The Emotion of Books

I love books. When I was growing up my mom made a living as a hairstylist, doing hair from a salon that was attached to our home. She worked most of the day most days of the week, just far enough away for me and my sister to get away with a lot but close enough to come running when necessary.   

A handful of her regular clients were women we referred to as “the old ladies”. I shudder to notice that these women are now only in their mid 70s, making them roughly 50ish when we called them old ladies. But that’s besides the point…

These women came in weekly and I loved them. They were grandmothers to me. One of them was my grandmother—Grandma Betty came in along with Benny, Shirley, and Stella. I knew exactly when each lady was due to show up and I waited at the door of the salon with a stack of books taller than I was. After my mom washed the old lady’s hair and set it in curlers, she’d sit under the dryer and I would crawl onto her lap and be read to. Being read to by the old ladies felt like Love and Safety.

As a small child, books were an escape. It felt safe to escape into the lives of kids in intact, peaceful families or find solace in the fictional kid who had it worse than me.

As I got older, books became my way of honoring myself and Becoming More of Who I Was, although I didn’t think of it that way at the time. My passion for reading and school made me unique and different from the rest of my family.

Although being different would be a source of insecurity for a long time, at a young age something inside of me told me it was okay—even good—to love what I loved even when people around me didn’t get it.

I often got into trouble in school for hiding books on my lap and reading during the boring classes. I had a strong knowing that trying to memorize facts that didn’t interest me would not serve me. I would encourage that young girl to do the exact same thing today. Reading the Judy Blume book for the 15th time was infinitely “better” for me than forcing myself to learn geometry or history. Judy Blume books felt like Belonging.

For most of my adult life, I’ve averaged 2-3 books a week. I don’t buy new books. I go to the public library on a regular basis. Since I had my daughter 8 months ago, I’ve read one book. This, after 2-3 books a week for years. Not to be overly dramatic, but it feels kind of like someone has borrowed one of my limbs for the past 8 months. It’s a pretty major disconnect that I’m working on reversing.

Each book has a specific energy. I’ve heard many people talk about how just carrying a book with them, not even opening it, has led to major changes in their lives.  If you hold various books and do muscle testing, you’ll find that your body is physically stronger holding some books than others. (The same is true of other objects, by the way).

I can associate a book with every major event in my life. A good friend recently asked me for a book recommendation. She’s going through some big external changes and internal shifts and she implicitly knew that the right book would help her through it.

I recommended A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson. That’s the book that got me out of bed after two straight weeks, when I was depressed over a break-up. That was 15 years ago and I still remember the exact passages that Woke Me Up. I remember the exact page I dog-eared to finally set the book down, get out of bed, and go down to the dormitory cafeteria for the first time in weeks. Until then, my roommates had been smuggling bagels and yogurt from the cafeteria to my top bunk.

A Return to Love felt like Waking Up.

I’m reading a book now. Rather than starting it and finishing it this week, I’m doing it page by page when I’m lucky; more often paragraph by paragraph while Willow chews contently on her own puffy picture books.

It’s The Architecture of All Abundance by Lenedra Carroll. This book feels like a Hug.

What are you reading? More important, what does it feel like?

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