Reading Roundup: November 2021 – January 2022

I noticed years ago that when people (myself definitely included) are anxious they tend to busy themselves with irrelevant activities, because these distract from and therefore reduce their actual experience of anxiety. To stay perfectly still is to feel the fear at its maximum intensity, so instead you scuttle around doing things as though you are, in some mysterious way, short of time.

John Cleese, So, Anyway…

Yet again, something I read resonated in such a visceral way that it could only have possibly been written just for me…or so I felt!

Though, perhaps this quote doesn’t just speak to me. Perhaps, just maybe, so many of us have been feeling the need to keep as busy as possible (mostly on our phones) over the past two years in order to avoid as much as we can the pervasive anxiety brought on by living through a global pandemic.

I know my own pandemic experience is not everyone’s but I have definitely realized over the last month or so of reflection that while I likely have more time now than I would have in more normal circumstances (even if I only take into account our lack of social outings), it feels like I am constantly running out of it.

Yes, I know, parenting is busy and I have heard time and again from parents that they don’t know what they did with all their time before they had kids. And they’re not wrong, I definitely feel that. But the absence of playdates, activities, dinners with friends, appointments, etc. etc. etc. should, logically, mean that even with kids to look after…we have more free time, no? So why in heaven’s name does every day fly by at the speed of light and end with me thinking I’ve accomplished nothing?

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

I agree with Mr. Cleese. I likely feel this way because I’ve spent all day focusing on largely irrelevant tasks in order to distract myself from the overwhelming anxiety of making it through this pandemic with my health, sanity and relationships still intact. No wonder my phone is never out of sight… Homescapes, after all, manages to feel productive while being nothing of the sort. I mean, I am helping Austin renovate a house after all. Who cares if my real life house is a mess??

I’m not sure if this counts as irrelevant task or not, but I have been somehow keeping up with my rather intense pace of article and blog reading (though perhaps at the expense of my ability to get through books in a timely manner…) and thus, without further ado, I will share with you all of the wonderful bits of less-than-immediately-relevant information that I have stuffed in my brain in an effort to crowd out the anxiety.

Did this method work? … I’ll get back to you on that.

Articles

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

This is Tolkien’s World, by Dominic Sandbrook

You’ve probably noticed that I tend to reference J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings fairly often on this blog, and for good reason! The Hobbit was one of the first full-length books my father ever read to me, and has since become one that I re-read on a regular basis; it is unendingly comforting to me. I’ve gone my whole life being referred to as a nerd by various people as if this is some kind of insult, but I actually wear this badge with pride. “Nerd” culture, like The Lord of the Rings, has taught me many lessons which I continue to return to in my everyday life, including, as Sandbrook so astutely observes, the importance of protecting the environment, of constantly remaining curious, and of avoiding violence at all costs. Middle Earth lives forever in my heart, and for that I am most grateful.

To put it simply, then, Tolkien matters. How many writers can you say that about, these days?

Dominic Sandbrook

‘I seek a kind person’: the Guardian ad that saved my Jewish father from the Nazis, by Julian Borger

I thought I had read up thoroughly on the horrors of the Holocaust but this aspect of it was completely new to me. I knew about the Kindertransports to try and save as many children as possible from the grips of Nazi Germany but I had no idea that some parents, in their extreme desperation, actually took out advertisements in newspapers abroad in the hopes of getting their kids out…I cannot imagine sending my daughter away from me intentionally but I realize I would likely do the same if it was a matter of life and death for her…Warning, this article brought me to tears.

For most of the descendants to whom I spoke, the ad was a poignant footnote in family history, a reminder of the delicate chain of events that made the difference between survival and obliteration.

Julian Borger

‘We need to respect the process of healing’: a GP on the overlooked art of recovery, by Gavin Francis

I read this article while slowly recovering from what could possibly be Covid (I was exposed to a positive case before my symptoms started but cannot have my albeit uninformed self-diagnosis confirmed due to the current dearth of testing in Ontario) and honestly? It could not have come at a better time. As per usual, I had high hopes for the New Year. Not for a new me, per say, but certainly for the growth (or regrowth in some cases) of certain healthier habits which could only serve to make my life better and more fulfilling. Starting the new year with an exhausting illness put a hold on these aspirations and I’ve been finding myself more and more frustrated with my lack of progress on building these habits as I lounge on the couch coughing and blowing my nose constantly. Reading this article reminded me that there is nothing wrong with focusing on my recovery for the time being, nothing at all. In fact, by giving my recovery as much of my effort and attention as possible, I am giving myself a much better chance at tackling these new habits and goals once I am feeling healthy and sound once again. So let this be your reminder, no matter what you’ve gone through in terms of your physical or mental health over the last 2 years, that in order to get better you should look at recovery not as a struggle but as an art: not without effort but only requiring grace and time to complete. Here’s to a happier and healthier 2022. And thank you to the wonderful Faye Arcand for suggesting subsequently that I gift myself a gentle January!

Just like a plant, what we need in order to grow back into wholeness is a “regime” of the right nutrients, the right environment and the right attitude – and to be left in peace.

Gavin Francis

A Kansas Bookshop’s Fight with Amazon is about More than the Price of Books, By Casey Cep

It’s no secret, to those who know me, that I have two big dreams for my future. One is to be a published writer (I don’t need to be the next JK Rowling, but a finished novel and some readers would be nice!) and the other? To open and operate my very own Indie Bookstore. Now that I’m living in a small town with a library but no bookstore (or local cafe for that matter), perhaps the latter dream might one day become a reality. I’m not sure that right now is the best time to try but that doesn’t mean my dreams have been fully put on hold. I read almost every day about the demands of running a bookstore, the business side of the operation and how to engrain a local business in the community – all in preparation for the eventual end of this pandemic and, hopefully, my leap into the unknown of running my own business. However, this dream will never become a reality if we don’t all agree to continue (or start) supporting local businesses over giant conglomerates like Amazon. Now, I’ll admit, in the depths of this pandemic I am as guilty as the next guy of ordering off Amazon instead of buying locally for a convenience and relative safety of that choice. But my family and I are slowly weaning ourselves off this habit, and are proud to be doing so. If there’s one good thing (though hopefully there will be more than one good thing) to come out of this pandemic, let’s make it be going back to supporting local livelihoods and our immediate community rather than the multinational, trillion-dollar companies that wouldn’t know what true community is if it bit them on the…you know. And you better believe this includes buying my books from indie book stores – at least until I get the courage to start my own!

I think a lot about how to make sure young, excited, diverse booksellers can make a living. I don’t think the love of books should be a way to exploit people, working for less than they’re worth.

Casey Cep

Total recall: the people who never forget, by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

I know I’m not the only one to have experienced Mom Brain. Paired with living through a global pandemic I swear I can hardly rely on my memory at all these days. The amount of lists I have crafted to try and help my memory along is obscene. But, despite people telling me that Mom Brain never really goes away, I’m hoping my memory will get at least a little better when this pandemic inevitably draws to a close…However, regardless of my little gripes with the state of my memory, I’m not sure that I would ever desire to remember every little thing that I’ve ever experienced as if it happened only yesterday. Sure, it would be wonderful to relive moments like the day I married the love of my life, or the day we met our daughter for the first time but the days my loved ones died? The day my husband and I hit a deer on the highway? The day I miscarried? Not so much. This article was particularly fascinating because not only did it detail the experience of several people who have a special condition that allows them to remember every experience of the last 50 years, but it also showed that for some this is a blessing while for others it is a curse. Joyful moments are wonderful to remember in detail, but regrets? Mistakes? I can imagine remembering those over and over would be rather… exhausting. I never knew this condition was a thing but now that I do? I’ll keep my flawed memory, thanks, Mom Brain and all.

It is, she says, like living with a split screen: on the left side is the present, on the right is a constantly rolling reel of memories, each one sparked by the appearance of present-day stimuli. With so many memories always at the ready, Price says, it can be maddening: virtually anything she sees or hears can be a potential trigger.

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

Blogs

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Ten Things a Writer Should Never Do by Faye Arcand

This was exactly what I needed to read after making the decision to take the rest of December off from publishing blog posts. That might seem weird as number 10 literally says that as a writer you should never stop writing. But, hear me out. I’m not taking the rest of the year off writing, I’m taking it off publishing. And there is a big difference. I feel like with everything going on right now, even committing to one post a week was being more about making deadlines than enjoying the actual writing. I know, I know, deadlines are important to keep one on track. Believe me, I do understand that. But writing only to meet a deadline? That’s not great. Nor is it an inspiring way to maintain one’s love of the craft. So, I decided to spend rest of 2021 committing these top ten things not to do to memory, and writing up a storm!

Writers are a unique group of people. Faced with a blank page they’re able to put down words to build a world of characters and bring them to life. This is a gift. Believe that.

Faye Arcand

One Argument for Writing Every Day by Tonya R. Moore

It’s been a bit of a slow start to my new year’s resolutions. As I previously wrote, there is a chance that my household all had Covid at the very beginning of the year and, to be honest, it took me until the end of January to once again feel 100%. If this wasn’t Covid, it was a REAL BAD cold because it was just lingering and lingering seemingly without end. However, I’m coming around to realizing that I don’t need to be feeling 100% to tackle my goals for 2022. I had a lovely chat with the brilliant Faye Arcand recently (if you haven’t checked out her blog – I highly recommend it!) where she suggested I adopt a Gentle January – meaning no stress, no undue pressure, just being kind to myself. And you know what? I think this is a wonderful idea. I mentioned that as part of trying to care for myself last month, I contemplated taking on one of my resolutions every month. I mean, I just want to create better habits, so if I create them one at a time instead of all at once, they should be that more attainable, no? OK, Erin, so what does this have to do with this blog? Well, dear reader, the first habit I chose to tackle is the least physical (but no less difficult): write every day. Why? Because I always feel better when I do. And feeling better mentally can only help me to feel better physically, right? As January was a write-off (no pun intended?) I decided to start tackling this in February…Wish me luck!

Most of us who write, write out of love, not some twisted sense of obligation. Those of us who write out of a genuine love for writing need to write. Writing is how we stay sane. Writing is how we exorcise the madness brewing within us. We need it like water.

Tonya R. Moore

Books

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While I didn’t hit my goal for books read in 2021, I didn’t do as badly as I thought I would either. And, perhaps more importantly, the books I did manage to read were for the most part very enjoyable.

Continuing from my last reading roundup post, I did eventually receive the audiobook for the 3rd book in the Artemis Fowl series and got through it in no time. After another long wait, I started the 4th and am loving it so far though it has definitely gotten darker as the series has continued. I suppose it reminds me of Harry Potter a little in that respect.

Over the past three months, I have also managed to finally finish the French Ramses book (that I had been reading for some six months) and I’ve decided subsequently to take a break on the French reading until I get my groove back. I also just finished John Cleese’s autobiography “So, Anyway…” which had me laughing out loud. Look for the review of that on the blog soon!

This year I’m hoping to read 22 books for 2022. What do you think? Doable? Even though I only managed 17 last year? We shall see!

Until next time, even if you’re fighting anxiety (I think we all are to some extent right now, you’re not alone) remember…

Life is beautiful.

xo Erin

7 thoughts on “Reading Roundup: November 2021 – January 2022

  1. Returning to books that we loved as children, that our parents read to us, is always a comforting and calming experience. Deeply emotional and meaningful even. I choose books for my 8 year old niece very carefully and often opt for those that her mom (my sister) and I read together and loved as kids. I hope your dreams come true soon. Both blog posts sound very interesting, I’ve put them on my reading list.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment! I agree, now that I have a daughter of my own I find myself so excited to share my childhood books with her (and she is thankfully just as enthusiastic). Even before having a kid, however, I loved sharing these books with my nieces and nephews. Your niece is so lucky to have such an attentive uncle. I, too, hope my dreams come true someday soon. And I hope the same for you as well! Whatever they may be.

  2. So cool to see Faye’s blog mentioned here. I enjoy visiting her blog too. And I love posts like this roundup, because it summarises things that I, too, enjoy. And we share the same reading range (I did 13 last year), and hope to do 24 this year. Here’s to reaching that goal!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the blog – I get the sense from reading yours as well that we have similar interests! Faye’s blog is definitely excellent, so glad to have found her through blogging. I believe in us! We CAN reach our goals 🙂

  3. I think 22 books for 2022 is totally doable! I missed my goal of reading last year by a few as well but there’s always another year to try. I love that quote from John Cleese. I can definitely relate to filling up my days with pointless crap in order to just feel like I’m doing something and to try and ease away the anxiety from the last few years x

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Jenny! I believe that both of us can make our reading goals – not always easy when life somehow manages to be so busy despite a pandemic… I hope both of us find some relief from our anxiety soon. I know you’ve been working hard on self-care even with the burden of everything going on globally: you set an excellent example!

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