I am a bookaholic. Or a readaholic. I’m not sure of the correct term.
I’ve already confessed to being a Compulsive Overreader, but I’ve decided that the language of addiction is even more relevant to describe my disordered relationship with the written word. If you think this is over-the-top, you can check out my answers to the following questions:
1. Do you feel edgy and uncomfortable without your drug of choice?
Heck, yes. My worst nightmare is being caught in a situation where I have to sit and wait — say, at a doctor’s office or similar place — without anything to read. Yesterday I was driving Emma to her music lesson and realized that I didn’t have a book in my bag. I decided it was a good opportunity to practice being in the present moment — just sit and watch my lovely daughter play the piano without reading anything. Nothing could quite quell that tense feeling, though, as I realized there was no fallback position.
2. Do you plan your life around your next “fix”?
Absolutely. Let’s take trip planning, for example. The first thing I consider when I start to think about packing for a trip is which books to take and how many I can fit in my luggage. Will that be enough? If I buy more while I’m away, will I be able to get them back? I analyze books in terms of length versus weight — a thin-paged paperback with small print is ideal as it gives the most reading value for the lightest weight. One of my worst travel moments was in England in ’06 when we were about to head out to rent a canal boat for five days. Uppermost in my mind was not, “Will we have fun?” or “Can my husband actually steer a canal boat?” but “What will I read? I’ve read both the books I brought, both the books Jason brought, and I’m going to be on a boat with no access to a bookstore for FIVE DAYS!!” (Fortunately I got to a bookstore before we embarked and stocked up, so it was a good trip).
3. Do you feel your substance use is affecting the quality of your daily life?
Definitely. Of course, I mostly feel it’s affecting it positively, but then that’s what we all say when we’re deep in denial, don’t we? Reading relieves boredom, allows me to travel through both time and space more widely than either my Visa card or the laws of physics will allow, and introduces me to people far more interesting than most of the ones I meet everyday (though some of them are quite interesting too). The story of my life is mostly the record of what books I read when, and what they made me think.
Sometimes I worry that I’ve substituted reading for living too much, that I do use books to escape from the present moment too often, that I would be more grounded in the here and now if I didn’t so often have my nose in a book. The fact is, a lot of these present moments — like the ones in doctor’s waiting rooms — hardly seem worth sticking around for, when I could be in medieval Spain or a remote Irish fishing village or on another planet altogether. Unlike lots of women, I never found the years at home with babies and toddlers at all boring, probably because I was reading almost the whole time. Did I, at the same time, miss precious moments of presence with my babies? I like to think not, but honestly, I probably did from time to time. I pride myself on the face that I’m never bored with my admittedly rather routine life, but could that be because for so much of it, I’m not really here?
Oh well. For better or for worse you won’t be seeing me at a 12-step program for Overreaders anytime soon. Instead, check out my new reviews of what I read in Australia and since I’ve come back.