" 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. "
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.
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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. "
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.
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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.
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Wishing you good books, beauty, and heart's ease,
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