i read stephen king’s “the stand” last weekend and it was fantastic. i enjoyed reading it immensely. i’m sure there are critics who disliked the book, and people who won’t hesitate to point out the flaws, and i will admit that at times his level of description is over the top, but at the end of the day the book did what a novel is supposed to do. it entertained me. it pulled me into the story and let me live in a different world for a while. it introduced me to people i cared about and carried me along with them on their struggles. it’s been a long time since i’ve been captivated. i don’t let myself enjoy things very often.
i haven’t enjoyed much of what i’ve been reading of late and that can be partly attributed to my subject material. i haven’t tackled new fiction for quite some time. i pick up serious and important non-fiction works instead, or reread novels i’ve read before that now live in my library.
the non-fiction books i choose are not necessarily about subjects i enjoy. i don’t wander the stacks and select things that interest me or catch my eye. instead, i pick books designed for mental and psychological growth and healing. sometimes i like them. sometimes they’re great. sometimes reading them is awful and i feel like i’m punishing myself by slogging through them, however, reading the “correct” books is part of the whole “i must justify my existence” thing that i struggle with. being on disability leave makes me feel like everything i do should be aiding my efforts at recovery.
reading books i might like feels indulgent and indulging myself is not allowed. my brain tells me that finding pleasure in something isn’t a sufficient reason to participate. if i spend time on something that doesn’t fall into the category of healing, it means i’m not focusing exclusively on getting better, and all my time should be spent on that effort, shouldn’t it? that’s quite the challenge to set for yourself. it can’t be met but that’s okay because when i fail, i get the chance to practice my skills in the areas of self-criticism and self-condemnation.
we are hard on ourselves sometimes.
as for novels, i mostly reread old favourites. i pick them up when i’m struggling with the day to day. i like knowing who the characters are and where the good bits lie. i like knowing how the story will make me feel. i’ve read them before so they don’t challenge me mentally and that’s important too. focus and concentration can be difficult when you’re dealing with depression and anxiety. the old books are easy. i realized, however, that they don’t satisfy as much as a new book does. the emotions that are generated are quieter, and my connection to the characters grows fainter with each subsequent opening of the cover. reading “the stand” reminded me that the feelings i get when i reread are nowhere near as intense as the ones i experience when i immerse myself into a new adventure. rereads are a junk food snack instead of a satisfying meal.
it’s not enough to heal, apparently. one must also concentrate on healing correctly. that’s the problem with a brain that’s wired to criticize, berate, and find fault. it can never be satisfied. you will always feel like you could be doing better, like you should be doing more. sometimes i feel like there’s checklist for healing that’s being monitored by someone and i better be ticking the boxes or else. this, of course, is the kind of rigid thinking and unreasonable and perfectionistic demands that can get you into trouble and yet it’s surprisingly hard to let that kind of thinking go.
i remind myself again that i have a right to exist without justification. that i have a right to find joy in the world. i don’t have to prove that i deserve to be here; the only one who ever questions that is me. i don’t have to be perfect at everything. i don’t have to be perfect at anything. what i need to do is go back to the library and take out another book.
(may 30, 2018)