I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. As a child, I think I read almost every book in my elementary school library, and I continued to read anything I could get my hands on through junior high and high school. Looking back, I’ve wondered sometimes how my parents were able to keep me supplied with books. Reading for me has always been a pleasure and yes, an escape, too. And the escape is where the problems came in for me.
In my twenties, when I took on a shit-ton of responsibility in taking care of my mother then in my thirties when I became my father’s primary caregiver, reading was how I got away from the stress of what I was doing and the pain I was going through. But I knew there were people who were making unreasonable demands on me and my time that I felt didn’t like me having a respite from what I was going through. I felt like I was being seen as lazy, or worse, like I didn’t truly care about anyone but myself when I took what little free time I had to do something I enjoyed, even if that was something as simple as reading. So, I started hiding my reading, making sure I wasn’t doing it where anyone could see me reading a book. I began to fear people talking shit to me about doing something I enjoyed because in reality, reading a book or watching a movie or listening to music, or writing, were things that kept me from running away from home screaming my head off or breaking down and crying and never stopping.
When my father was in the hospital having a stent put into an artery in his heart that was ninety-percent blocked, I remember sitting out in the hallway by myself reading a Nora Roberts book. I happen to glance up and at the end of the row of chairs I was sitting at to see a young woman like myself reading the same Nora Roberts book. We gave each other a nod then went back to our books. I’m forever grateful to Nora Roberts and all the other authors and creative people who have always been there for me. I know I will never be able to fully repay them for all they have given to me even as I try to pay it forward with my own creative work. Because most of all, I want to be there for other people like all these creative people were for me.
In the last six years, my reading has tapered off considerably at times. At first, I thought it was because of stress and fatigue, then of being hypercritical as a writer. In reality, it was because I have brought up so much shit from the past that my brain began slipping backwards. I began to think I had to deal with all that shit all the damn time and that if I didn’t someone would land on me or just be insensitive and tell me I had no right to take a respite from dealing with emotional shit-storms. Worst of all, I felt like if I talked about enjoying something or talked about anything at all someone would come at me. That hasn’t happened though I do believe it will someday. But if someone does come at me with insensitive, demanding, or cruel bullshit about me and what I do or say, I’m just going to tell them to fuck off. I will not hide nor will I be ashamed or feel guilty for finding joy and pleasure in life, even if it’s just between the pages of a book. And if someone reading this thinks I’m being unreasonable or overly sensitive or some bullshit like that, keep that to yourself because your stupid bullshit is NOT something I need to deal with.
In the last few weeks, I’ve begun to read at a pace I haven’t read at in years. And I’m taking real joy in reading again. I realize that this is a part of the healing process, something I never thought about until just recently. Even as I continue to work through my past emotional shit-storms, I’m on the road to healing. Finding joy and not feeling any sense of shame or guilt or wanting to hide my joy is a form of healing I didn’t realize I needed until now. So, to anyone reading this: savor the joy and respite you get from whatever makes you happy- books, movies, tv shows, crafts, and hobbies. Don’t hide it or feel any shame or guilt over that joy and respite. And practice telling any uptight judgmental asshole that may come at you one thing: fuck off.
Read the books.
Watch the movies and tv shows.
Listen to the music.
Enjoy your crafts and hobbies.
Find joy and respite wherever and whenever you can.
Be strong in these times of joy and respite.
And now for some bonus book recommendations:
Front Page Murder by Joyce St. Anthony (buy here – Amazon) This is a cozy mystery (a mystery without blood and gore) set in May 1942 in a small industrial town in Pennsylvania. The main character is Irene Ingram, the new editor-in chief of her family’s newspaper. She’s been given the job by father who has gone off to be a war correspondent in the Pacific theater. She’s been a writer for the newspaper since she could pick up a pencil as she says and she’s of course having to fight to be respected for her knowledge and experience. When one of her reporters is found dead, she begins to investigate the ‘hot lead’ he said he was following. The book is well-researched and very well-written and yes, there another book coming in this series soon.
Poison in Paradise by Melissa Baldwin (Buy Here – Amazon): I got this one as a freebie but I really liked it because it was very clever and unique It’s a cozy mystery set on a cruise ship docked in the Bahamas and the amateur sleuth is Lexi, a lifeguard and Guest Relations representative on the ship. When a guest is murdered onshore, Lexi starts to investigate to clear the name of her childhood friend, and new wife of the murder victim. I liked Lexi’s determination to do the right thing and follow her instincts in getting people to talk to her.
A Sip Before Dying by Gemma Halliday (Buy Here – Amazon): Yet another cozy mystery, the first in a series set in California Wine Country with amateur sleuth Emmy Oak. Emmy has come back to take over her family’s small winery that’s in financial trouble. When a guest dies at a tasting event at the winery, Emmy works to find out who did it in order to save her winery’s reputation. It’s very clever and also there are recipes at the end of the book (Emmy is also a trained chef who cooks for the events at her winery).
Grounds for Murder and Cold Brew Corpse by Tara Lush (Buy Here – Amazon) Yet another set of cozy mysteries set in the Gulf Coast of Florida starring Lana Lewis, a former investigative reporter turned coffee-shop owner. In the first book, her top barista turns up dead and Lana begins to investigate. What I really like about this series (the third book is coming out soon), is Lana is really good at investigating because of her former job and the author is a former investigative reporter so there is a real good feel of authenticity along with very creative and strong storytelling skills.
And before my cozy mystery kick, I was on a romantic suspense kick with new-to-me author Rachel Grant and two books in her Evidence series, Incriminating Evidence (one of the best romantic suspense books I’ve read in years) and her Flashpoint series, which is one rollicking intense series of books that kept me reading late at night. (Buy Here – Amazon – Rachel Grant Author Page)