I went on vacation with my family recently (husband and daughters, ages 7 and 4) and it completely messed up my reading habit. I realize this may sound strange, don’t most people read a lot when on vacation? I used to, before there were children. I would pick out a couple of novels, gather a juicy pile of magazines (New Yorker, Vanity Fair), and stuff a very heavy carry-on bag, a companion at the airport, in the plane, at the beach.
The intention was there. I asked trusted friends for suggestions, went to the library and picked up the first book in Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, Oryx and Crake – which I did read and enjoy, just not during the vacation. I have a digital subscription to the New Yorker, and access to dozens of past issues on my iPad. I read a total of zero articles.
I snuck a little bit of reading, sure. At night, before falling asleep. For brief moments of peace at the beach while the kids played by the water, before I was interrupted by requests to build a sand birthday cake, or my mediation was needed because the 4-year-old had pressed some sea shells a little too hard on the sand birthday cake, which promptly collapsed.
I couldn’t get into my reading, I suspect, because my mind was too engaged – see above – or too relaxed. I took long, quiet walks with our dog, taking the time to enjoy the scenery. I dozed off a couple of times on an old futon in our beach rental’s lovely sun room, open book fallen to the ground.
I did finish the book once I came home, and back to work. I do most of my reading in the train, during the work week. The ride itself is not so long, about half an hour, but there’s some extra time on the platform or in the train before it departs. The act of opening a book (or the Kindle app, occasionally) signals to my brain that the workday is done, or it hasn’t started yet. This is when I desperately need my books, so my mind can disengage from work, schedules, appointments, to-do lists, and check into another world for a little while.
My girls and I have a weekly trip to the library built into our schedule. It’s an outing all three of us look forward to. I usually have a pretty good idea of what I want to get – I will have made my selection in advance, or a hold request will be available. Book in hand, I let the kids browse.
Last weekend the library resumed Fall hours and we were able to have a Sunday visit. I did not know what I wanted to read, and there was nothing on hold. The girls were decisive about their choices: a Flat Stanley adventure, a Peanuts “I Can Read” book, and the 4-year-old’s perennial selection, a Charlie and Lola book. They were ready, having been promised some ice cream from the street fair, and I was empty handed. I ran up to the fiction racks to see if the next book in the Atwood trilogy was available, and it was not. “You’re not getting anything?” the 7-year-old asked, dumbfounded.
The commute has been particularly annoying this week, with widespread delays. An electronic hold became available through Overdrive and I downloaded it, but I still cannot get back into the groove. I blame the vacation. I have been catching up with podcasts, but it is not the same thing. Passively listening, I find the time to check my email 100 times, or mentally plan my work day. Hopefully, by the time the weekly library trip comes along, I will have made some choices. My mind needs a vacation.
Where do you read? What do you do if you lose inspiration for a while? And what should I read next?