Reading and Changing

My stomach continues to refuse to settle down. It’s rarely this upset for several consecutive days, but such is the reality this week. Yesterday, it got so debilitating that I had to take the afternoon off work so that I had the flexibility to run into and out of the bathroom as often as I needed to without worrying about compromising my productivity or feeling pressured to hold on longer than comfortable in order to finish a section of work before dodging back into the bathroom. I took extra prescription-strength Imodium before bed, but I was still going in and out all night. No wonder I’m feeling so tired.

It’s Friday again though, which is great. We do have weekend plans; namely, continuing to work on sorting our storage, cleaning the garage space, and doing spring cleanup yardwork. I’ll need to do a fair amount of work for my job as well, as I’ve had to take too much time off this week because of illness.

Historically, I’ve often used Friday blog posts to mention some of the books I read during the week. It’s been a couple of months since a “week in books” post, so I’ve read far too many books since my last book post to discuss all of them here, even just the good ones. I read about one book a day, and I’m still on my chick lit obsession. That said, I don’t exclusively light-hearted, fluffy “beach reads,” although many of the books fall into this realm because I do the bulk of my reading when I need to relax and take my mind off my anxiety, PTSD, or soothe my sleepless, worried mind at night. Recently, I’ve been loving Nancy Thayer books. Her stories often take place on Nantucket and are heavily centered around female friendships or relationships between sisters or mothers and daughters. They tend to be a little more substantive than chick lit romance books, with themes of love, infidelity, loss, growing up, and family. She also wrote one that was set right outside my hometown of Amherst, MA, so that was especially easy to connect with. I also love just about every Debbie Macomber book I get my hands on, although admittedly, hers tend to be a bit more predictable and “safe” than Thayer’s heavier themes. However, Macomber’s books also don’t shy away from emotionally-provocative topics woven into a somewhat formulaic love story. She certainly creates many protagonists who have been widowed or whose husbands left them, often with a young child and very little money. The male love interests are often in similarly tough circumstances or have just come back from a deployment where they suffered serious injuries. At least one parent is usually dead as well. As such, her romance stories almost always involve the characters getting over painful losses and breaking down protective walls they’ve put up so they can learn to believe in love again. Similar authors that I’ve enjoyed lately include Wendy Wax, Mary Alice Munroe, Susan Mallery, and Sheryl Woods.

I also read Deena Kastor’s memoir Let Your Mind Run, Dr. Simon Marshall’s The Brave Athlete, and Alex Hutchinson’s Endure, about the mental limits of human performance. I enjoyed all of these books as well, as perhaps my earliest true love in the world of books was running books, informative physiology and kinesiology guides, and sports psychology works. However, I found them oddly less engaging than the romances or other fiction books I’ve been reading. I say “oddly” because as I openly admit, many of these fiction books are rather predictable and I don’t typically “learn” anything from them. Thus, it could be argued that they are somewhat a waste of time, especially since I devote a lot of time devouring one per day! However, despite the lack of much meaningful knowledge obtained as a takeaway, and rather unsurprising story arcs and emotional journeys in each book, they truly make me happy; I enjoy them (for the most part) so much. As long as the book passes my one-chapter threshold by which I mean I decide after one chapter that it’s intriguing enough that I want to continue, the romances and fiction stories transport me to a place of calm, and temporarily remove me from whatever actual true pain (physical or mental) that I’m in.

It might be that over my life, I’ve literally read just about every running or sports performance book published since 1980 that’s still in circulation, but most of the nonfiction books on this topic that I imagine I’m going to love that I read these days I end up finding really predictable and boring. I feel compelled to read them in their entirety, yet while I am working my way through it, it feels more like a chore. I even often check to see how many pages I have left. It’s not even like they are weighty, academic-type informative reads, which would obviously take more concentration and mental work than a light beach read; instead, they are written for the layperson and often even shorter than the fiction books I’m comparing them too. Moreover, I have my MS in Exercise Science and Nutrition and my BS in Kinesiology, so the denser exercise physiology and neurology books are well-within my comfort zone. Either way, I found myself markedly disappointed by all three of these books for one reason or another. This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t necessarily recommend them to other people, but I felt un-invested, bored, or otherwise somewhat let down by them, at least in some regards. It always amazes me how much I change over time. I have the tendency to pigeonhole myself and other adults, thinking that we don’t, and can’t, really change. I’m starting to see that through dedicated work (like therapy or self-improvement work), we can make some changes, even though it’s hard. Moreover, other changes occur naturally over time, like shifting interests and ways we self-identify. Maybe I’m finally a less obsessive runner (now that I can’t really run!), and I’m learning to enjoy other things just as much. Given my failing health, I’ll take it.

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