It starts like your typical morning: losing your car keys, drinking your coffee. Until life smirks and says, "Not today."
She sweeps you up in her fingers and flings you the wash. The lid of the machine snaps down over your head. And now you're churning and frothing.
All your plans are canceled. Your left wondering which way to swim, struggling to keep your perspective. It's nothing personal, right? Sooner, later--we'll all end up spinning in the suds.
Of course, we all have our own stories.
My trip through the wash includes a car accident, months navigating hospitals, a new baby (that never slept!), moving in and out of a series of apartments all over the South of France, life as an immigrant...
On the surface, trip through the washing machine might look different from mine--but I bet it has the same ingredients: constraints, blessings, chaos...bubbles.
And maybe you're asking yourself (or should be asking yourself):
- How's a human being to read in these conditions?
- Then again, how do you make it through the wash without books to carry you through?
What's more important than reading?
Here's what I know:
- Reading and writing twine themselves together to make me who I am. And if you're reading this? Chances are--you're made up of the same stuff.
- When life takes you for a spin, sometimes 'who you are' starts to unravel just a bit. While you cling to more sacred priorities (family, survival...)
Today, let's talk about how you can hang on to your reading (and yourself) even in when life gets a bit...sloshy. Because maybe books are your lifeboat in all of this.
Here's what I won't tell you:
In this post, you'll find no tips for 'muscling through,' 'bootstrapping,' 'sleeping less' ...or to 'just doing it.'
I won't imply that, if only you had the desire, you could slow down that churning water: change the human condition.
Take a few rotations around this planet and you'll find yourself in challenging, monumental, frothy situations.
We'll just let someone else spin myths about how life is always under your control.
Let's have a different conversation:
- We'll talk about how you can carry your reading habit whatever life churns up.
- And how reading can carry you too.
- So you can come out the other side stronger, with your reading habit in tow.
So, how do you keep reading when life takes you for a spin?
The short answer: let go of expectations and carry a good book.
At one point in my own story, I had to take a transatlantic flight at the last minute not knowing if my husband would survive until I arrived. No time to pack, no time for anything. Then, I found myself wandering around the airport. Waiting.
I ended up in the Airport Bookshop with a book in my hand. And I grabbed it for my journey--not because I was setting myself an absurd 'reading challenge,' but because I knew needed a refuge.
Funny isn't it? The fastest times are sometimes punctuated with uncomfortable waiting...sleepless nights.
Pro tip ;)
Even if it seems like a strange reaction when your life seems to be whirling around you--grab a book.
What reading through in turbulent times really looks like.
What good is a tumble through the washing machine of life if you don't emerge from the suds with some clean, new ideas and share them with your friends? Here are the 5 most important lessons I learned. (If you have more, please share).
One: It's not a race, no one is timing you or counting pages read.
Do you think that when I was juggling hospitals, apartments and new medical terms in 2 languages that I read 30 minutes a night? Or 100 pages a week?
Think I wrote a review about it on Goodreads promptly afterward?
The truth is, my reading habit changed during those turbulent days — just like my life.
But here's what I learned: none of that matters.
You can make reading a constant in your life--even if the way you read looks different for a while.
Two: Keep an open mind about this temporary change in your reading.
Your reading may very well look different during very intense periods of your life. You may need to read in short bursts, between interruptions. You may simply have trouble focusing. Ask yourself this: does that really matter?
- Is reading the same passage more than once really a problem?
- Or revisiting a book you already know backwards and forwards? (A great way to avoid the problem of not being able to follow the plot).
- And if you keep finding yourself falling asleep with your book on your chest? Well...what better way to slip off into dreams?
Take it from someone who knows: when life is crazy, even falling asleep to a book can be bliss.
You might be tempted to focus on what you're not doing, or on what you feel you've lost in your reading habit.
But any change in your habit also brings some new gift. Maybe reading becomes a new form of meditation. Maybe you learn to read in 5-10 minute bursts. Or you discover the value of re-reading a passage.
Three: make different book choices.
Give yourself new permission, new flexibility.
Read outside of your normal genre...
- because a book is 'there' and on hand. Because your Buddhist brother-in-law leaves collections of meditations lying around and voila! (Yes, my life is random--but, hey, so is yours).
- because collections of short stories, poems, meditations are easier to read (and re-read) when you are distracted)
- because you need a good laugh, or an escape to a fantasy world, or to Mars!
- because when you're sleep deprived a silly detective novel translated from the original English into French is just the thing (OK, maybe that's a personal problem).
- because reading an old favorite can be reassuring--and you never. ever. have to worry about getting lost in the plot.
Who knows, this might be your chance to discover something you never would have read otherwise.
Four: Every trip through the wash looks different.
How do you know how you'll react to getting tossed into life's washing machine for a few spins? You don't! None of us does.
It doesn't matter how you got here.
If life is making your reading habit a challenge, consider offering yourself a little compassion and flexibility.
Hang on to what matters most.
And find some good books to carry you through.
What will you take away from all of this?
I hope you've found some inspiration for reading right through those moments that sweep you up, take you a for spin, and force you to become a stronger version of yourself.
- That if you wind up 'in the wash' you'll remember to be kind to yourself and read in ways you've never read before.
- That you'll remember that there's no minimum number of pages and that it doesn't take much to keep your reading habit alive.
- That you find the calm place in that raging washing machine of life, and stay 'yourself.'
Join the conversation:
If you've got some experiences of your own, tips for finding time to read in crazy times, or just books we need to add to our reading list...I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for being here.