Sunday, July 1, 2012

No time to read? Horrors!

"I don't have time to read,"  mused my friend.  I'll call her Dora.  Dora Boring.

I considered her statement, glancing around her immaculate house and yard.  She doesn't work more than 25 hours per week (I work 50 outside the home, not counting my writing);  she has two kids and a husband and never seems to play catch-up with her laundry or run out of vital household supplies such as toilet paper or beer.  She drinks gin and tonics on her front porch (without a book).

"Did you  hear me?"  Dora says.  "I want to read, I just don't have time.  I'm too busy!"

I contemplate this.  I'm usually too busy to read on the four days I work my full-time job each week, and I'm usually exhausted at the end of each business day.  This means I read while brushing my teeth and getting dressed, a skill I've perfected over the years, holding the book out while balancing on one foot, strategically jutting out one hip or the other so my jeans don't fall off when they're halfway on.  If I ever lose an arm, I'll still be able to dress myself.  I also listen to audiobooks in the truck, rarely driving longer than ten minutes without enjoying a story or a book about writing.

Back to Dora.  She watches the news, like a good citizen.  I don't watch the news because it would cut into my reading time, and I'm constantly pretending to know what people are talking about while I scramble to catch up.  "I just caught the tail end of the story,"  I usually say, "can you fill me in?"

Dora also volunteers for every committee, fundraiser, and community event, and gives her time and resources selflessly.  She misuses words and installs an apostrophe at the end of every plural word, but the only things she writes are checks and Christmas cards.  She decorates her house, passes the local homeless man gourmet sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper and attends every school-sponsored event.  If there is a gathering of more than six people in our town, Dora's there.  She's involved.  Connected.  Vital.

I, on the other hand, am reading.  Instead of decorating, I wipe the dust off the walls (one handed, of course; the other hand is clutching a book) every three years or so, to discover the true hue.  I greet the homeless man, but never feed him.  I don't even fix myself gourmet sandwiches, as it's nearly impossible to spread anything on bread with one hand.  I eat only for maintenance, not for enjoyment.  I carry at least one book with me everywhere; right now I have one in my purse, one in my nerd bag, and an audio book ready to play on my iPhone. I also have two books I'm working on writing:  one in the end stages of editing and one in the beginning stages of note-taking. 

Dora's watching my face as I'm mulling over her statement;  mere seconds have passed, but my head is full of weighty justifications for her not reading and (slight) doubts about the habit I allow to rule my life to the exclusion of nearly all else.

"I understand,"  I tell Dora, vowing to watch the news tomorrow.  "You really are too busy!"

I probably won't watch the news tomorrow.  I'll have to find out what happens next in my book.  What would happen if everyone were like me, hiding in their houses reading books?  Society would probably collapse.  I guess I'll let Dora continue to volunteer and watch the news;  I'll regret not being more involved, and she'll regret not reading.  Society will survive.

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