gnawed away at my heart for most of my childhood and adolescence. Books became my solace, the place to lose myself in stories different than my own, that took me away from my problems for a while. The characters and plots stay with me long after I put the book down. If I was called away from my book for some reason when Frodo and Sam were winding their way through the battle-wasted marshes that lay before the gates of Mordor, or when Elizabeth has just realized how bitterly mistaken she was about Mr. Darcy, or Aslan still lay dead upon the stone table, I was miserable to be around. I carried with me the feelings of the characters I identified with between the pages. Likewise, when a story ended well, all things satisfactorily resolved, I would be filled with elation in ways that very few other experiences provided. I was even known to skip and bounce on furniture. Perhaps it is that feeling I am addicted to, and once the reading has begun, I must go on until satisfaction has been achieved. Then there were the stories that ended in such a way as to leave me satisfied and full of longing at the same time; worlds that were too beautiful to end, places that I never wanted to leave, or stories that ended bravely but tragically; Arthur, Achilles, the archetype of the kingdom or era that was and would come again, the golden and yet marred place of story, that which makes life poignant, all these would make me want the book to never end or need to find another to begin right away, in my search for that ultimate happy ending. When I find it, I rise from my place and return to my life with the energy to put all things that have fallen back in their place, with renewed zeal for living the life that I do have, most of the time. I have spent a lot of energy trying to engineer happy endings into my own life, constantly frustrated at the way problems don’t seems to stay solved, or new things arise, or the fact that the story continues and changes when I want it to stay the same.

Eventually I started trying to write my own stories, and I like them, I think they are good, though few are finished because I spend so much time reading what I’ve already written, and editing, that I rarely get much new material written before I’ve run out of time. Likewise with blogging; I enjoy reading everyone else’s posts so much that I run out of time to write my own. Or I write a post within someone else’s post as a comment, sharing stories that really would make great posts if I would take the time to write about them. The problem with blogs is that they aren’t written to give a happy ending, they aren’t intended to conclude, and so I keep reading, and reading, searching for my fix but there is none to be had.

Reading blogs has been my escape from noticing morning sickness this time around, last time it was knitting but it’s been too hot for that, it’s also a way to pretend that the aching lonely abandoned feeling hole that I have in me right now isn’t really there, because I can almost pretend I’m having a conversation with friends, and always, whether I mean it to or not, reading blogs keeps me from remembering the tasks that I have to get done in order to keep this family running somewhat smoothly. It seems though reading is for me a much easier way to escape than to write. Reading distracts, writing forces me to look at and feel things that I want to ignore, and that’s a good thing.

All of the writing teachers I’ve ever heard say that in order to write well you must read as well. I think I have paid my dues in the reading department, and that it may be time to do more writing than reading, though I don’t think I’ll be able to resist visiting all of my favorite blogs, I will write my post first. And maybe I will even add some more to those stories that I have all plotted out and half composed and just need me to lose myself in them for a while to come to life.

7 comments:

  1. It is nice to know I am not the only one addicted to reading.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Today (while at work no less) I caught myself with my book open, my ears perked for my boss coming, glancing back at the book to catch one more sentence... I am constantly receiving comments from my coworkers about my horrible habbit of reading while walking and my husband is beginning to believe that it is possible to have affairs with literature. So of course, once I forced myself to put my book away, I go online and search on reading addict... its always good to read up on things right?? And in doing so came across your blogs, which (of course) I read from start to finish, and you completely brightened my day. Thank you! I had better go and answer this call so I can get back to my book!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Springrae
    It is definitely always good to read up on things. LOL

    I used to read during rests in junior high band, ears perked for the trumpet entrance.

    ReplyDelete
  4. It's like you were writing all the things that I have been longing to write. I too am a reading addict. I had just finished reading my lastest tome and was feeling rather bereft because I didn't have another readily available. I usually have my next book in line, so I was quite unaware of this empty feeling that came over me. I felt like life was happening without me. Instead of feeling like my life stands still when I'm lost in a book and it's world, instead I feel that my life stands still without one. I suddenly felt very sad. I do note that I usually only read when I am alone. But I always have my book with me just in case that alone moment arises. I have four kids and so when I am with them I usually don't have time to read or to miss it.

    I don't consider myself a person with an addictive personality, but this sudden realization of how intensely I need a book with me at all times has me at a loss. Your blog did make me feel less alone.

    Thank You

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous12:56 AM

    I want to be a reading addict. Warren Buffet became a billionaire because he was an addict in investing. Why not accumulate a wealth of knowledge or at least the pleasure in getting it. I want to write better poetry, become a better writer. If I can only find or make the time and have will of that of a reading addict. it would be great!

    I actually have a problem in reading, that is my biggest barrier. Once I get this problem resolved I look forward to spending thousands of hours and hopefully get through thousand of books. Lol.

    I would be proud to say that I'm a reading addict, if I did become one.

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  6. I've been thinking along similar lines today for a post I'm preparing for tomorrow - about stories and the satisfactions they provide, and particularly about those stories that withhold the satisfaction of a happy ending...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Today (while at work no less) I caught myself with my book open, my ears perked for my boss coming, glancing back at the book to catch one more sentence... I am constantly receiving comments from my coworkers about my horrible habbit of reading while walking and my husband is beginning to believe that it is possible to have affairs with literature. So of course, once I forced myself to put my book away, I go online and search on reading addict... its always good to read up on things right?? And in doing so came across your blogs, which (of course) I read from start to finish, and you completely brightened my day. Thank you! I had better go and answer this call so I can get back to my book!!

    ReplyDelete

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