I have been reading voraciously these past few weeks, inhaling books without stopping to relish the scent, swallowing chapters whole without pausing to chew. Ravenous, needing, double-fisting books. . .ingesting them with both my eyes and my ears. Always a book waiting for me on Audible, always a book waiting for me on Kindle, always a book waiting for me (patient, old-fashioned) on my coffee table.
Non-fiction. Am I lonely? Is that why I have been craving the memoirs and the personal essays? Am I looking for conversation? For friends? For mentors to learn from? For people, for stories, for words and thoughts and emotions free from the restraints of relationships?
Or am I just feeling a bit lost, trying to find my path again, hoping that while strolling down other people's roads I may just stumble back upon my own?
Books chosen by random, what happened to be on my bookshelf, what was "recommended" by Amazon's algorithm. Read without thought as to Why. All by women, by very different women. Women I would never be friends with in real life. Women who dress differently, speak differently, react to grief and loss differently. So foreign to me. Women who I would pass by in a cafe without a second thought, women I would likely judge.
I have found insight in the oddest places, revelation in other people's confusion and answers to my own questions in the thoughts and words of these women, who, removed from myself by time, distance and culture, are safe and nonthreatening. I can react to their lives freely, without worrying about giving appropriate responses or offensive opinions. I am free to like or dislike them, agree or disagree with their choices, and I can close the book at any time, set it down, walk away.
A memoir about a woman wrongly imprisoned during the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960's taught me about staying true to yourself, no matter what the consequences. A woman journalist living and working in the middle east taught me to accept and embrace my own crazy and, most recently, an analytical and introspective look at the grieving process by a female icon taught me about love and marriage and the difference between the two.
I have always loved to read, ever since I was a child and systematically read every book my small town library had to offer. I used to love fiction, likely a need to escape my own life and live in a variety of fantasy worlds. In fiction, no matter how realistic, there is a sense of freedom, of complete possibility, of infinite choice. There is separation - too painful, too bold and you can tell yourself, it's not real, it didn't happen, it could never happen.
But non-fiction, solid and absolute, non-fiction is truth. It happened. It could happen again. The person survived or didn't survive. The pain was real, the pleasure a possibility. It is a way to truly live another life, then come back to yourself with more insight and knowledge.
It is a shift from fantasy to reality, from passive dreaming to active planning.
It is a shift from reading to lose yourself to reading to find yourself.
Next step? The shift from reading books to writing them. . .