Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Habit Of Reading


Since Dane died I have lost my habit of reading.

I have read everything I could get my hands on since I was little: cereal boxes, advertisements, comics, novels, bumper stickers, street signs, billboards. All fair game. I read myself nearly blind with a flashlight under the covers after dark, and nearly sick on long car rides. I read in restaurants, at the beach during breakfast/lunch/dinner, on play dates, and during classes that were boring throughout my academic career. I have read both widely and deeply in my free time and as a teacher and an English major and a person generally dedicated to the written word.

When Dane died, nothing written has really kept my interest. These days I have a hard time concentrating deeply on anything in longer than two- or three-minute chunks. Fiction is hard to stay invested in, unless it is Jhumpa Lahiri or T.C. Boyle, and non-fiction, although more intriguing, floats into my brain and right back out.

This has not really been a problem beyond just one more sadness in a year of extraordinary loss, until now, as a newly minted docent at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). Now I find myself needing to concentrate for a period of time that lasts longer than 140 characters. I need to be able to take in and retain information, then shift and respond to questions about that information. Intellectually I know how to do it.

My brain doesn't feel up to it, though. I get tired when I start to read deeply, and my eyes become blurry. I find that I need to take breaks at the same time that I find that I need to make myself push through that fatigue, which may or may not be real. My brain jumps at shadows and resists.

Even sitting down and writing this has been difficult today. I am exhausted trying to express myself, and compelled to do it anyway.


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