Reading has not been cancelled

Cup of tea. I'm with C. S. Lewis who felt that a cup of tea could never be too big and a book too thick. They are magical ingredients.
I’m with C. S. Lewis on tea and books. They are magical ingredients.

I woke up early this morning and said to myself that C. S. Lewis was correct. He said once that he could never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit him. Fortunately I’m reading a long series at the moment, so it’ll take me a while to get to the end. I’m only on the 2nd of 21 books in C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series (the 21st is expected to be released in September this year).

I’m glad to have this series for many reasons. It’s a great story for starters, but I think the Covid 19 situation would be much harder without books. I could easily get cabin fever, because what do you do when there’s no sport anywhere, no concerts, closed libraries, closed schools, and people are strongly encouraged to stay home?

First of all, I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay at home all the time. I live in an area where there is a lot of space, so I can take walks without having to meet people, and when I do, we know to keep a certain distance. I do what I can to boost my immune system, and exercise is a part of that. Besides, sunlight may not kill the virus, but it is known to be an enemy of most viruses.

So what do you do when you come home? The basic cable package is a part the homeowners association fee where I live, but I’m not sure I would have bothered with it if I had to pay for those channels separately. There was a time when I enjoyed TV more than I do now. It could be that I have changed, but I think a lot changed when everyone was seduced by the dark side, aka reality shows. I’m not even that impressed by Netflix most of the time, so I’m glad to have books available.

I struggle with attention, so there are many days when I can’t read uninterrupted for hours, like I could some years ago, and when that happens, I switch between different things. These days I read some, spend some time thinking about the characters in the Foreigner universe, and I write some. We also have family activities, like playing board games and watching a film. Our film nights are like the TBS show Dinner and a Movie, except we do all the talking while the film is running. That makes them educational, because I don’t think you should stay away from films that include a message you don’t like.

My daughter likes musicals and dancing, and she had been curious about Grease for a while, so we watched that film last Friday. It’s a good story, and it gives you an opportuntiy to debate peer pressure, how boys and girls can see things differently, but also the importance of not pretending to be someone you are not, because you think that will make you happy. In other words, girls shouldn’t change for a boy, and vice versa.

This was the first Covid-19 weekend since my country shut down. Next week will be a challenge with closed schools and no afternoon activities for my daughter to go to, but I think there’ll be a lot of reading, because you can’t cancel books. I’m not going to shop like there’s no tomorrow, but although I sometimes have to make myself read when it’s hard to focus, I’m going to, because that makes my life pretty good. Life is by no means cancelled, neither is family.

Forceful reading

Foreigner. I have just ordered two more books. This universe will stay with me for a long time.
I have just ordered two more books. This universe will stay with me for a long time.

I used to have two blogs. I still do, but I find that I can post almost everything I write on this one. When I started blogging nine years ago my focus was on NLD (also known as NVLD) and Asberger syndrome, their comorbid conditions, and other relevant issues. They are more or less the same diagnosis, except that the first one hasn’t been included in the manuals DSM and ICD yet. Personally, I think this is pretty insane, as the research has been going on since the 1930’s.

I started this literary blog much later, but I find that I focus more on reading and writing, even if it is a post that could just as well have been posted on the other blog. This will be one of those posts. I have referred to my problems with reading and writing several times. School was pretty traumatic and I didn’t get any help at all. I don’t think anyone knew what to do, and to be fair, NLD and Asberger are pretty confusing, both to the kids that grow up with these challenges, and to the people trying to help them. We can have interests and a sophisticated language that suggests well over average skills, but then we struggle socially, academically, emotionally etc. Professionals talk about uneven cognitive skills, which means that these people can be amazing at some things, but be right out hopeless at other and even similar things.

I really wanted to succeed in school from the beginning, but I hated it. I couldn’t get anything right, and when I was trying to read, the ink just looked like water colours to me. The letters would float and change places. Those naughty words kept getting me into trouble, but for some reason I was stubbborn. I was determined to conquer them.

I was childish for a long time. I read the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys longer than anyone else. They were written during a time period where children liked mysteries and secret clubs/societies. I believe that was at least a generation before my time, but that still worked for me, or maybe not. I didn’t make any progress, which wasn’t to be expected either. Motivation is a mystery. You can try all you want, and I’m sure there were adults around me at the time that tried to motivate me, but I just didn’t want to read and write. I wasn’t very good at it, and as I spent a major part of my childhood in an amazing valley, staying inside to read was no attraction. There were frogs and trouts to catch, trees to climb, caves to explore, and football matches to win.

It may come as a surprise that I can get any pleasure out of bulldozing, but that’s what I’ve been doing. Once I found the motivation to read, both for learning and for pleasure, I had to make myself do it. I still do. I enjoy reading, but I’m never like Roald Dahl’s Matilda. I can be, with discipline. I suppose it’s because reading is still demanding. It’s not like that all the time. There are times when I can sit still for a long time, and because I am able to focus for 4-5 hours, I cover quite a few pages.

I’m the type that needs to be challenged. When my daughter was in primary school the public library challenged all the pupils to read 30 books between mid-January and mid-May. I was so far away from reading anything at all at the time, but I knew I had to do something, so I used the opportunity to challenge myself alongside my daughter. I don’t think I ever got to 30 books, but during the three years I followed this campaign, I read 20-25 books between January and May, and about a dozen more the rest of the year. I don’t think that was bad at all.

I’m not going to bother you with the details about why I stopped reading, but the point is that I found back to the feeling I had when I from my pre-teens discovered authors like Isac Asimov, John Wyndham, J. R. R. Tolkien, Philip Dick, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and many more.

I discovered and rediscovered many gems when I was reading for/with my daughter. Series like Beezus and Ramona (Beverly Cleary), Daizy Star (Cathy Cassidy), A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle), Howl’s Moving Castle and Archer’s Goon (Diana Wynne Jones), and The Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson) were especially memorable. The journey continues and we still influence each other to read.

I didn’t want my daughter to grow up in the kind of household I grew up in, where the only book anyone ever read was the Bible. Not that I don’t think it’s worth your time, but life would be pretty boring if that was all there was. So I made it a point to let her see me read, and as a result she likes books, really big books. She is currently reading Under the Dome by Stephen King, which is close to 900 pages long.

I’m not sure what the reason is, but I have a feeling that many read less than they used to do. It could be that we are more visual, and not in the sense that we want to look at black and white pages. We want computer games and the ability to sream entire seasons of a TV-series in a day. I’m not sure what the answer is.

Force never works. It didn’t with me. I remember teachers trying to shame and humiliate me. They succeeded in doing that, but it didn’t make me read. I forced myself later because the lack of skills prevented me from doing what I wanted. The biggest wake up call came in 7th grade, the first year I had grades in school. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have gone anywhere with those grades. I found a motivation I had never had before, but there was a significant amount of discipline involved.

Forcing myself to read may sound negative, like I’m not enjoying it. I can’t explain it. There are periods where I love it, and completely block out everything else, but there are also times when, through discipline, I enter that zone where I’m slowly drawn in. It’s a portal to another world, and even though I Iove it on the other side, I have to work hard just to be willing to go.

I’m currently reading Foreigner by C. J. Cherryh (anthropological science fiction). I find it quite complicated, and I probably have to read it several times, but in a way it’s one of those books I’ll never finish. I like a book that stays with me long after I read it. In fact, I like a book I like re-reading. I think this series will be one of those, and there is a lot to look foward to. Book number 20 is expected to be published in January 2020.

I may have to use some force or discipline from time to time, but I’m going to enjoy every moment. I didn’t get to where I am exclusively because reading was easy. It still isn’t, but it’s marvellous and magical. The words aren’t that mischievous any more.

P.S. It’s interesting to note that some of Merriam Webster’s definitions of discipline don’t sound that bad to me, such as “control gained by enforcing obedience or order”. It took me a while, but the words are finally serving me. They are in the right order now, but it didn’t just happen.