It’s Not a Hobby, It’s Essential

I’ve always turned down invitations to join book clubs. Not because I don’t see the value in them and definitely not because I didn’t like the people inviting me, but because I always seem to have stacks of books of my own to read. Lately, though, I’ve found myself in three book groups. It so happened that each is reading important, timely books about race and the human experience. Books I felt I could get more out of by discussing them rather than reading them alone. And it feels good to be sharing my love for reading and my belief that books, like all forms of art, help us learn and improve.

And, to be honest, since the pandemic hit and my business slowed down, I find myself with more time on my hands. I could finally get through the stacks and stacks of unread books I own, but ironically, a new obstruction has arisen. A strange and internal one. I feel guilty reading in the middle of the day. My workaholic self keeps reminding me I should be doing something “more important.” I even felt the need the other day to preface my reading time with a disclaimer to my husband, “Now, if you see me reading in the middle of the day, don’t mention it. Don’t draw attention to it in any way or I’m going to think you’re teasing me about not working.”  He looked at me like I’m crazy. And I am.

I recently reread The Four Agreements with one of my book groups. In it, the author suggests we enter into agreements with the universe, ourselves, and others, and some of those agreements can be self-limiting and cause suffering. Somewhere along the line, I agreed to see reading as a hobby, a pleasure, a treat. I agreed that 9:00 – 5:00 should be treated like work hours, and I agreed that work meant sitting at my desk performing certain tasks. But if you can make an agreement, you can break one.

Like so many of us, I’m reinventing myself and my business right now. And to do that, I need information, encouragement, examples, and the opportunity to contemplate and create. Books provide those things. And not just text books or self-help books. I recently read a novel about parents navigating the tricky waters of raising a transgender child and I’m now reading a novel written by a Native American author, which starts with an exploration of all the ways Native Americans have been abused throughout our history.

And I’m spending a lot more time reading personal accounts on social media by brave people stepping forward to tell their stories of personal heartache during these trying times and being honest about how we can really help.

Reading, painting, writing poetry, listening to music, watching live stream theater, these are not wasting time, and they are much more than just hobbies. They are essential to our core development. And what could be more important than that?

P.S. I bought this magnet at Strand Book Store in New York City. It’s called Rosie the Reader. As a World War II writer, I have many images of Rosie the Riveter in my office, but this Rosie isn’t bucking rivets, she’s reading books. And that makes her my new hero.

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