I’ve been trying to give myself a gift this week – a little reading during the early part of the day. After I finish the most urgent things – my own writing, responses to pressing emails, checking in on Facebook updates – I step back and read – just a chapter or two – before I plunge into the heavy tasks of the day.
This feels transgressive in some way – like I’m breaking some rule about how I need to be working during certain hours and reading does not really count as work – but I’m insisting that I do read this way for a couple of reasons
- Reading is my work. If I’m not reading, then my writing is going to suffer.
- Reading centers me. It helps me laugh – or as in the case of this morning, cry. It reminds me of why I do what I do, and it teaches me lessons about words that I can apply to my own writing and to the writing of my clients.
- Reading is fun. It helps me relax and calm down, even with a looming “to do” list ahead.
Somehow, though, I’ve absorbed the idea that if something is enjoyable it’s not work, that I’m cheating if I love what I do. I find that fact to be true of writing as well – if it’s easy, then I’m doing it wrong.
Maybe it’s the Protestant work ethic whispering to me, maybe a culture that says the only work worth doing brings pay, maybe just my own self-inflicted guilt about the fact that I spend most of my days doing things I absolutely adore when other people don’t have that privilege.
Whatever it causing me to feel bad about reading before 10am, it’s not helpful. It just pushes me further toward guilt, and guilt comes with a lot of “should,” and I hate the word “should.” So I’m banishing the guilt about reading.
To do so, I have this mantra – Reading gives hope. Reading brings peace. Reading is good. I’m repeating that over and over to myself as a ward against the “shoulds” that whisper in my head.
So this morning, I ran a hot bath, grabbed Anne Lamott (okay her book, bathing with her would be a bit too intimate, I think), and sank in. 15 minutes – 2 chapters, and I’m ready for the rest of the day. Ah, yeah, that feels good.
What about you? When do you read? Do you feel guilty for taking time to read? If so, how do you battle that feeling? If not, how did you reach that point? I really want to know.
By the way, my book The Slaves Have Names is on sale at Amazon this week. All proceeds from sales this month go to Coming to the Table, an organization that seeks to heal the wounds and systems created by the legacy of slavery.