Who has time to read?
By Shannon Grant
What else is there to do during a pandemic, besides read?
The question reminds me of the person I was when I was younger. I used to romanticize reading books the way any heroine inside of a young adult novel would, pouring myself into that identity and wanting to be a writer when I grew up. I was a voracious reader when I was twelve, spending time in my bedroom with a stack of library books, reading one by one in the span of a week. I often long for the days when I had enough time and stamina to do that.
I have a problem with pressuring myself to take advantage of every ounce of time. As an adult, I know I have to give myself permission to rest and get away from that attitude where I constantly have to be productive. A couple of years ago, I finally learned how to give myself a break.
Then quarantine happened, and I had no choice BUT to take a break. I started thinking about my younger self and pondering the question of whether I would be able to get back to reading stacks of books the way I used to with the sudden gift of free time.
On the first day of quarantine, I stared at my bookcase, thinking how I’m the kind of reader who buys more books than she can ingest. As the bookshelves filled up, I waited for the day a technique for absorbing books through osmosis can be invented.
The first part is hard: what do I read? That’s always been an issue of mine when faced with a whole bunch of hardcovers and paperbacks. Picking a book has always been a crapshoot. What if I start reading it and it’s not worth my time? I bought the book out of curiosity, what if it turns out to be a slog of a read? Though I try to reconcile that thought by reminding myself once read I won’t want to keep it and therefore it shall be given away to make room for another book.
I try to start by picking a shelf and starting with the first book on the left, but there are too many shelves to choose from. And I don’t
always know what I’m in the mood for.
Since the choice is a crapshoot, I decide to let fate do the dirty work. I close my eyes, reach out my hand, and poke one book with one extended finger. I SHALL make it my mission to read that book.
I have the book now, and usually I have to search for free time to read. During pandemic, that should be easy, right?
First of all, I have to make time for my usual work day. After work comes exercise in the form of a YouTube workout video. That must NOT be skipped. I miss my gym enough already and I need to get moving after sitting in an uncomfortable chair all day for work. Then there’s the usual household chores, the catching up with stuff, the innovative ways to get socialization in. After all of this, I should have time for reading.
That is IF I’m still awake, because quarantine has this weird habit of zapping my energy. Quarantine fatigue is a very real thing I’ve had to contend with during this time. I often find my energy through interacting with other people and gym time, and without those, there’s something missing from my health schedule.
I fill up my car’s gas tank about once a month now. If only I could fill my own human gas tank with some kind of magic gasoline in the same way and truly take advantage of the extra time I have. The body has to be taken care of as well as the mind, and if fatigue is what I’m feeling, I have to accept it.
To answer the question, there’s too much to do within a pandemic that cuts into my reading time. My goal of going back to being the voracious reader I was might not be achieved due to being an adult with responsibilities.
And to think, I was pondering the idea of reading War and Peace during this time.
Shannon Grant is a University at Albany graduate from the class of 2002. She is a local author whose work can be found in the anthology Exploits in the Adirondacks released by Pub518. Her latest work can be found in the Scary Snippets series released by Nocturnal Sirens Publishing.