Friday, February 11, 2022

Books, Reading, and Turning 65 — Part 1



" I've always thought that a good book should be either
the entry point inward, to learn about yourself, or
a door outward, to open you up to new worlds. "
TAYLOR JENKINS REID


In a few weeks, I'll be celebrating my 65th birthday, the start of life's season the world calls 'being a senior'. My mind boggles to think I've arrived at this stage. I ponder my mortality, not in a morbid way, and recognize the value of putting one's house in order, as the saying goes. It's time once again to sort my worldly goods—releasing what no longer meets my needs and deciding what will accompany me into the future.

Which brings me to books, specifically my books, and the reason for this post. I've been thinking about what role reading will take in this older phase I'm entering. It’s not a question of whether I will continue to read or not. Oh no, books will always be my treasured companions. But I ask myself—are there shifts in my reading patterns? do I still read for the same reasons? what do I want from my books now?

As I worked on this post, seven thoughts emerged about my 'why' of reading at this stage of life. What was meant to be a simple post suddenly grew too long. So, it's now divided into two posts—this is the first, the second will go up tomorrow. If the topic interests you, pull up a chair and fill your favourite mug. I hope you enjoy!

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One. I read for pleasure


" Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in
the world a door opens to allow in more light. "
VERA NAZARIAN

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t love books. As a child, I used to sit captivated on my mother’s lap as she read tales from the Little Golden series or the toddler version of Bible stories, my favourite one being, so I'm told, of the little lad who gave Jesus his five fish and two loaves. In my heart, I'm still that girl who loved reading about flying carpets, far away places, and fairy tale endings. A good mystery never fails to thrill, and I love a novel that makes my imagination and senses zing! in the beautiful unveiling of a great story.

Books are my purest joy and probably the most treasured of all my worldly goods. They have been my window to the world and a mirror to my soul. As I entered the various stages of my life—when I left childhood and became an adult, when I got married at 41, when I went through the change of life, and now as I enter my senior years—sorting through my books has been an integral part of moving forward. At each phase, I found books on my shelf I felt ready to part with, grateful for their presence when I needed them. Always holding onto the volumes that still give pleasure and continue to inspire me to live with beauty and grace.

* * *


Two. I no longer read to find the secrets of life


" Books taught me things—how
to be a decent person—things
I'm still leaning on to this day. "
ANN PATCHETT

There came a day as I neared my 60s when I realized I no longer needed to seek out the secrets to a happy, productive life. It’s not that I stopped paying attention to sage advice—that would be unwise—but I realized I didn't grasp at them like lifelines as I once did. You'll recognize the old joke when I say, 'I was born in the night, but it wasn't last night'. Yes, by now, I've been around the block a few times; I'm a lot older and I hope a lot wiser.

At this stage, there is delight in reading books in which authors discuss their own life's journeys. I smile when I recognize myself in their shared insights and observations. There's that 'me too' connection. And I love when they get hold of something, perfectly saying what I could never quite articulate. There comes a sense of satisfaction, not with smugness, but a joyfulness in realizing, at this stage, I am a mature woman, schooled in life's ways. I now feel able to pass along some of this hard-earned 'elder' advice.

I didn't realize until not that long ago, no matter what kinds of books I read through the years, there was a part of me—a silent observer—that was ever on the lookout for the secrets, hints and wise counsel that could help me navigate my own life. Even though I’d ofttimes race through exciting novels to find out how it all turned out, invariably I’d find lines and passages that stopped me in my tracks. Whether the characters spoke, or the narrators made astute observations, I’d know in my heart those words needed to be carefully tucked away… I might need them one day. I have leaned on this wisdom left behind by these fellow life travelers... and I continue to lean on it to this day.

* * *


Three. I read to know I'm not alone


" We read to
know we're not alone. "
WILLIAM NICHOLSON, from Shadowlands film

It’s a line made famous by writers through the decades, and as familiar as it feels, it’s still true. It really is consoling to know my own experiences are part of the wider picture of what’s termed 'the common human experience'. If I'm going through it, someone out there is also going through it. How encouraging then to pick up a book and find the author describing my own concerns. When there is no one to share it with, or it's too private to talk about, books become my companion, my counsellor, my friend. Suddenly I'm not alone.

I am so grateful for the books that came into my life at the right time. Looking back, I still remember the first time when I had the thought to ask God to bring me to the right books when I needed them. It was in a bookstore, staring at all the books, and wondering what to choose. I wanted something that would speak to the moment. It became a whispered prayer of my heart as I scanned bookstores and library shelves wondering what to reading next. How often I’d bring home my new book, open it, and read exactly what I needed at that juncture. My heart would be so happy. Reading someone else’s story might not change anything about my own present situation but it truly helps to know someone else has been there and has taken the time to write about it. So I didn't have to feel alone. (That's really why I write, to pay it forward, because I owe so much to books and their authors who have made me feel like I belong.) 

In these days of global turmoil and unrest, it really is a blessing to know we aren’t alone.



TO BE CONTINUED. . . 
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow morning.


* * *


Wishing you good books, beauty, and heart's ease,
Brenda

1. Top photo by Kim van Vuuren from Pexels
2. Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
3. Photo by Ylanite Koppens from Pexels
4. Photo by Sabine van Erp from Pixabay






22 comments:

  1. I believe our best "superpower" is being able to read, at any and every age. I feel about books the way Claude Monet felt about flowers--I must have books(flowers), always, and always. We look forward to Part II of your 'reasons to read' list:)

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    1. Oh, I love you using the Monet quote about loving flowers. It fits perfectly about books in our lives, that's for sure! Thanks! xo

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  2. Hi Brenda,
    Thanks for this lovely introduction to turning 65! I relate to your statement, "It's time once again to sort my worldly goods—releasing what no longer meets my needs and deciding what will accompany me into the future." I'm in the process of doing that, as one of these years I'll need to let go of my house and move into a condo.

    And books? I'm finding it hard to think of parting with most. They're like trusted and true friends--they've been there for me over the years, and I keep going back to them for wisdom and/or enjoyment.

    God bless you in your new season!! It is a wonderful time of life.

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    1. Thank you, Sandi! Lovely to hear from you. It's a funny thing about our lives - in the first few decades we spend time and money collecting possessions. And then comes the time when we start releasing them again. For me, books really are the hard thing to let go. But it must come to us all. The cycles of life.

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  3. I turned 65 three years ago. I love to read and like you over the years my choice of reading materials have changed. I am looking forward to your next post.

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  4. Brenda , what a thought provoking post. I am long past your age milestone but the love of reading has never changed for me. Like you ,I perhaps read different types of books now. And Claude Monet was right...always and always, whether it is flowers or books.

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    1. I agree with you and Claude Monet...always and always when it comes to flowers and books.

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  5. A happy birthday to you, Brenda! My husband just turned 65 2 weeks ago (we both had covid, so we didn't celebrate until this past Sunday.) My reading habits have changed in recent years as well. I now give myself permission to put aside books that don't grab me within the first 50 pages. And I am revisiting "children's" books I have always loved---The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, Heidi.

    Blessings,
    Patti

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    1. Thank you, Patti, for the good wishes. I hope you are both fully recovered and back to your good health.

      I am with you about setting aside books that I don't connect with in the first 50 or so pages. I was so pleased one day to read a well-known author, name escapes me for the moment, make a comment on a reader's negative review of her book. She told the reader, for heaven's sake, don't be reading something you don't like. There are too many books out there to waste time on something you don't like. // I found that so appealing. So professional. If I remember the author, I'll leave a note here. (Jeepers, my brain must be on holiday this morning.)

      Like you, I have enjoyed recent revisits of books I loved as a girl - the three you mention were favourites.

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  6. oh my! I can't wait for tomorrow morning! although I am 9 years your junior so many of your thoughts resonated with me! you have made me brave enough to try and cull my bookshelves of the books that once thrilled me in seasons somewhat long spent and I should pass them along to let their thrill continue<3 Beautiful quotes and beautiful wisdom you share! Isn't it so encouraging to get those affirmations that God hears our whisper-prayers and surprises us with his loving care, even or esp. in books! I plan to visit a local thrift store this afternoon to book-treasure hunt for a little while I wait to pick up my daughter from the dentist:)

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    1. Oh thank you, Janet! I loved when you said, "...I should pass them along to let their thrill continue." Oh yes, to let their thrill continue. That is a lovely way to see passing along our treasures.

      And yes, I am so encouraged when I get those little divine moments of affirmation and encouragement. I hope you found some good books from your recent visit to the local thrift store.

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  7. It's good to reassess why we do what we do and that goes for the books we read and those we keep. I'm 'older' and I treasure collecting vintage books. I still go to Etsy and search through old childrens books and add to my collection. I didn't have books in my home when I was growing up but I went to the library frequently. And I love all kinds of books...but if they don't satisfy me, I stop reading them and go to another book. Love your writing! You always inspire me!

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    1. Diane, you must have some lovely vintage books in your collection. What a treasure to one day pass along to the next generation. Thank you so much for your kind, kind comments. xo

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  8. love your comments books an enriching experience

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  9. You, dear soon-to-be senior, are a deep thinker. A bit too deep for my current circumstances; nevertheless, I have enjoyed reading both part one and two. I see that a lot of thought went into these essays and I appreciate that. Whether I completely comprehend it all remains in question.

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    1. Vee, I'm always glad for your visits and so enjoy receiving your comments and feedback. I never think of myself as a deep thinker, although I did give these posts a lot of thought. Sometimes I don't know what I want to say until I say it. And then it's trying to find a way to say it so it makes sense to someone else. There's the rub. :)

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  10. I turned 65 a few years ago and it is a good opportunity to evaluate things, our life, possessions we can give away, etc. And really every year of being a senior is a good year to evaluate those same things. I find that reading the Bible each day I learn more and more deep things.

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    1. Terra, I like your idea of evaluating our life, possessions, etc every year at this stage. It makes good sense. Oh yes, and reading the Bible for wisdom is always a good idea. So much to learn and then be reminded of when we forget. :)

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To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xox

PS. I do not always comment here, but I do look forward to coming and visiting you....