remedial reading

As a kid, I always had my nose in a book. I read at every opportunity, well above my grade level, finishing multiple books every week. Sometimes I’d walk to the town library after school and just sit in there and read for a while. My parents had to put limits on the number of books I checked out at a time because the library sure didn’t, and I was terribly prone to reading them all very quickly and then losing a few.

(By the time I was a young adult, I became such a library delinquent that I felt like I couldn’t afford a library card anymore. Seriously. I have left a very long trail of library fines in my wake.)

At various points throughout adulthood I have struggled with anxiety and depression, twin demons that can rob you of so much. One of the most precious things anxiety stole from me was the ability to lose myself in a book.

It’s been particularly challenging this year. Every time I think I’m going to sit down and read, my mind drifts immediately to the seventy other things I should be doing or could be worrying about. I think I’ve only read two books this year and they were young adult chapter books I’d read a dozen times growing up. And in addition to losing the comfort of a good book, my inability to just READ sometimes can add fuel to a fire that tells me how much I suck.

But I really, really want to enjoy books like I used to, so I decided to start practicing in the hopes of learning how to do it again. I have had a book I got for Christmas sitting on my nightstand since then, and whenever I could actually read a few pages I did enjoy it, so I stuck with that.

I have been referring to this as “practicing reading.”

At first I set a goal to just read one whole page. Sometimes it took a few tries to get to the bottom of the page. Sometimes I had to read it five or six times before I remembered what was in it. Then when I’d done that successfully over a few days, I tried for a chapter.

That was a lot harder at first. It took a long time before I finished a whole chapter in one sitting. But then it got easier.

And then all of a sudden the other day I had a few hours to myself. I sat down to practice reading a chapter and the next thing I knew, those hours had passed and I had finished the book.

I felt like a fucking champion.

Then I kind of felt like a loser to be so excited about taking nine months to finish a damn book when I’m nearly 40 years old.

But then I felt like a champion again because I think it is a pretty big deal to regain something like this that I loved and lost. I’m not there yet, but I can see it in the distance.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I want a medal. I finished a book! The first one this year that I hadn’t read before!

Maybe I can try to read another book now. Then, if I work hard, I might finish two new books this year. That would be pretty cool.