My father built floor to ceiling cupboards along the walls when he closed in the garage of my childhood home.  The top shelf of these storage units was four feet from the ceiling, just enough space for a fourth grader to comfortably nest.  I would climb to that top shelf with a blanket, a pillow, a flashlight, a jar of marshmallow fluff, and a book. Everything a ten year old girl needs for happiness.

And I was happy when I was holed away in my little nest.  It was my space. My quiet time.  My place where I could be wholly myself with no roles to play. And as the only girl in a family with four boys, it was a safe place for me to be girly.

But mostly it was about the books.

I loved to read.  I went through several books a week, often reading an entire chapter book in one sitting.  I loved the Little House on the Prairie series, Little Women, Little Men, and the rest of the Louisa May Alcott books, Kidnapped, Heidi, The Swiss Family Robinson.

I loved to read.  Past tense.

Somewhere along the way I lost the joy of reading.  Maybe all those years of mutlitasking caught up with me, because now when I sit down to read, I can’t just read.  I have to be doing something else at the same time.  If I try to read without some other distraction, my mind will find one anyway.

Maybe the the ability to enjoy a book has been educated out of me.  Oh, I can plow through a book in record time if it’s for school.  But the intensity of reading for data, studying for exams, and culling information for papers has left me impatient with florid writing styles that take their time in revealing information. Give me the facts, preferably in a bulleted format.

I suppose I could also blame this on chemo brain, which is a very real condition that makes it much more difficult for those who have endured chemotherapy to retain and quickly process information.  But in truth, this situation began a long time before I knew I had cancer.

The frustration in all of this is the fact that the love of reading is tied up in my self image.  I think of myself as someone who loves to read.  I present myself to the world as someone who loves to read.  The amount of money I spend on library fines and book stores would suggest that I’m the kind of person who loves to read.

What I love, it turns out, is the potential of a good book.  Oh, and the cover.  I love to judge a book by it’s cover.  There’s nothing like finding a great cover paired with a well written blurb on the back to get my fingertips tingling.  Oh, this is going to be good.

And it is, usually. For the first 20 minutes.  If I make it that far.  But odds are my toddler will climb to the top of the bookshelf, or I’ll realize it’s 6pm and I haven’t figured out what’s for dinner yet, or I’ll notice the polish on my toes is chipped, and this is just taking too long anyways.

What I really want to read is:

  • I was sad and my life was a mess
  • I got my hands on an unrealistic amount of money
  • I went to Italy and ate a lot of food
  • I went to India and met a very wise redneck from Texas
  • I went to Indonesia and fell in love
  • bulletpoints.
See, was that so hard?

But I hate that.  The snob in me is cringing at what I just wrote.  The snob in me wants to analyze Eat, Pray, Love, to argue about it and disect it and, and, and, … but that means I have to come up with the attention span I had in fourth grade – an attention span long enough to actually finish a book.

I love books.  I love the idea of books.  I want to love reading books.  I miss loving reading books.  I want to love reading books again.

Has anyone else lost and refound their book mojo?  How did you do it?

Judy Schwartz Haley


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