My Reading Life: A Confession

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There’s a confession I’ve recently realized I need to make, to myself at the very least. For the last year or so, I’ve had real difficulty with something, and it’s troubled me so much that I’ve not wanted to put it into words until now.

This difficulty is with reading. As I began to write this post, I’ve struggled with a title. Confession sounds like an apology. Revelation sounds like a discovery. But this post is maybe about both, and the confession acknowledges my odd guilt at sharing with you. There is guilt in revelation.

You’ll notice that My Week in Books has taken a bit of a hiatus. There are some big reasons, like the new history project I’ve launched with two other writers. I’m also traveling a ton to spend time on some family needs the past 3 months. There are only so many books a girl can carry on the train, and I don’t get many uninterrupted stretches to read lately.

So let’s get down to that book part now. My connections with kidlit authors continue to inspire me – they are precious. Delight in conversations on social media, and book launches are my creative food. My bookcases have begun to fill with precious signed copies of books anxiously awaited and deliriously celebrated. I even have illustrator art on my walls.

Over the past year and a half and more, though, that sense of celebration has undergone a subtle shift. I asked for a much-anticipated historical novel two Christmases ago and received it, all 1100 glorious pages of it. That’s when I realized that something was off. It hurt to hold the book for long. I couldn’t look forward to my bedtime sessions because it was too painful. I furtively set it aside a hundred pages in. Months later, I tried to pick it up again. It was even more difficult. And so it began, a subtle shift in my relationship with my beloved books.

I love reading almost any way it’s presented to me. I’m not really prejudiced against books in any form. But what I really love is Books. I love the smell of the pages and the whisper of them as they turn. I love the way I can flip back to re-experience something I encountered earlier. I love holding a book in my hands and feeling the heft of it, the way the cover sits against my fingers and the tooth of the pages as I turn each leaf.

My inability to truly enjoy holding and reading my real books, my connections to my favorite authors, my doors to other places, is like a sad song playing quietly in the background every day. I’m using my eReader a bunch, and listening to audio books as often as I can (yay, public library!).

I’ve found in all this, though, a kind of guilt, this hesitancy to procure my precious books because I can’t enjoy them. I don’t buy them as eBooks because I want the real ones. If they aren’t available at the library that way, though, chances are that I won’t be reading them anytime soon. You must know how that hurts.

I just got the results of some nerve conduction studies done on my arm, and the news was pretty disappointing. This thing, a “chronic denervation” of the muscle that runs my little finger, is a main issue for the pain I experience for hours after gripping a book.

It won’t get better. It is not progressive, thankfully, but it’s what I’ve got now, and it really, really stinks.

I have finally come to realize that this is not a temporary condition I need to work through, but a permanent physical limitation. There’s no waiting it out, though I know there are therapies that might help mitigate the symptoms somewhat. The real disappointment is that my “hey, I want to grab that book off the shelf and read it NOW” life feels over.

Of course this is a focus on what’s wrong, and what’s gone. It’s not all gone. I can still read picture books without discomfort, though holding a book up to show through several read-alouds is not good). I can listen to audio books. I can read books on my eReader.

On the up side, that glorious 1100 pages of historical fiction that has gathered dust by my bed for so long? The last time I checked with my library, it was finally available as an eBook. It won’t be the same, but I look forward to experiencing it one way or another.

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About vst3in

I am a writer, avid reader, library techie, birder and runner. I make felt and teach others. I love colors and textures and birds and books. I'm working on a historical novel and reading lots of books for young people. I am running to get stronger, and I sail with my husband. This blog contains thoughts about all these things.
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4 Responses to My Reading Life: A Confession

  1. Janika Banks says:

    As a nerve damage spoonie who couldn’t read a paragraph or watch TV for 3 years coming back out of the dark, I completely get this. One of the hardest confessions I ever made public was that I could barely read my own blogs for awhile, and that’s why I colored them up, so I could see them more easily. Monochromatic black and white is really hard on the eyes, and the ‘repetitive motion’ of holding still to do it is frustratingly hard on the body sometimes. {hugs}

    • vst3in says:

      Thanks for sharing, Janika! Frustration is the word. And, I’m finding, patience. Open-mindedness. Determination. But I have also allowed myself to mourn a little.

  2. barbaraberkley says:

    Your post really moved me, Valerie. You did a beautiful job expressing how deeply troubling it’s been for you having to learn to cope with this difficult situation. It’s hard having to give up something that means so much to you. Hugs from me, too. xoxo

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