I am a Compulsive Overreader; always have been. But I’m also a busy teacher, writer, mom and volunteer. Some weeks I read more than others, but I doubt there’s been a week of my life (except the infamous week of Pathfinder Camporee last summer) when I didn’t complete at least one book. It does help that I’m a fast reader, and I think how quickly a person reads is just one of those things you can’t control — in fact I’ve often wished I could read more slowly, to make a book I’m enjoying last longer. But I can’t.
However, another factor in the equation is something I’m only just beginning to understand. A conversation with a friend shed some light on the matter.
This friend does in-home daycare for a living, and she was telling me about a day a couple of summers ago when it was bright and sunny and she took the kids outside to play. “So, of course, if they’re going to be outside, I want to be doing something, not just sitting around watching them play,” she said as matter-of-factly as if we were speaking the same language, “so I loaded up a couple of buckets of soapy water and took them outside, and started washing the cars, and before long the kids pitched in to help me.”
I listened with one of those glassy smiles that, if you know me well enough, you’ll recognize as a sign of complete incomprehension. Never, ever, since my kids were old enough to crawl, has it occurred to me to take them outside on a sunny day with any other purpose in mind than for them to play while I read a book. The concept that, upon going outside, I would need to concoct some Useful Task like washing the car in order to occupy me, would just never cross my mind.
It’s clearly one of those disconnects, another point at which I realize I am Not a Proper Woman. I’ve realized that I see reading as my default setting. Reading is what I’m doing when I’m not doing anything. Or in between doing things. While for a lot of other people, particularly a lot of my women friends, Doing Something Useful is their default setting, and reading, like watching TV or any other leisure activity, is something they turn to when they have a free moment with no other demands.
I have to make a concerted effort to make myself do Something Useful, since it always involves putting down my book. Maybe I should starting talking and acting as if my lifestyle were normal and everyone else’s were unusual. Upon entering a friend’s home: “Oh, it’s so tidy! And all your dishes are clean!! How do you ever find the time? I’d love to clean my kitchen, but I just have so many books to read ….”
It probably wouldn’t fly. But I’d love to try.