Friday, February 4, 2011

On Sick Days

At first it felt like a novelty, giving myself permission to lie in bed all day … Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday … giving my body the chance on its own to heal, and most of all taking time to read. But while I read I also felt guilty for not writing.

My plans got waylaid. After building a head of steam, the manuscript I had begun again to complete before the end of March waits like my husband's truck, which has been in the shop for a month. Starts and stops compete with all things out of our control.

So with 2 books that had arrived the day we got home from our trip to Houston, I chose to read first Pat Conroy's My Reading Life. I read the whole book in a day. A feat. And then I took notes in my journal to summarize what helps me both as a reader and a writer.

Like mine, Pat's mother made him a reader. Although I came to reading for pleasure much later than he did, my mother surrounded me with books. Displaced me with books would be more accurate. And for that reason, I felt as if books were my rival.

And my mother used reading to punish me. More than once she made me read a book and write a report on what I had read. The one I remember, in particular, was a volume of the Time Life series on world nations, which she had purchased. She made me read France.

So I thought about that book I had read in the fourth grade when I got to visit France, twice. And the cookbook my mom gave me in high school, written only in French. She was trying to elevate me, the same way she and Peg Conroy educated and elevated themselves.

Pat Conroy writes, "Peg Conroy used reading as a text of liberation, a way out of the sourceless labyrinth that devoured poor Southern girls like herself."

Ah, yes, my mother was born in Dallas in 1931. After her mother died when she was 7-years-old, she was raised by relatives in East Texas. Poor indeed.

Thus I have come to appreciate reading as a reward. Time out for good behavior. And I do agree with Pat Conroy who goes so far as to say, "The most powerful words in English are 'tell me a story.'"

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