Tag Archives: mood

My Guilt Trips over Books

The guilt… oh, the overwhelming guilt I feel when I place a book on the back burner and don’t get back to it for weeks or months at a time. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel awful.

I think it would be safe to say that I have always been an avid reader. In high school, when a novel was assigned to us for a book report, a presentation or a test, I would usually devour the book cover to cover on the Sunday, to ensure the information remained closely in my subconscious for the coming week.

It wasn’t that I was procrastinating, but with my brain processing so much new material from all of my classes, it was the most efficient way for me to ensure I was prepared to answer questions about the story.

The pace at which I learned to read (and to retain) became a wonderful life skill not only for my personal reading pleasure but also for my career, where I often needed to process great amounts of information to generate reports, recommendations, solutions or combinations of all three.

If I had to express a preference, I like to read at a more casual, relaxed pace, where I can truly savour every word, especially when the author’s masterpiece is a tour-de-force in brilliant writing. Savouring a book on a rainy or snowy Sunday, in my favourite chair, sipping a wonderful cup of tea, with the cat snoring next to me is paradise on earth. Still, there are times when regardless of how quickly or how slowly I may start a book, the words just don’t seem to sink in. Why is that?

Over the years, I became aware of the difference between a “light read” and a “heavy read” and how that affects the appropriate timing for introducing a book in one’s life.

During stressful times at work, heavy reads just would not sink in. In most cases, a light read was all that my brain could handle. Still, there were some abundantly stressful times when light reads were a challenge too, as you could likely see glimmers of “no vacancy” signs in my eyes.

When my headspace was heavily cluttered for one reason or another, a story with too many characters or too many intricate details would lose me easily.
A story that seemed to escape editorial quality control might have also thrown me off.

I recall a book that spent so much time setting up the story that I found myself distracted, constantly wondering to myself if this story was ever going to get going. I had to put it on the back burner with the goal of returning to it when time and patience were in generous supply.

When I put a book aside, I actually feel worse when I pick up a different book and am able to read it cover to cover over a weekend. I hope that there is no jealousy among books.

To this point, I have never parted with a book that I put on hold. I just park them with a strong resolve to return to them when the timing is better.

In those moments, I feel awful. But is my guilt justified?

I realize the effort, the blood, sweat, sometimes tears, and the piece of oneself that an artist instills in every work of art. Out of respect for the authors, I truly wish that I could devour every book in a couple of days. That is likely why my empathy runs as deeply as it does if, for whatever reason, a book just doesn’t click with me right away.

I try to reason with myself that personally, as an artist, I realize that not every piece I write is a home run for everyone, and I am OK with that.

I also accept that readers sometimes need to be in a certain frame of mind to welcome a story into their world. I see it in myself that when I am highly curious and tuned in, no amount of distraction can keep me from a book. But that curiosity has its own ebb and flow, and that is the way life goes.

In recognizing these factors and circumstances, I try not to let the respect and admiration I feel for an artist bubble over into a painful, self-inflicted guilt trip.

I hope that other artists see things the same way and won’t begrudge me if I have to step away from their work of art until the ideal mindset comes along, to truly savour every word and to love the experience along the way. To me, that is the best time to be consuming art and to be left with a wonderfully positive and lasting impression.

The beauty is that in retirement, not only have I been able to enjoy more time for reading, but I have been going back to some of the books that I paused along the way and have been reading them with great enthusiasm. The best part is that I finished them, and some of them, surprisingly quickly.

I think it would be fair to say that as readers, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves if a book won’t sink in when our lives are at the height of challenge or adversity. To me, it now seems perfectly natural to put it aside until the brain has the capacity to easily absorb a story and to appreciate it at its fullest value.

Isn’t that the point of a good book?

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under 50+, books

How Music Can Change One’s Mood in a Split Second

This past week, as I was out for the once-per-week, masked, sanitized, and respectfully socially-distanced grocery store run, I had one of those moments that have become all too familiar.

As I turned my king-sized grocery cart around a corner, I was disappointed to see someone going in the wrong direction, completely contrary to the arrows on the ground. I asked myself, after 13 months of Covid-19, have we not gotten the choreography down yet?

But before the cranky old man within me had a chance to fully surface and irritate me for the rest of the grocery run, the grocery store’s speaker system launched into the first notes of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun”.

As I started humming along (hey, if there’s only 25 people allowed in the store at one time, I can softly hum with a smile under my mask) my mood instantly changed and the non-compliant grocery shopper was already deleted from my consciousness.

When you review the lyrics, it’s not like “Soak Up the Sun” is one of the cheeriest songs ever written, but the chorus, the music and its associated music video convey to me a certain lightness and free-spiritedness that have often helped me let go of some of the little irritants in life.

Have you ever noticed how songs seem to have that power over us, to – please forgive the cliché – turn a frown upside down? And have you ever been in a situation where you are driving around, enjoying a string of one good song after another, and actually hoping for red lights to slow down your commute to enjoy the tunes?

Much like with “Soak Up the Sun”, it doesn’t always have to be about uplifting lyrics, sometimes it can be all about the music itself and a skillful arrangement that just strikes the right notes to raise ones spirits or even better, to energize. Continue reading

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