I would say that even more than my wonderful Artemis, books are the key to my sanity, and my happiness. I never ever get tired of being surrounded by books. In fact, it is an empty day if I do not somehow incorporate a book into it.
And it is important for me to remember this now, more than ever, because finding a place of comfort, finding a place of peace, has been a struggle recently.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been fighting to keep the feelings of freedom and bliss I experienced on my trip through South America going in my everyday life back home. I keep trying to find the magic in the world around me.
Well, goodness, this is not like trying to find the cure for cancer. It is small moments here and there, like the incredible rose I saw blooming outside the Museum the other day. The fiery sunset I watched last night.
But those moments are exactly that: moments. I have been coming home at the end of my days, endorphins pumping from my bike ride, mind whirling and spinning like a hamster in one of those wheels, and I cannot relax. I cannot calm down. I take a shower, make a nice Weight Watchers approved dinner (well, sort of – the struggle with Weight Watchers is another story altogether), and try to relax in my Living Room with a book or a movie or TV show or something. But I cannot sit still. I will start to read, and then put my book down to go take care of something in another room. I’ll start to watch the movie, and I can’t stay seated, so I get up and walk around our Living Room. I feel antsy, anxious, and wired.
And I hadn’t noticed – my fiancé did – but my wine intake has skyrocketed since I’ve been home. He noticed that I was putting away almost a bottle a night, and he finally asked me: “what’s going on? You’ve been drinking a lot of wine recently.” And me, not completely and totally oblivious but somewhat dense said, “I have, haven’t I?”
I didn’t have an answer for my fiancé that night. But his question started my gears whirring. I reflected back on the few weeks since I have been home from my trip, and I started to notice certain behaviors: the inability to sit still in the evenings. The anxious approach to certain tasks. For example, eating. When I eat, I shovel the food in… like I’m afraid someone is going to take it away from me. Not because I’m starving (although that has come into play) but because I can’t seem to relax enough to enjoy the meal. I just gotta get it in. Get it down. Get it done.
I noticed this particular behavior this past Saturday when I was eating lunch at work. I was just shoveling the food down, barely even taking time to chew! I finally slammed my fork down and pushed myself back from my desk, the question WTF?!? screaming in my head.
And I thought about the wine. All the wine. And I wondered if the reason why I’m drinking so much wine these days is to create that sense of calm I do not feel otherwise. A sense of calm I experienced to the depth of my bones on my trip, but haven’t quite managed to achieve since I’ve been home.
I came home Saturday night and had a long talk with my fiancé about it. He agreed that I have been exhibiting anxious behavior recently, noting that even when I’m trying to relax in the evenings, I look anxious. He’s noticed the inability to sit still; the inability to focus on a task in front of me, like watching a movie or reading a book. And he said, “you view relaxing as a ‘waste of time.’ The time you spend just kind of hanging out and decompressing is ‘wasted’ because you’re not doing anything. You need to re-program that. You need to accept that it is okay to spend some time everyday doing nothing, or doing something you like to do, like reading, and that taking that time for yourself is necessary.”
Talk about a first world problem – being forced to relax.
But he is right. I can either create that false sense of relaxation through wine or I can create a real sense of relaxation. How? Oh, I don’t know. I haven’t gotten that far yet.
But one thing I did notice … one thing I was reminded of yesterday … is my love for books. My feelings of contentment when I am surrounded by books. My fiancé and I attended the LA Times Festival of Books yesterday. A book-lover’s heaven right there. Books as far as the eye could see. Literally. Books spread out across multiple vendors that you could see in every direction until a “School of ….” building blocked your way. The Festival of Books was held at the University of Southern California.
We spent all day there. Wandering from vendor to vendor, screaming in excitement when we came across a tent that was offering every book in the place for $3 or $5 or $8, including lush collections of coffee table books. I personally walked away with 6 new books for my collection here (and 4 new books for my 2-year-old nephew). And I felt happy. Relaxed. Calm.
A feeling that stayed with me when we took my dad out for his birthday dinner last night. My fiancé and I ordered a bottle of wine to share, and not only did we not finish that bottle – a blasphemy – but I literally only had half of what we did drink. Normally, my fiancé has a glass, and I drink the rest. Last night, we split it pretty evenly. And left some behind.
Now, did I find the miracle cure? Yeah, right. But I am glad we have decided to turn our second bedroom in our apartment into a library. I want to get a nice lounge chair for that room, so I can sit in there with my books, my tea, and some soothing music – maybe light a candle or two – and find that relaxation and calm I so desperately crave. Find a way to re-focus. Get lost in the stories I read, the worlds the authors create. Find the magic.