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My affair with books


I tend to gravitate towards books as my way of gaining insight into life as it unfolds around me. For me, reading a book is like talking to a wise friend, only you can’t steer the conversation by asking questions or dropping an information bomb here or there that demands addressing. Well, actually, you can talk back. I’ve been known to hold some pretty heated arguments with the authors of books I’m reading, but since its always a one way conversation, my mumbling is more like scratching an itch spontaneously than communicating that perhaps I’m getting a rash because the other party is irritating me so. 

 You can always see what I’m reading by glancing at my bedside table or by checking out the stack of books on the slate shelf that surrounds our tub. I read in the tub almost daily because it kills multiple birds with one stone. I am always sore from teaching dance and/or yoga and hot baths keep me functional. I always want some private time to myself, and hot baths are the one place where people usually leave me alone. And I always have a bulk of reading material I’m trying to work through, and there is not much else to distract me in a hot bath, like a phone, TV, computer, housework, etc…I suppose it is possible to set up a bathroom with access to all of the above, but I’m not the sort to go for that. I prefer an old fashion bathroom with only a candle, bath oil, and a good reading light for ambiance.   

 Today, my side table has three books on it, all of them half read.  You can tell what is going on in my life and/or mind by paying attention to what I’m reading.

 The first is “The Inner Peace of Tao”. It’s a classic about spiritual connectedness and simplicity in the Chinese tradition of the I-ching. Sort of a down to earth explanation of an ancient philosophy that is at the root of eastern thought. I became interested when I started thinking about adding Tai Chi to the studio classes and decided to learn more about that art form. That interest lead to a couple of Tai Chi books, which lead to wondering about the energy pathways, which lead to this book.  It’s interesting if not a bit dry. 

What is even more interesting to me is that I am 50 years old and only now reading this, because in my early 20’s when I lived in New York, I dated a very handsome actor and, as things heated up between us, he gave me a copy of the I-ching explaining I had to read it to understand how he viewed the world. He was very adamant that the book would rock my world, and he believed once we were on the same mental page, we would be in love forever. I labored through that book barely understanding what it was all about, and frankly, I thought the guy a bit of a kook and we broke up soon afterwards. But I still have that book on my shelf, and every time I clean out old books I run across it and I remember that guy and something tells me to keep the book. And now, some 30 years later, I’m learning what he was trying to share with me way back when. Why now, why me??? Humm …….. perhaps it’s just time.

 Funny, for all I know, that actor has long since passed through his I-ching phase and might be some white-collar crime boss living life with a very different, harsh attitude now. And here I am, embracing the lessons in his book with deep appreciation. Life is like that – it leaves an impact on us that creates paradoxical change, for better or worse. But what’s most interesting to me is that we all seem to be lead to what we need when we need it to provoke growth or change. Anyway, I’m thinking it is time to read that darn book again  – and I mean to read it the way a book is supposed to be read – with an open mind. But it will have to wait its turn and the line ahead is rather long right now, so it may just sit for another 35 years on my shelves. Thank goodness books don’t have an expiration date!

 The second book is the “History of the Snowman.” This is a thematic book, of course, and chosen just because when I saw it on the shelf at Barnes N Nobel I couldn’t resist. I love history, love eclectic, interesting facts about the world, and love snow. My son was snowman crazed for years and has a collection of some 300 stuffed snowmen (which now, at 18, he didn’t even bother to bring out of the attic for once) so I thought this book would give me some fun dinner conversation starters if nothing else. The concept was cool (no pun intended) for a holiday book and the author has a great sense of humor and has collected some pretty fun facts about how the snowman came into existence. Anyway, this kind of book is good for putting me in a positive holiday mood, so this season, it’s an important read.

 The third book is called “Women Who Love Sex.” Don’t snicker or raise your eyebrows. It’s an academic book . . . well, sort of.  The author, a famous sex therapist, interviewed hundreds of women to compile stories about women’s sexuality to theorize how normal it is for a woman to love sex. It is sort of a validation book for woman with a romantic or lusty nature, and it puts into perspective how society (and some individuals) contrives to make females feel badly about their inherent natures. The book explores how it’s OK for men to have a lusty nature – or not – , but when women do- or don’t- they are considered (insert insulting name of your choice for a woman who likes sex here . . . and there are so many, the author points out, from slut-puppy to frigid chick.) Anyway, I was lead to this book by way of other books as well. I started teaching journaling classes at FLEX, which lead me to reading Anais Nin’s famous journals (since she is considered the world’s most prominent journal writer). She is also famed as one of the worlds leading erotic writers, which I find fascinating considering she lived in the 1930’s when “good girls simply didn’t”.  But she sure did. I was so impressed with Anais Nin and her wild, bold lifestyle in face of the social stigma that was detrimental to her writing career (until much later) that the next thing you know I was thinking a lot about how (or if) the world has changed, and that made me think about my years involved in Romance writing groups and my own mixed feelings about writing stories centered on human sexuality – so much so that I went and got an fancy literary MFA all the while hiding my interest in romance writing with shame . . . and I put aside all my interests in writing anything based on relationships or physical love. But reading quality work by Anais Nin made me think that I was a fool to put my instincts aside or to assume that romance writing was “selling out”, and next thing you know I was wondering if I wasn’t more an Anais Nin type than I felt comfortable embracing (as a writer, not as a person) and I started wondering WHY I was uncomfortable with that side of myself as an artist and well . . .that meant mental conflict and that ALWAYS means it’s time for Ginny to reach for a book. It’s not like I have a person I can discuss these touchy philosophies and curiosities with. So, as has become my way, I am having my silent conversations with a book – and this week it happens to be called, Women Who Love Sex.” 

Needless to say, I keep this book under the ot
her two, not because I’m ashamed to read it (or anything) but because I don’t want to have to explain it to family members who might jump to conclusions about what my having a book by that title means. It’s funny. People passing judgment on a woman’s sexuality is what this book is all about, so my feeling compelled to keep the book out of sight speaks volumes about the book’s inherent truths.

 Moving on . . . Near my bath is a novel called, “The Girl in the Dragon Tattoo.” I’m one chapter in, but can’t seem to get into the story.I’m plugging away however, because it was given to me by a yoga student and former book club friend and I so appreciate her passing it on that I’mdetermined to stick it out and read the darn thing so we can talk about it.  On my computer table is “Writing begins with the Breath”, and “The New Diary”, two books I just finished, but don’t feel ready to slip back into the shelves yet. I want to take some notes for future writing classes.  They were very wonderful books. 

I also have a book half read called “When Things Fall Apart, Heat Advice for Difficult Times.” Don’t ask.

 I also have about 4 books on their way to me from Amazon, thanks to a recent sleepless night. I’m guilty of cruising the Internet book place when restless. The books to come are all work related in a round about way. One or two is on massage, another on couples yoga (I’m hoping to create a special Valentines Day yoga class for couples). Another book is on yin yoga, and a poetic book with readings I wanted for yoga class called “An Offering of Leaves”. I already bought myself this book but Denver stole it the day it arrived and she announced she would never give it back because she likes it so much, so I figured it must be good. I might as well buy myself another copy.  

 Meanwhile I still have books stacked up in my “When I get the time I have to read” pile, and I’m happy to report very few of them are work related. I have novels, special interest books, history, and even some philosophy books that wait patiently for me, but who knows when or if I will ever give them the attention they deserve, considering I keep finding more to read.  Ah well . . . so many books, so little time….

 I thought when I retired from my dance business I’d spend a year straight reading and I’d probably get caught up. But that didn’t happen. I enrolled in an MFA and had more assigned reading than a person could manage and ended up falling even further behind on my wish reading list. And now, I’m working again – too busy to read as much as I want. But perhaps always having something in your must read pile is a way to keep you going, one more reason to wake up everyday and function, so I should be glad. The day I wake up and realize there is nothing I want to read or think about is the day I’ll worry. Nothing more dangerous than apathy.

 So, today I will go about my busy chores of cooking, feeding animals, and putting up our Christmas tree (late!) and whatnot, and every time I pass my nightstand I will sigh and wonder if perhaps later I might squeeze in some time to read . . . and I’ll wonder which book I’ll reach for, because that is always determined by my mood in the moment. I’ll walk on the treadmill and perhaps do a bit of yoga and use that as an excuse to take a bath. Then, I’ll sink back in the warm water with one of my smart paper friends to have one of those silent conversations that make life feel like a marketplace of information and theoretical arguments –  nothing as fun as good people gathering to exchange ideas and boldly lay their life insights on the table for you to pick over. I rather do it in person, of course, but when that is not possible, I’ll settle for a paper relationship.    

About Ginny East Shaddock

Director of Heartwood Retreat Center, Ginny is also a writer. This is her personal blog with essay form writing about life and reflection. My entries are often lengthy and random, because I'm not here to promote or sell anything. I'm not expecting followers - just find this format a good place to think with the pen.

3 responses »

  1. Good picture! You take better pictures of yourself than I. “Why me and why now” sounded familiar…

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  2. Thanks for reading my book! 🙂 I’m glad you found it helpful! There’s a follow up, The Writing Warrior, which will be out in August of 2010, along w/a novel, Ghost Swamp Blues. I wish you a happy holiday/solstice time. Happy writing! Best, Laraine

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