Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cover to Cover

One of the things that I like about reading is the ability it gives me to leave 'me' behind and enter, fully, into the life of another. I like being pulled out of my life and times into the life and times of another. It gives such relief from the day to day toil of being 'me' and having 'my' concerns, troubles and woes. There is never a time where I don't have a book on the go, never a day that passes where I don't hunker down for minutes or hours deeply enmeshed in the story of another.

When I was much, much, younger. I sometimes found that closing a book, coming back to real time and real life was a difficult transition. I didn't want to leave the world of the imaginary and have to face the fearsome ordinary. As a much younger man, I wanted to be a much different man. I felt relief from my longing to be a different different than I was. The characters in books tended to have different and more romantic flaws than I had, they tended to never be fat, never have difficulty in leaping over life's many barriers, and of course, they tended, by and large, to prevail. Me, the young me, loved their stories at least partially because I loved their lives. Sometimes I envied the fact that their life had a story, they had thoughts well formed, they lived according to a theme. Me, mine was a life of dangling participles and split infinitives, conflicting themes and frustrated dreams.

Now that I'm a much older man, a guy who rides a wheelchair, who sits on furniture with elephant feet, who's stomach doubles as an end table, I still dive into books. But, maybe I'm wiser, maybe I'm simply more resigned, because when I close the book cover, I'm OK with the reality that waits for me. My life is still full of frustration and fears, it is still a live of doing stuff that has to be done, things that can never be called romantic. Too, I still listen for a theme and occasionally when I hear strains of it, it's elevator music.

But it's my life. Good. Bad., Ugly. It's mine. Even when I have to deal with things that seem unfair, or people who seem purposely difficult, or situations that are simply unjust - I find that I may want them different but I don't wish them away. The book I'm reading now has stories of men with purpose and passion, women with lives full of beauty and art, people who never are at a loss for something to say, couples who's conversations never devolve into jokes about farting.

It's a good book, it has something to say to me.

And when the one way conversation is over, I'll roll over and sleep in my bed, I'll get up and go to work in my wheelchair, I'll make the calls that I dread making and write the reports that are waiting to be written. I may think about the people that I spent time with, I will be grateful for them giving me a break from real life. But, busy in the everyday events that make up this life, real life, I'll be glad that what's mine is mine. I think maybe, I've finally grown up.


Martha said...

I have to say that I thought I was the only one who felt that way about books and seeking escape. I am glad that I am not. I have to admit though that I have not entirely grown up!

Kris S. said...

"Couples whose conversations never devolve into jokes about farting"? NEVER?? What fun would that be? I'd rather hang out with you and Joe. (Note that I've made the inferential leap that your conversations do occasionally go in that direction...)

Ettina said...

"I still listen for a theme and occasionally when I hear strains of it, it's elevator music."

Reminds me of a funny story. Downtown in my hometown, they play classical music to discourage loitering (not sure how that works, but whatever). Once, I was part of a summer camp for young writers at the downtown library, and due to the constraints of work my parents had to drop me off two hours early. Across from the library was a park where I would sit and write and wait out that time. And the combination of the beautiful park and the classical music always made me feel like I'd stepped into an Italian opera.

Anyway, I've gone through a similar change in my reading, and I don't think it's growing up. I think it's having less to escape from. When I was being bullied at school and wanting to die, books gave me a break from the pain and it would all come rushing back once I finished the book. Now that my life is pretty good, books just let me explore an interesting place and people, and it's not so sad when that's over.

Noisyworld said...

Books take me to all the places I cannot go, do the things I cannot do and love the people who I don't get to meet.
I completely understand how you feel about the jarring of the real world when you are done.

Anonymous said...

Growing up. Acceptance of who we are. My head is ticking with the possibilities when these are put side by side... personally, but also thinking about prevailing non-acceptance of disability particularly learning disability, and infantilisation (if that's the word- I mean treating like children)of people who have a learning disability.