I love the start of the year because I feel such a renewed sense of determination to read. I grew up disappearing into books for pure pleasure. In my teenage years and twenties, I wrote romance novels for fun. None of them were published, but I was a regular of the Romance Writers of America, and I spent hours in old libraries researching for my historical romances and creative fantasy books I'd craft in the night. Books turn me on.
I haven't really stopped writing, although the nature of what I've written has changed over the years. At some point, I found that if it was a choice between reading or writing, I preferred to curl up in bed with my journal. As a result, I found myself reading less. Later, juggling other parts of my life, reading became a time-luxury I felt I couldn't afford.
Two years ago, some friends and I created an ad-hoc Unbook Club, with the intention of reading books--although not always the same book, and not always just for the purposes of a book discussion. There was often food at our gatherings, or wine. And no topic was off-limits. I loved our Unbook Club meetings more than the books themselves because we gathered and talked about everything under the sun. What I used to love about books as a child was how I could completely disappear into another world; our Unbook Club meetings engendered the same sense of time and place being stripped away. The actual books I chose, however, felt more like a dreaded school assignment. I never thought I could be so disinclined to read books. Really, though it just wasn't the year for heavy reading. I was busy doing, and I didn't want to slow down. Reading requires a bit of slowing down.
In 2020 I set the goal to be, once again, a prolific reader. It didn't really happen. I think I completed 5 books, total, and most of them were on Audible. And NO, I don't think Audible counts as "reading" a book, but it doesn't not count either.
Last year's books were great, but they didn't restore the desire for me to read late into the night. I found myself reading those 5 books because, in the midst of a world pandemic, I felt I needed the wisdom these books had to offer. Again, it was more school assignment than midnight escape.
Last month in December, I had an epiphany while reading my emails. I realized that I was out of alignment in reading. I was doing the very thing I often preach against, which was that I'd turned my reading into a "SHOULD" rather than a passion. You see, I had this idea that I wanted to be the kind of person who could read 100 books a year, but I wasn't even giving myself the kinds of books I can devour at that pace. I had a list of books in my mind that I felt I "should" read if I wanted to be a "good" healer, or a "good" mother. I was choosing the hardest, most academic, most mind-stretching nonfiction, and it felt terrible.
Of course we know my reasoning was ridiculous, but this is why I continue to keep my Reiki practice strong. Having time for meditation and reflection helps me catch these little ways I'm unconscious to the dynamics I'm creating. Reiki isn't just about what happens in my office. I've learned a little more each year about how to be more true to myself, more compassionate, more healthy in boundaries, and more in love with my life.
So.... sitting there thinking about the 100 Book Goal (ugh!), I remembered the Reiki precepts. I remembered the buddhist values on which I was raised as a child. I remembered that part of being happy is really about being in the present and letting go of judgements, preconceived notions, and ego-driven aspirations. I mean, ego's not bad; our desires to lead us into lessons that allow us to cultivate our enlightened, illuminated state. But desires that are just grounded in ego, and not in our hearts, can become toxic. Reflecting on what I really wanted, I suddenly knew the best way forward.
As January rang in, I surprisingly had very few resolutions for this year. I think the effort of finding alignment in tumultuous 2020 was enough that all I wanted in the New Year was to Sit, and to Be---but there was one goal, one shining goal that popped up from my heart space. To read fun, fun things. I do love reading, and I do want to be well-read, but it won't matter, and it won't happen, unless I love it.
In 2021 I have given myself permission to read whatever inspires me, whether it's a cookbook or a graphic novel. I want to rediscover fiction. It doesn't have to be "good" fiction or "bad" fiction haha, it just needs to feel good in my hands and heart. I want all of the nonfiction I read to be page-turning.
I completed "Daring to Lead" by Brene Brown this afternoon. It's an excellent book about leadership, and I'll likely read it again some other year. I highly recommend this book if you're interested in developing your own sense of confidence in leadership and decision making. Brene Brown's works have always been humorous, easy to process, and filled with insight. This book was no exception. I'm thrilled that I'm on day 4 of January and my book resolution is alive.
But I'm not in a rush. Reading really is a pleasure, but only if we don't force it. Daring to Lead forced me to reflect on parts of myself that are less shiny, more vulnerable, and even kind of smelly. I love shadow work like that. I love the opportunity to grow and learn at my own pace, but it does take time to process and synthesize. I'm not in a rush to jump into the next book.... unless of course it's a graphic novel about wonder woman, cat woman, or RWBY. I have mental space for that, and I'm ready to be delighted!
What are you reading?
DAILEY LITTLE is a healing practitioner, transformational life coach, ordained Priestess, and teacher who founded Healing Heart Reiki to help others navigate life with joy. She teaches classes in healing and mindset from a magical peaceful corner of the world in Northern California. For more info see: www.SantaRosaReiki.com
PS: I don't know the woman in this picture below, but I love that it captures the energy of day dreaming and reading at the same time. So much of reading is the daydream we go on when the words inspire us into other worlds.