Susan’s writing on her personal reading. “Why I read. How I choose what I read. How I find time to read.” (Feb. 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note February 28, 2008 
Susan's Writing on "How I choose what to read" and "How I find time to read"
The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett - moving from intense grief into next "movement of our song" - next part of life story 

I highly encourage you all to try to read to the end today – I think you’ll really get a lot for either yourself or your friends from what I wrote about!!  I don’t know how to make it shorter!!  (smile)

Hi all of you!!  I can picture you all right now stumbling around your houses waiting for your coffee to brew.  This is such a different Thursday morning than last week when I was whining about the extreme cold.  What a crazy week.  On Tuesday my car door was frozen shut from the ice storm, now it’s going to be in the 50’s today.  I think that means SPRING is around the corner!

I have been asked often – how do I read?  When do I read?  How do I discipline myself to get through books when I’m busy?  I don’t have a set answer, but was just asked that again yesterday by someone that walked right past the books saying, “I don’t have time to read.” What I wanted to shake & tell her was, “You don’t have time NOT to read.” For in books I find a break in routine.  I am able to find authors that think like me (even though I didn’t realize I was thinking certain ideas before reading their thoughts).  I am able to find validation to what I am experiencing in life (being a mother, wife, friend, and self).  I don’t try to find one book at a time to read.  I probably have about 40 books unfinished on my bookshelf pages folded down where I left off.  I don’t believe that if I begin a book I have to finish it.  If it isn’t what I am needing right then, or I can’t get into a novel then I don’t make myself.  Time is too short to read what isn’t interesting to me, or isn’t getting through to me, or that is upsetting me if I don’t have the energy to be upset.  But I do make it an effort to TRY.  To not just automatically turn on the television to escape my tiredness, but to instead pick up a book (often a light light book that I’ve already read 10 times) when I’m really tired.  I am immediately transported into a world that is familiar to me and gives me the emotion that I am seeking.  I mark my books all the time.  I first put the date right in the cover when I begin a book.  Then I underline anything I want to & date the margin.  I have automatic flashbacks to specific events that way, knowing personally what that date was, without having to put private information down.  I can open a book and be given the same comfort 10 years later or one week later that I was the day of the reading by just flipping to what I had underlined and seeing my notations and the dates.  Shows where I was and gives me encouragement to where I now am, or helps me to retry and reset my goals if I might be in the same place!!!

Another way that I learn what to read is from a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that we’ve mentioned before.  Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.  I am trying to discipline myself in my conversations to make them into something that is worth the time for me and who I am talking about.  When I got my haircut this week the conversation went on and on about nothing I’d think about later.  I then remembered this quote and asked, “What have you read lately?” The discussion at our seat and then the two next to us were then all turned toward books and ideas and encouragement to each other.  This wasn’t me being “above the heads” of anyone I was with, for I am as normal as anyone on the street wanting to talk about only the latest gossip.  But I have tried to learn from this quote and apply it daily to what I try to talk about since life is so fleeting and busy.  When I do have a conversation with a friend why not say, “What are you reading? Anything I should read?” You’d be amazed at the ideas you’ll get that way.  But you have to take it a step further.  You have to write down what they told you.  Then you have to get the book.  That is showing respect to who you asked, validating that if they suggested you read it, you really do look into whether you should or not.  You will no longer have the excuse, “I don’t know what to read.” It is up to you to seek what to read and the main way is by asking those you respect and then taking their suggestion literally.  Not just buying the next magazine at the grocery store.  That is like TV – you will not take much from it.  AND you have a girl that owns a local bookstore that doesn’t make you keep any book you don’t like – you can return anything.  I’m not out anything because I can return the book.  So START – you have no excuse.  I am busy.  That can’t be my excuse.  Even if I only read 15 minutes before falling asleep that gives me over an hour a week of uninterrupted thinking.  And then when I am asleep I have something worth thinking about in my head. 

I finished The Secret Garden last night.  I had referred to this book months ago.  See!  It took me months to make it through a short book!  I have to write for you part of the final chapter.  If you don’t know the story a woman died in childbirth.  Her husband became so sour and depressed (a very rich man) and left the estate for the child to live alone as he traveled overseas.  Below is an excerpt from the end describing the thought process of realizing life is beautiful. 
While the secret garden was coming alive and two children were coming alive with it, there was a man wandering about certain far away beautiful places…  (Switzerland)..and he was a man who for ten years had kept his mind filled with dark and heart-broken thinking.  He had not been courageous; he had never tried to put any other thoughts in the place of the dark ones.  He had wandered by blue lakes and thought them; he had lain on mountain-sides with sheets of deep blue gentians blooming about him and flower breaths filling all the air and he had thought them.  A terrible sorrow had fallen upon him when he had been happy and he had let his soul fill itself with blackness and had refused obstinately to allow any rift of light to pierce through.  He had forgotten and deserted his home and his duties.  When he traveled about, darkness so brooded over him that the sign of him was a wrong done to other people because it was as if he poisoned the air about him with gloom…He was a tall man with a drawn face and crooked shoulders,…(then he ended up on a walk and sat by a beautiful stream…) As he sat gazing into the clear running of the water, he gradually felt his mind and body both grow quiet, as quiet as the valley itself.  He sat and gazed at the water…the forget-me-nots…He found himself looking as he remembered he had looked at such things years ago.  He was actually thinking tenderly how lovely it was and what wonders of blue…He did not know that just that simple thought was slowly filling his mind – filling and filling it until other things were softly pushed aside.  It was as if a sweet clear spring had begun to rise in a stagnant pool and had risen and risen until at last it swept the dark water away…the valley seemed to grow quieter and quieter as he sat and stared at the bright delicate blueness.  He did not know how long he sat there or what was happening to him, but at last he moved as if he were awakening and got up and stood on the moss carpet, drawing a long, deep, soft breath and wondering at himself.  Something seemed to have been unbound and released in him, very quietly…”What is it?” he said, almost in a whisper, “I almost feel as if – I were alive!”
The final thoughts of his depressed, bed-ridden son that cried for 10 years of his life before the awakening time in the garden…So long as Colin shut himself up in his room and thought only of his fears and weakness and his detestation of people…he was a hysterical, half crazy little hypochondriac who knew nothing of the sunshine and the spring, and also did not know that he could get well and could stand upon his feet if he tried to do it.  When new beautiful thoughts began to push out the old hideous ones, life began to come back to him, his blood ran healthily though his veins and strength poured into him like a flood.  His scientific experiment was quite practical and simple and there was nothing weird about it at all.  Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it about by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one.  Two things cannot be in one place.  Where you tend a rose, my lad, A thistle cannot grow.

I should’ve split this into two weeks, but I wanted to respond to “how do you find time to read & know what to read?” and also what I read that I’ve thought on this week.  What the father  in The Secret Garden experienced is the final outbreak of letting his grief be behind him.  Sometimes a specific day when of all the sudden you realize you feel again.  Sometimes it’s over time.  But I know that the process truly is a process that takes time.  For him ten years of intense pain before he felt his first release from the grip of having unpredictable pain brought into his life.  For others it may be shorter or longer.  But as the son thought about, it is also a conscious decision to let our minds not be discouraged, but to find replacements for our thoughts of what is worth thinking about. 

Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  If you made it this far – I hope my thoughts help you or your friends in whatever you are thinking about or going through.  Listen for the birds – they’ve got to show up soon & they’ll be singing for US!  May you have a great transition into spring.  Don’t ever forget to look up – the peace that passes even your understanding will come.  Thank you for letting me in your world again today.  Go make yourself proud in your decisions.  Susan

Latin for this week: 
Homo doctus in semper divitias habet.  - A learned person always has wealth within.  

Work cited:
Burnett, Frances H.  The Secret Garden.  Ed.  Robin Lawrie.  New York: Puffin, 2008.