Reading By the Fire On a Cold Winter Day

Well, it’s a new year. It’s also January, which seems weirder than it being a new year.

January is one of our coldest months here in my mountain state. January and February are, normally, the months where it goes below 20 degrees during the day and stays there for a while. Everything kind of freezes over, and people get really grouchy. Sometimes that happens in December, but this year it didn’t.

The weather sometimes makes me feel like I don’t really understand what I want. When it’s hot, I want cold. When it’s cold… well, I like it for a while. But by about early February, I’m usually ready for it to start warming up. Luckily, in this state, it normally does start to warm up partway through February.

The freezing cold only gets to me at certain times, not nearly as often as the heat gets to me. If you’re cold, you can always put on more clothes. You can’t strip if you’re hot. But when the cold does bother me, it bothers me a lot. I don’t like having numb feet, and I don’t like shivering. I prefer it to sweating, but I’d rather it just be 55 degrees all the time so I didn’t have to worry about it either way.

One of my favorite cold weather activities used to be reading. I would sit by the fire and read for hours. I remember reading my way through every book I owned, then going to the bookstore to buy more. Once I was done with those, I’d get more from the library. Piles and piles of books. I loved just having the books around, even though I didn’t always read all of them.

Lately, I haven’t really been able to read. “Lately” meaning since I started graduate school four and a half years ago. For some reason, things changed when I moved north and started at a new school. I always carried a book around during undergrad, and I’d read during all my breaks. Now, when I have breaks, I listen to music and stare at the wall, or text my husband and Raine, or go for a walk. I don’t know what changed, but I know that I read tons of books the summer before my senior year, tons more during my senior year, and then…. I stopped. Stopped reading books. Since I started graduate school, I’ve read maybe…. six. Ish.

Sixish books in four years. Three of those were the Hunger Games books. Another was Pride and Prejudice, which I’d already read twice. Another was The Sandy Bottom Orchestra, a kids’ novel that I’ve read at least fifteen times. I’ve started a lot of books, so many that I’ve lost count. If I could finish all the ones I start, I’d feel just fine about my reading situation. But I finish a very small percentage of those, and I can’t figure out why.

Even when I’m interested in the story, I can’t focus on it long enough to read through to the end. Sometimes, if I really want to know what happened, I’ll skim. Which is like a sin in reading for me. I hate skimming something I’ve never read. I feel like I miss so much. Even worse, though, is when I don’t care enough to skim and I just put the book down and never pick it up again.

I’ve started reading several books that I really want to finish. My husband loves Murakami, so I’ve tried three of his books. One I wasn’t interested in, but I would like to finish the other two. I read over 100 pages of each of those two, and then ran out of steam or, in the case of the second one, actually forgot that I was reading it. When I remembered about two months later, I couldn’t remember what was going on in the story, so I didn’t bother picking it back up. I didn’t want to reread those pages.

I keep telling myself that I’ve had a lot going on in the last four years. Graduate school changed my life. It was the first time I moved away from home. I met Raine and my husband and had so many new experiences. After I graduated, I got into orchestras, started building a violin studio, got married, and started writing again.

That last one is huge. I started writing again. Which, I think, makes it much harder to read what other people have written. I’ll start reading a story and get distracted by the writing style, or the layout of the dialogue, or the descriptions of scenes or characters. I’ll read something that will remind me of my story, and I’ll drop the book and go work on mine instead.

That, more than anything else, would be a valid reason for not reading so much. My mind is on my own stories right now. There is a time to read, and there is a time to write. Now is maybe a time to write. But…. I can only use that reason to excuse the last year and three months. I started writing again last October. Before that… I guess I was just doing other things.

I had a lot of big plans for my Christmas break. I was going to write a lot, walk a lot, go to the archery range, watch movies with my husband, and relax. I did the relaxing and the movie-watching, and I even went shooting once. But I went for two walks in nine days, and I wrote once, aside from blog writing. Mostly I just relaxed. Which I know I needed, but now that I’m on the last day of my break, I wish I had more time. I’ve started to feel recovered, finally, and I would like another break to enjoy feeling refreshed. A break where I actually would write a lot and go for walks.

But I need money. That means working. Dang.

So my new plan is… do those things now. Yes, I’m going back to work, but seriously… I teach violin lessons after school. I start work at 3 most days. Sometimes I have morning lessons, but they’re short. I have all morning to write, walk, and read, and I have all evening to spend time with my husband. Sometimes I get so bogged down in the fact that I have to work that I forget how little time it really takes up. It’s afternoons, and when I have orchestras, afternoons and evenings. Not such a big deal. I still have my mornings.

I want to read more. I don’t know how to make my brain focus, but I’m going to try. I want to reread The Hobbit. I tried to read it last year so my memory would be refreshed when I saw the movie. I couldn’t finish it, of course. I saw the movie last week, and drove myself crazy trying to remember how accurate it was to the book. I want to know, just because I want to know. Not because I didn’t enjoy the movie, or because I think if the movie isn’t the book acted out on screen, it sucks… just because I want to know. To know, I have to read. Good motivation.

I have my old routine written down. The one from a few weeks ago, when I was determined to be more productive. I’m going to rearrange it a little to include reading, too. I will be required to read, write, walk, and practice my violin at least five days a week each. Go to the archery range once. Get my lazy mind and my pudgy holiday body back into shape.

Sometimes I think it’s sad that I have to babysit myself so much. But if I didn’t, I’d honestly never get anything done.

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2 responses to “Reading By the Fire On a Cold Winter Day

  1. I am a book-aholic. I could (and have) spent all day at Barnes & Noble just going through the shelves to find books to read. I did go through a phase where I just wasn’t reading. I carry a book with me everywhere and yet I would not be reading it. Since I started my new job, I have to leave my office during my lunch or else I will sit there and work so now I read for an hour each day and I realized how much I missed it. There is nothing better than just sinking into a good book. I have decided to read 125 books this year which will force me to read instead of putz around on my computer or watch tv.

    • Wow. I’m not sure I’ve ever read 125 books in one year, as much as I used to read! I used to do the Barnes and Noble thing, too. I was homeschooled for a long time, and I would spend 8 hours a day sitting in the bookstore reading. I don’t understand how I went from that to nothing. I think working it into my schedule, like you said, will be the best way to get back into it. I still enjoy reading when I do it. It’s just hard to remember to read, or to start, or to find time to do that instead of something else.

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