The words swirl about on the page, drifting to the left and to the right. The pages — along with my will — demand that the words remain fixed in place, but they rebel against order, meandering about even as I attempt to discern their meaning. Their chaos reflects that within me, a distracted fever-pitch that won’t allow me to focus, won’t allow me to read.
This past year has been one marked by very little reading and very little quiet. This has been a year focused upon my new job. That job is a great blessing, and I enjoy my work; but the stress and long hours have had consequences that have affected the rest of my life. I am thankful that my marriage hasn’t been harmed by it, and I continue to make my wife a top priority. But my time spent reading has dramatically decreased.
My mornings are spent sleeping, catching up on email, or working on another website a friend and I started. For nearly six months I haven’t woken up planning to read quietly. I haven’t woken up planning to pray, so it hasn’t happened.
My evenings are now spent trying to unwind, trying to forget what I have seen at work. I watch TV, I play video games, and I generally do anything other than read. Those nights when I try to read, I find my mind wandering back to work.
So this weekend I found myself contemplating how to change a habit. When you recognize that your life is changing, without an intentional choice on your own part, how do you recover what you have lost?
For my own sake, I began this morning with a short time of reading. I opened the Bible — a great first step — and read the beginning of John. I reminded myself what is most important. I should say Who is most important. Then I opened a book. I read a full chapter. Despite its mere fifteen pages, that felt like an accomplishment. I’ve had this book since August, and I promised I would get it reviewed.
So it’s a start. We make the biggest changes only by making a start.
And in the future, I’ll be evaluating everything. I’ll be keeping good habits and leaving behind the bad. So in the coming year, I’m unlikely to accept books to review. Unless the book is particularly intriguing or directly in a category I want to read, I’ll be saying now. I want to have more control over what I am reading. I want to pick the genres and titles for myself.
In 2013 I have been too controlled by review requests. I am deeply grateful each time an author or publicist sends me a request, and I’ve said yes to nearly everyone. While I am thankful for the gesture, and while I am thankful for free books, it has meant that almost all my reading is chosen by others.
In 2014, I want to control my own reading. I want to pick books I enjoy and pick non-fiction books I actually care about. I want to pick theological books that speak to issues I need to address, or topics I want to study.
This post is written for myself. It is a road marker along the path of my life. It indicates where I have been this past year and where I hope to go. It has been quite some time since I wrote for myself, focusing instead on book reviews and letters to others. This one was for me.