If Books Were Toxic, I’d Be Dead

If Books Were Toxic, I’d Be Dead

Whenever something triggers me to imagine a truly terrible outcome, suddenly in the hospital, somehow in prison, stranded in a foreign environment, my thoughts always coalesce around a desperate fear I would not have enough books, or heaven forbid, any books. Sometimes I imagine there would be at least one book and I would read it over and over. So, in my mind, though I’m freezing on a remote mountaintop after a small plane crash, my first set of concerns is how many times I can read House of Mirth or the Talented Mr. Ripley before the magic no longer works. 

I am addicted to reading. I know I am. There is no public shame because the effects don’t cause problems. Internally, I worry about my supply. It’s the worst feeling to finish the last book of a favorite author knowing I have come to end of the road with that particular escape.

I find reading to be intensely pleasurable. If a favorite book were to go on forever, somehow sustain its structural perfection but never conclude and I could opt to leave my life and read into oblivion, I don’t find that a totally awful thought. And that seems like an awful thought.

Thought reading has given me so much, I am not addicted to the benefits, useful as they may be. I am addicted to the escape. When I am reading, I am not suffering. So simple.

I love to eat and read at the same time. I don’t get to do that too often as I usually eat lunch with my husband and eat dinner with the family. I might do it at breakfast, but I’ve taken to reading off a phone screen, and that’s always subpar, which is good because it’s pretty easy to break away and get back to real life.

I recently had the opportunity to eat lunch alone, my white table bright from a beautiful sunny day, I was having sliced apple with cheese and crackers, another lifelong favorite activity. So yummy! And so easy to clean up. If and when I end up alone, half my calories will come from cheese and crackers. Pair this with a paperback novel and it just can’t get any better. 

I have traveled the world through books. I’ve read authors from many countries, translations from their native language. I learned about all sorts of people and all sorts of activities. I cannot imagine who I would be without this wealth of voyeuristic knowledge. On some level, I have lived many lives, been many people, learned the lessons of others tragic choices, walked the cities and shores of foreign lands. So many small details which have never left me.

Did you know that in Mumbai police ply detainees with candy in order to make them thirsty and them deny them water as form of confessional coercion? (Maximum City – Suketu Mehta)

In the same book is a killer who has slept in a single room with his extended family his whole life is afraid to sleep alone.

Being frightening doesn’t make you less afraid.

This is what I remember.

My husband is also a voracious reader. We rarely swap books, though he usually tells me about what he’s reading. His habits are more eclectic yet cohesive then mine. He is a natural historian and reads widely on a variety of intersecting topics. Marianne Faithful’s steamy autobiography next to a collection of Tennessee Williams short stories next to Merlin Sheldrake’s treatise on fungi. I am lucky to live with someone who always has something interesting to share.

Residing in a transient neighborhood of apartments, we both regularly bring home books orphaned to the sidewalk. I see a pile in the distance and feel dread even as I hustle towards it. Our bookcases overflow with books laying horizontal on top of the ones placed properly. Books line the hallways. We frequently rehome them to friends, Goodwill or the library but still more come in the front door than leave though the back.

We have two bedside tables each. Yes, you read that correctly, our bed is flanked by four tables stacked high with books both read and unread. That was not a conscious choice and I can’t see making it on purpose, but I’ve grown fond of my second bedside book table with its foot-high sloppy stacks. I’ve told myself to clean it up because I like things to be tidy, and yet I am facing, right now, in this very moment, that it is a comfort to me, and I want to keep it. At least if I get sick and have to take to my bed, I know I am all set.

Well, Well Well! What Have We Here?

Well, Well Well! What Have We Here?

Coming back from a hike I say to my husband, Look what I found!

Are you going to put that on?

I put it on.

Oughh! I hope you’re going to wash your hands.

I shrug and move and my fingers dramatically.

You got it out of a drainpipe?

Don’t worry, I already checked for spiders.

Is that fresh blood or printed on?

No comment.

You’re crazy. Put that in the laundry.

Full story. I saw something while walking back to my car. I didn’t say to myself, oh look at that. I just found myself staring at what seemed like deflated starfish tentacles stuck in a drainpipe. I pulled on it and discovered a glove. Most likely a post Halloween artifact. I pinched each glove finger and squeezed up and down the length to disable anything that might be tempted to bite me, then slipped it on. It was pleasingly strange. I don’t have anything like this. Not that I know what I would do it with it but surely something will come to mind. It’s not going to take up much space. I’ve picked up and carried home much more annoying items. I was keen to show my husband the full effect, but he wasn’t nearly as excited as I was.

I wonder who lost it? A teenager, a child? An adult? I doubt that little Hollywood Hills dead ender has much trick or treat action so probably someone on their way to or from a party. But surely it was lost on the street. Who picked it up and stuck it so purposely in the drainpipe? A do gooder who thought the owner would come back and find out. Sorry good Samaritan but not a likely scenario. Who would shorten the productive part of their day to haul ass to the neighborhood of a recent holiday party to search for a misplaced faux bloody spider fingers glove? So why pick it up out of the gutter? Or did they just think it looked cool, a little random local art installation. Did anyone else notice it, touch it, try it on? Would you?

Am I Going to Let This Crappy Hairbrush Ruin My Day?

Am I Going to Let This Crappy Hairbrush Ruin My Day?

Am I going to let this crappy hairbrush ruin my day? No! But I will let it ruin a few minutes. Multiply that momentary descent into dissatisfaction by several other “problems” and I have relinquished a good chunk of time to dismay. 

I have this belief that if I eliminate everything from my to-do list, I can finally feel the way I want to feel. I have no idea what that feeling would feel like. I don’t know if it would be super great or not, because my to-do list has never emptied. This persistent belief causes me a lot of low-level anguish throughout the day. I am attempting to undermine this belief with conscious attention to what I add to the to-do list, when I add it, and how I tell myself to feel about the fact that we haven’t checked it off yet.

I was in the bathroom, doing bathroom stuff. The thought crossed my mind that I liked the new underwear I had recently bought. This is actually kind of a big deal. I ordered new underwear last May, in 2020. Even though it was listed as a product you could buy, it never came. It was always on back order and coming soon. What is more tedious than keeping on top of an underwear order? Three months later I gave up and canceled. I’d told my mom that if I liked the underwear, I would get her some too. So, the disappointment wasn’t just on my end. In fact, the disappointment was the only thing on our ends.

What I ordered next, unfortunately did arrive. Radically miscalculating the size and style combination I received something I’d describe as a billowy ass dress. If you’re wondering what style I got, it’s the one least like bikini. Maybe high cut? Is that supposed to be so high you can pull them over your bra? This did not look good with jeans. I didn’t wear them. I did contemplate leaving them anonymously in a friend’s dryer for a laugh, but we were still in the pandemic and I hadn’t seen any friend’s dryers in a while.  

I gave up and wore old underwear for a year until the urge hit again. I located something on amazon, a place I don’t necessarily love to support but I do have confidence their products will arrive. They’re great! They fit, they’re comfortable, two thirds of the underwear are NOT above my waistline, how cool!

So, what could possibly be the problem? How has successfully getting this off my to-do list after more than a freaking year started the cascade of feeling I have too much to do? Well, I may have gotten underwear for myself, but I haven’t got it for my mom! I need to get her size and place another order. Instead of enjoying that I can finally do this for her, I start unbraiding my hair and fretting.

It’s in this state that I notice the dilapidated old hairbrush, bristles popping out with each tug through the tangles. Oh great! Another thing I need to take care of. I am not even an hour into this day, and I am already behind. I feel a sense of dread. 

DREAD?! What a ridiculous over reaction. Just writing it out re-enforces how bat shit stupid, irrational and unconscious these thoughts are.

I stand at the mirror and tell myself, slow down! This moment is happening. Be in it! Don’t throw it away to feel DREAD about replacing a hairbrush

As I stand in the shower, I realize the feeling I want to feel is available now. I can actually experience it if I just stop telling myself to wait for it.

Okay! No more waiting. Feeling it now.

Yep, feels even better than I suspected!