Books

Even when the weather isn’t that nice, after a full day of constant rain and tree-bending winds, it feels so lovely and freeing to be outside. That’s how this cloudy, breezy, 30-something degree March morning feels: beautifully freeing. The perception of outdoor conditions and weather is a prime example of how something feels is relative to that to which it is compared. A 50-degree day in February feels balmy, while the same weather in June feels like an uncomfortably cold day. In much the same way, after being cooped up all day save for the fifteen minutes I braved outside in the umbrella-inverting windy rainstorm, I perceive the objectively less-than-stellar conditions this morning as gorgeous. Like a caged animal set free, I could hardly contain my verve to get outside. I’m glad it’s Saturday, so that I can take advantage of the more liberal schedule and its flexibility to accommodate extra outdoor time.

I skipped my planned independent therapy session yesterday because I felt that two dedicated sessions seemed like enough this week and I spent much of the afternoon reading the applicable self-improvement book I had started Thursday called Why Buddhism is True. In rare form, I actually didn’t finish the book. In nearly all cases, if I make it through a chapter or two, I will finish the book, even if I stop enjoying it (or never really was that invested in it). I recognize the pointlessness (and craziness!) of a commitment to finish books I’m not enjoying that I’ve opted to read for pleasure. Unlike an assigned book for school or work, everything I read now is purely by choice. Still, I’ll fight my waning interest and stick with it through to the end almost every time I’ve tolerated the first chapter. These days, I read to completion about a book per day, or six to ten books per week, depending on their length, the degree to which I’m insatiable in my drive to see how the story unfolds, and how little I’m sleeping (I tend to turn to my breezy chick lit books for stress-free distraction and “company” when I’m unable to sleep). This stack of books is only a minority fraction of those started each week. At least two out of every three books I begin are abandoned within the first several pages. Because these are free library books and I rarely, if ever, receive personal recommended reads from friends, I cast a wide net in my catalog search and take out a variety of books at liberty, understanding that it’s a no-stakes investment. Every book, within its pages, holds a potential trip, a break from reality and the exposure to a life different than your own. If I can’t get into the storyline or the characters aren’t endeared to me, then I give up and crack open the next one.

With all that said, I broke these patterns and prematurely aborted Why Buddhism is True with just one and a half chapters left. I was long past my first chapter make-or-break deadline and within sight of the finish line, but I just didn’t want to finish. Although I enjoyed the first half quite a bit and felt I learned some useful strategies and was made to consider flawed thought patterns (which is a good thing), what I read of the second half totally bored me. I felt the pages droned on, reiterating the novel points of the early chapters in unnecessary repetition and in more of an indoctrinated, preachy way. The first part felt informative and non-threatening in its advocacy of cultivating a committed practice of meditation and adopting some Buddhist tenants, while the second part felt more pressuring and evangelical (but of Buddhism, not Christianity). It felt like if you’re not already drinking the meditation-is-the-only-path-to-enlightenment kool-aid, you’re stupid or doing life wrong. It’s likely this wasn’t the author’s intention, but that was my gut reaction. I felt its redundancy was over the top and I was wasting time and devoting more to a book that had already imparted the wisdom it would on me. The latter half of the book did taint my overall impression somewhat, but I’m still glad I read it. It takes time to fully absorb what I read and appreciate lasting takeaways; however, I’m confident that I gleaned some useful knowledge from this book. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled to be indulging in a purely guilty pleasure contemporary romance today.

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