I am planning to donate some books for a book sale fundraiser. I figured I would have plenty of books that I could get rid of. It turns out that I do. It also turns out that I can’t.
I have not actually read most of the books in my possession. I know there is little chance that I ever will read most of these books. Yet, I cling to this idea that someday I will feel compelled to read what I should’ve read years ago. I am talking about classic works of literature that I was supposed to have read in high school, but…did not. And then there are a bunch of books from college literature and psychology classes. It’s not that I didn’t read anything from them, but I know I fell woefully short in finishing whatever was required.
It would be one thing if I simply had no interest in the material. But I wanted to and still want to read these anthologies of short stories and poetry, these timeless books, these explorations of the human psyche…good stuff that still wish were absorbed into my neural connections. I’m too embarrassed to even name specific titles; they are not so important. More, it’s the idea of lost potential that I cannot move past. I try to imagine another parallel universe in which I was able to finish things, where I actually realized the aptitude I had years ago.
Over the years, I’d imagine that someday I might be laid up in bed, and I’d have nothing to do but read these old books. Well, I’ve been on dialysis for a year and a half. I was just out of work and mostly at home for a month. I’ve done a little reading, but I’d peg the percentage of free, waking hours that I’ve spent reading in the past month at about 0.5%.
There’s a couple of issues going on here. There’s the mental block that prevents me from becoming engaged in reading. Then there’s the need to hold on to these old books from my adolescence and early adulthood.
In my terribly unsuccessful attempts to meet someone via a dating website, my favorite profiles are typically of the women who like to read and read interesting stuff. They list their reading interests, presumably because they’d like a partner who either shares these interests or at least can appreciate them. Here is a glaring example of a way I could improve myself if I, presumably, wanted to, to make myself more appealing, and I just don’t do it. (There are about a dozen areas that cause me equal frustration, all with varying degrees of difficulty; getting into reading SEEMS like a fairly easy endeavor).
Why can I not be content to be home and spend an evening reading? Why must I obsessively click through a dozen Chrome tabs in search of some elusive epiphany? Furthermore, why must I do this well past midnight, when I know that my health demands that I get plenty of sleep? Heading to bed at 10 with a book and organically falling asleep seems like a good plan. I don’t follow that plan, though. Eventually, in my mental pacing, I pop an Ambien so I ensure that I will get to sleep before 12:30 or 1. This usually ensures I will sleep soundly for 6½ or 7 hours, but it also ensures I will have a horrible time waking up the next morning. I will start the day in a panic, trying to go through the routine of getting out of the house and on to work is as little time as possible.
On a tangent, the Ambien is what allows me to write this entry, however disjointed and directionless it might be. I rarely feel like I can lose my inhibitions about writing unless of under the influence of this sleep aid, which seems to lift an obstacle.
I’m quickly running out of juice. So, what books will I wind up donating? I won’t name those either, because their titles would upset die-had fans of the televisions shows that inspired them. Yes, I can part with pop-culture books that were made as compendiums to some other primary body of entertainment. I probably got them at a used bookstore because I thought they were cute, but I probably never read them and don’t see any loss to my intellect if I get rid of them now. But there aren’t too many of these. I am never going to attempt to reread Faust. And yet I still have the paperback. Maybe I’ll find the “Single and 30ish” Meetup group that specializes in re-reading 19th century morality plays.
I haven’t mentioned the big, old textbooks I still have. I have a 1200-page biology textbook from 1995. Why? Do I break it out to try to understand the behavior of the birds in the backyard? No. I tell myself, “I should know everything in that book”.
Take away all the books for which I did not read most of the pages, and my bookshelf is sparse, indeed.
Like many facts about myself, that I do not read very much is not ok. I’ll spare a list of 93 other things about myself that are not ok. This all points to a far more serious issue, that of my overall view of myself. I know full well that I will not attract the people into my life that I seek to attract as long as I am unable to change how I view myself. Or at least that’s what M says that Dr. G says, or something like that.
You cannot change what you attract in this world without changing how you see yourself.
I believe this is true, and thus, I feel an avalanche of pessimism burying me most days.
Living room (2011.02.18)
I don’t really know what this photo has to do with my writing, other than there being a bookcase in the background. This photo was meant for another post, where I’d talk about housecleaning, and the impossible battle to make my place comfortable. This is a “clean” Toastie living room, and yet what I see is years of wasted potential, past and future…
One thought on “On Reading and Books and Lost Potential and Ambien”
I say you pick one book and read it in your downtime this month. Afterward you’ll probably be inclined to either read others or absolve yourself of the guilt. I think people who read code all day have trouble reading texts because we learn to read a different way, but you clearly read other things (blogs, articles, etc), so you are ahead of most of us 🙂