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Learning To Read

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I grew up in a family of readers.  My Grandmother and Mom were voracious readers.  Some sisters too.  Even my highly devout Baptist Gram would leave the local used bookstore with armfuls of racy romance novels. 

There Was Struggling

Reading was not easy for me.  On those standardized tests we took as kids where you read a paragraph then answered the questions, I struggled to retain the reading part and spent way too long trying to answer the questions by going back into the paragraph for the answers.  It’s exhausting even typing that.  My brain just wasn’t up to it quite yet. But at the time it felt like failure.  And looking around, everyone else seemed to be working it out just fine.

Then there was all the boring reading homework in high school.  There was heaps of nightly reading in my one year of college.  Between my sadistic need for only A’s and my struggle to keep up with all the reading, I was a real wreck.  Everyone else seemed to be handling it fine. What was wrong with me?  My self-defeating takeaway from this was that I was a bad reader, due to some essential failure on my part.

Taking A Chance

Before my babies were born, I lived in a smallish town in Minnesota.  The first Starbucks was coming inside a brand new Barnes & Noble, and my best friend at the time was hired to manage the Starbucks.  Of course I worked there!  Though I loved making and selling coffee, I also loved being surrounded by books.  They smelled so good and new and felt satisfying in my hands.  There was beauty in the sea of neatly organized bookshelves I looked out over from my perch at the café.  At that time, they even let employees “check out” books to read as long as we could bring them back in good working condition.  I saw my chance and I took it.

I had always wanted to tuck in with a big fat book and get lost in hours of story.  I wanted to read the classics, great literature, the Russians.  But I had myself convinced I wasn’t a reader.  I was afraid to pick up a book, start reading, and not understand it.  I was afraid to fail.


And then the revelation hit me:  No one needed to know if I started a book, couldn’t get through it, and had to put it down.  That wasn’t failing.  At least I could try.  So instead of borrowing a book, to stay anonymous, I flat out bought “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  (Go big or go home, right?)  I loved it.  I devoured it.  And then Anna Karenina and on to Tolstoy, and Chekov.  I circled around to Dickens, Kipling, Steinbeck, Hemingway.  Mark Helprin.  Ann Patchett, Isabel Allende, Anita Diamant.  It was a big step in usurping my fear of failure. Plus I discovered I could actually read and enjoy it after all! 

Now, reading is something that defines me.  I tuck into all kinds of stories and adventures that teach, delight and expand me.  I love to hear what other people are reading and how they feel about it.  I love the little journey of reading the same book as someone else and getting to connect and talk about it.

Curiosity and Discovery

I love it that a sneaky baby step of courage delivered me into a space that not only nourishes my soul, but connects me to others and myself.  A wide-open space of curiosity and discovery, where there is very little need for fears and failures and a limitless expanse of joy and freedom. A space where I finally get to tuck in with a glad and relaxed sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

If you have looked around and felt like everyone was fine except for you, or if you have been brave or had fears and failures, or even if you’ve had revelation or read something beautiful, let’s be friends~

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