Last week I wrote this on a Post-It note and stuck it to the front cover of my paperback copy of Song of Solomon. Thirsty for Toni Morrison’s lush language, I had picked the book off my shelf several days earlier and kept it by my bed so I could prop my head on a pillow and read from it before reaching for my pen or running shoes, and certainly before showering or waking the kids for school or circus camp.
I love reading. I miss falling asleep with a book in my hand and waking at one in the morning to find the glow of my lamp visible behind the book on my face. Our house is less than one thousand square feet and not laid out in a way that optimizes privacy (or storage, but that’s another story). Our bedroom and dining room were crude additions made long before the house belonged to Henry and me. Behind P.’s place at the table, an exterior pipe runs from ceiling to floor and under the house on its way underground. Henry painted it a faint blue to evoke water and a feeling of the outdoors. Our bedroom shares a wall with the kids’ room, and just above our bed sits a window overlooking K.’s side of the room. I don’t know if I’ve developed Mommy ears in the time we’ve shared a house or if it’s just that our beds sit in such close proximity that I can hear K. scratch his leg before he calls out that his eczema is bothering him. On nights that the kids are home, bedtime for them means lights out for everyone. No reading in bed.
Reading is easier for me than writing this blog or my book. It’s easier than jogging along the ditch, building up from a 5K to a 10K. It’s easier than picking squash bugs off the zucchini that showed up in my garden, scheduling a writing workshop, or making a work call. It’s easier than sitting with myself when I feel overwhelmed. In the short term, it’s easier than facing my responsibilities. I reason that I am studying my craft, learning to be a writer by reading. And this is true.
But long term, hiding in a book—even a delicious, sensual book like Song of Solomon—stunts my growth and, with it, my joy.
Next Week: The Conclusion of A Pox on Our House