I can't quite articulate why, but I have had a really hard time getting into a groove of regularly reading fiction since I have had children. I've read non-fiction, stacks and stacks of non-fiction, about parenting, faith, food, politics, knitting, home organization, and any other random topics that catch my eye. But because of the chaotic nature of my days, it's hard for me to read fiction since I so often need to pick up/put down my book. And I used to be someone who for years and years read an average of 4-5 novels a week. A WEEK. That does not include required reading for school. Classic, trashy or trendy, I probably read it!
So I'm very thankful that I've recently been able to slip into reading fiction. It is something I have missed so much. Unlike my time on the computer, which often leaves me feeling blah or down or unmotivated (idly checking my email, facebook, messageboards, blogs, and now twitter), reading fiction seems to energize me and lift my mood. I'm now able to read a few chapters, put my book down and then be productive for a while, and the urge to see where the story goes is a positive motivator for me. I'm finding time to read during the day while waiting for my kids to do something, while watching them play outside, or just those random downtime's throughout the day. I think I'm doing a pretty good job not letting it get out of hand, but it is really nice to take 15 minutes and do something that is just refreshing for me. Unless I get started with something at night- I have had a few late nights just because I had to finish a book!
I do wonder why spending time online leaves me feeling so drained. I've been mulling over two possibilities, both are probably true. The first is Information overload. My time online bounces from place to place, and I read a wide variety of short snippets of things, and a few more indepth things. But usually on different topics. There is no cohesion, no thread for me to follow. Sometimes I read good things, other times I stumble upon negative stories or rants or depressing news. Rabbit trails everywhere.
The second possibility is emotional connection. As crazy as it sounds, I am emotionally connected to people I "know" online. Some of whom I'm blessed to actually be close to in real life, while others I have met a handful of times, while still others I have just "known" forever online. I am an extremely empathetic person, and as much as I love keeping up with what is going on in the lives of my friends, near and far, through this amazing thing called the internet that we all take for granted now, I do find that if I don't guard myself it overwhelms me. Sometimes I make a misstep myself, and don't "read" someone well. Sometimes my heart aches so much for someone who is struggling and the distance between us overwhelms me because I can't actually help physically, and my virtual hugs seem, well, lame. I also struggle with my tendency to "keep track" of everyone's views that I know of and try to accommodate them in my words as not to offend, or I make the wrong assumption that they can handle my "honest" words and end up hurting instead of helping or communicating appropriately. Sometimes it's a virtual landmine.
The reason I keep coming back, though, is because I do value my relationships, and I do feel that I find information that is of value to me as I live my life that is more accessible than elsewhere. I know that some people find it is better to take a "fast" from the internet for a time when the balance between time spent online and their life obligations gets out of whack, or just when they are too busy to find the time to be online for a season. I admit that I have not always looked favorably upon that strategy, because the positives of internet have always loomed large in my mind. Yet I still have to acknowledge the physical, mental and emotional toll it *can* take on me.
Because of this, I'm glad that I'm finally able to add a steady diet of fiction back into my life. Reading fiction also greatly enriches my life, gives me new thoughts and insights, distracts me from minor annoyances, refreshes me and I think because I find it so compelling adds a natural balance to the time I spend online. It's a strong pull for me too, which I think I needed, especially since I have greatly cut back on my other "passion"- digital scrapbooking. I do hope to pick that up again, but it definitely doesn't do as much good for me as reading fiction does. I love stories. Sometimes I do wonder whether I just love reading people's stories online. I'm amazed at how vulnerable and transparent and real some of my online friends are. And I love that they trust me to share, and I'm amazed at what people will put on blogs. (Like I'm doing here, but I doubt many will read this!) But with fiction, I can follow the stories while not feeling the emotional burden of caring about someone. I do feel that as a Christian I am called to care for and love others, but I also know that I have limits and need to keep it real, so to speak, and to make sure that I stay refreshed so that I can love those I'm in daily contact with.
When I sat down to write this, I actually thought I was going to do a quick overview of some of the books I've read recently... but I think I'm hitting a wall, so I'll save that for another post!