Enjoying the moment
I love books. I love the escape from reality offered by fiction, and the opportunity to explore our world through non-fiction. However, since going through a traumatic, but ultimately positive, personal life experience almost three years ago, and suffering from depression now for almost as long, I haven’t been able to concentrate for long enough to read.
Sometimes, a whole book feels so overwhelming; I might read the first chapter and then not pick it up again. In my spare room is a stack of books with receipts stuck about 20 pages in. Books that I really do want to read. There are also ‘self-help’ books that, rather unhelpfully, lead to self-criticism, “You can’t even finish a book that might make you feel better“. Fiction from my favourite authors that I used to consume in a day or two; top picks from the library; recommendations and gifts from friends who know I love to read. But the story remains the same. The pile of books by the side of the bed gets higher. The notice from the library arrives to say my books are due back, and they are returned unread. I feel angry and impatient with myself. I feel stupid. Defeated.
This morning I received one of those notices from the library that another (unread) book was due back. I went upstairs and found it by my bedside. ‘How to be mindful‘, it was called. Not even being able to recall borrowing the book, I felt like the title was mocking me. Getting ready to take it back to the library, I mindlessly flicked through the book. Immediately, I felt a striking sense of uplifting joy.
Some three weeks ago, the me I believed was mindless and forgetful must have had a moment of clarity when scanning the library shelves. This book looked amazing. It was full of beautiful illustrations and not many words! Each page had its own inspiring quote or suggestion for practicing greater self-care and mindfulness. I sat down and looked through the book, page-by-page. I was lost in that moment, and finished the book feeling inspired to create my own daily affirmation.
A hot bubble bath
To me, a hot bubble bath and a book is one of life’s greatest pleasures – sometimes reading a whole book before climbing out of an almost-cold bath! But this pleasure has been elusive for what feels like a really long time. This afternoon, before I got in the bath, I picked up one of the novels by my bed, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry‘ by Rachel Joyce. Somehow, I actually opened the book and started reading it. And kept reading it. In that moment, I was me again. However, when I got out of the bath, I realised I had read 152 pages. 152 pages in one sitting!
However, I am ready to give myself a break. I accept that, for now, for me, it cannot only be about finishing a book, about ticking off another book read, another thing learned. It has to be about the pleasure of the moment, the pleasure I can gain from reading, when I want to. A newspaper, a magazine, a recipe book, even junk mail. Whatever feels right in this moment, is right in this moment.
‘How to be mindful’ by Anna Barnes is a wonderful, gorgeous, look at every day to feel happy book.
The first one hundred and fifty two pages of ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce are brilliant, and beautifully written. If the story turns into a murderous zombie rampage in the second half, I am sorry.