My New “Guilty Pleasure” Special Interest

It’s been a busy few days. Monday was my birthday, an uncharacteristically cold and rainy July day. Almost every birthday in my memory has fallen on an especially hot and muggy heat wave day, but this year, I even wore a flannel-lined rain jacket! Coupled with the poor weather was the fact that I was still recovering from food poisoning, returning home from Las Vegas, and was feeling uncomfortable and weak. We made the best of it, but will fully “celebrate” this Saturday. Work had been busy the past few days as well, as I’ve been catching up on tasks for both jobs and trying to balance everything to the best of my unbalanced ability.

I’ve also fully entered into a new “special interest” (autism obsession): reading every and all of a certain type of contemporary fiction work from the United Kingdom. While I’m still reading “quality” books every few days (currently Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club), I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that what began as an effort to combat nighttime PTSD and insomnia with light “chick lit beach reads” has become a full-fledged I-can-hardly-think-of-anything-else obsession. These books are essentially Hallmark movies: a romantic comedy about a struggling woman who comes to find herself and love in unusual places, often rediscovering the importance of family, a slower life, baking (my favorite), and that she is worth more than she thought she was. I don’t read these books with the intention of learning anything or because the writing is necessarily anything to aspire to but the simple plots and light-hearted topics and feel-good endings, in their diametrically-opposed nature to my violent and traumatic memories, seem to bring me much comfort and distraction. I’ve noted a significant decrease in nighttime crying and panic attacks. I simply turn to the warm characters and get lost in their carefree debacles (e.g., should I give up my big city job to open a little bake shop since that’s all I’ve ever wanted!?).

The trouble is that with most true “special interests,” it’s nearly impossible to turn off the interest when the activity isn’t occurring (in this case, when I’m not reading). On the contrary, I find that all day I’m drawn to clock out of work and browse ways to get my hands on more of these books. Given that they are written “across the pond”, and fairly niche, it’s not that easy to get my hands on them. Adding to this, I’m plowing through at least one per day, so that’s a lot of books! I’ve generated a detailed spreadsheet called “Books I want to Read” that catalogs just these types of fluff reading (separate from my substantive book list), detailing the author, title, link where I could potentially access a copy, and any salient notes. I am drawn to research similar authors, connect with them on social media, read reviews and synopses of their works, and amass more titles. Cultivating the list is nearly as exciting as actually reading the books. (It should be noted that this type of database formation is also a special interest and I use a similar technique to navigate all obsessions as they come.) The books get ranked and resorted in order of “I need it now” as more books are discovered.

While far from the most noble or educational special interest, it’s serving a healing, pain-reliving purpose right now and for that reason, I’ll take my embarrassment about it in stride and own it. It will pass in time and I’ll find myself magnetically drawn to some other thing (hopefully something more useful!). For now, I have to find out if Issy is going to stay in the life she loves outside of London in her sleepy town cake shop or will follow her boyfriend to New York City on a glamorous life that her friends envy but doesn’t feel like the right fit for her!

 

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