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The Better Me Project—Day 16

You would never think I would make a precept about not reading, did you?

After all, I’m like the biggest book pusher on the planet. I have books in my purse, my car, on the night table…everywhere. I panic if I’m waiting somewhere and I have nothing to read. Not only do I make sure I bring at least one pair of underwear for each day I’m on vacation, I always have at least one book for every day, much to hubby’s dismay. I think I have an actual phobia of running out of reading material….abibliophobia. (Yeah, it’s a real thing. I looked it up on the Internet. It has to be true if it’s on the Internet, right?)

So What’s This About Boring Books?

I don’t know how it happened, but along the way I made this rule up for myself that I would always finish the books I started. It didn’t matter if the book was the worst book on the planet, if I read past page one, I was going to complete it.

This is probably because I had it drilled in my head as a kid that you finish what you start. You don’t want to play soccer anymore? That’s fine, but you’re finishing out this season. You don’t want to take Geometry anymore? Tough it out, kid. That book you have to read for English is boring? Too bad—finish it.

I Still Read and I’m Not Even In School

While the statistics are controversial, it seems like anywhere from 25-35% of people never read another book once they leave high school. In that percentage of the people that do read after high school, 25 % don’t read more than one book a year.

So bibliophiles like me are not as commonplace as say, TV addicts. (Show me a person who hasn’t watched at least one show on TV in the last year, I’ll show you someone who is living in a hut in the middle of a third world country.)

I read anywhere from 70-80 books a year. I am NOT bragging at all, I’m just stating a fact. To me, reading books is like breathing—I enjoy doing it and it kind of keeps me alive.

By the way, I am not judging you if books aren’t your thing. Don’t judge me because Game of Thrones isn’t my thing. We all need entertainment in whatever way we can get it. As long as we are keeping our minds active, we’re all good.

But I’m Still Acting Like I’m In School When It Comes to Reading

So I’ve been out of school for um…well, more years than I’d like to admit, yet I still act like I’m in high school. As far as reading is concerned. It’s somehow ingrained in my head that not only do I have to read the classics that I was never assigned in school (Anna Karenia, Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea), I have to finish them as well…even if I hate them.

I have spent weeks toiling over some books that I hated (while a gleaming stack of the books I wanted to be reading tormented me from the corner of the room). I’ve thrown books at the wall with frustration. There have been times that I needed to force my eyes to stay open when a book has bored me to death.

I have run screaming from the room at books that have horrified me. On more than one occasion I have counted the pages left in a book and wondered, My God when does this book end??? 

But I have finished them all. Why?!?!?!? There’s not going to be a quiz! No one is grading an essay that I wrote on color symbolism in the novel! I won’t even have to give my opinion of the damn book to anyone! Why can’t I just read what I like????

I’d Make Some Therapist Very Rich

I’m sure there’s some deep-seated reason for my rigid adherence to the rules of school. I was always such a good little rule follower. Desire to please? One of Maslow’s needs not being met? A Freudian slip from bad potty training? Who knows.

It doesn’t really matter anyway, because I recently gave myself permission to stop the insanity and close the books that are not giving me joy or important information that I need.

Yup. I just close the book and I never pick it up again (unless I have to bring it back to the library). Maybe to you this sounds like common sense, but for me it is a Herculean task.

Could I really just close a book on page ten and never go back to it? What if I was almost done? How would I rate the book on Goodreads if I wasn’t even finishing it? (Would this affect my yearly reading challenge?????) What was going to be my criteria for quitting a book?

Of Course, Some Rules

Even when I’m pledging to be carefree and less rigid, I still try to abide by self-imposed rules. What can I say? I crave structure, even when faced with the task of relaxing. (Once again…I probably could use a therapist to iron out my idiosyncrasies.) So I made up some criteria and stuck it in a flow chart: img_0618 I also will not “review” a book that I didn’t read at least 3/4 of. And I refuse to rip apart an author if I couldn’t finish a book. Who am I to say a book is “terrible”? Someone else may love it. Different strokes for different folks.

(*Please don’t be that guy that gives books 1 star on Amazon and then says something like, “I didn’t read it”. Writers really hate that guy.)

It’s Still Difficult to Break a Habit

I want to believe the best in all books. They were all written by someone with an idea and a story to tell. Those people managed to put all those swirly thoughts in their heads down on paper. Do you know how hard that is???

I do. Therefore, I want to give every book I read the benefit of the doubt and give it a chance. I will not allow myself to fling a book across the room if I didn’t at least do that much.

But there’s been quite a few books lately that I’ve given more than their fair shake. In fact, I recently put aside a book even though I only had 50 pages left to read. It had been interesting at the beginning, but was growing tedious and taking me far too long to get through. I was so proud of myself for not finishing it.

Maybe I will try it again in the future…but not now. Because I don’t have time for reading books I don’t like. Life is too short. Unless it’s required reading don’t waste your time with anything that doesn’t make you happy. Don’t get hung up on imaginary rules and restrictions that aren’t serving a purpose. Let it GO!

This Isn’t Just For Books By the Way…

You can apply this rule (and make yourself a snazzy flowchart) for almost all aspects of you life. If you don’t NEED to do something and it’s sapping you of joy and energy, why are you torturing yourself?????

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