I love to read! I usually have three or four books on the go at any one time depending on what I am interested in at the time, and my stack for this year has more books on it than I can conceivably read in 52 weeks. So it was alarming to me when I found that couldn’t read what I wanted to any more!
At the beginning of the pandemic when everything and everyone was confused and afraid, and normal routines were changing, I found that I could not concentrate on heavy non-fiction books or articles, or even complex fiction. There was just too much conflicting information coming in. I needed something easy to digest. I could handle short, light things. I gravitated towards happy things. Bright things. Things that didn’t take a whole lot of thought and analysis. But I didn’t want to spend my days mindlessly scrolling social media and consuming 280-character snippets of random, often times toxic, opinions and I didn’t want to just look at other people’s art on my Instagram feed, even though that is fun. I didn’t want to procrastinate by watching other people do their thing. So I reduced my intake of news and social media and instead decided to thumb through my collection of kids books.
These are not leftovers from when my sons were little. These are mine! I have been buying some of my childhood favourites over the past few years because they bring me joy. I started to read about gnomes, possums and pigeons and funny dreamland characters. This proved to be just the thing I needed. These jewels in my bookcase gave me space to relax and unwind without expectation. When I exhausted that lot I bought a compendium of Roald Dahl’s stories that I had loved as a kid. So much fun! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, George’s Marvellous Medicine, Danny Champion of the World. So good! It was so interesting to come across snippets of stories that I still remembered but didn’t know what story I had read them in. Being drawn into situations that could not conceivably happen in real life in an easy to consume way. I find it soothing, it feels safe.
Do you think it’s a childish thing to do? It’s ok, I had wondered the same thing when I started, but I came to the conclusion that I don’t think it is. There are always things to be learned from any kind of writing. Be it the craft of writing itself, or the gift of a silly escape and to be able to get lost in my imagination again. It all stretches my brain and helps create connections and answer totally unrelated questions that I am pondering. As Einstein wrote: If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales! I think he was onto something.
Allowing yourself to play at any time is important, it’s a way to explore the world and to let your mind think about things in a different way. It prompts you to ask questions and interrogate life in a way that no longer comes naturally when you are a ”responsible, mature” adult. It sharpens your mind and revives curiosity. It lets you veer off the beaten path and get out of your rut. Play is not simply a relief and an escape, it is a different way to learn that should not be confined to childhood. Find your own favourite way to play! Try out things you remember from childhood as I did, or try something new, like painting or squishing play dough.
As the weeks have progressed and the new normal has become, well … normal, I have returned to reading my regular books, but the habit of reading simple things before bed has remained. This routine of losing myself in easy fantasy worlds sits alongside my meditation practice to clear my mind and banish the mind monkey when it is prone to throw a tantrum for no reason at all. It’s my back to basics reset.
Try it and tell me how you went!