Thursday, April 28, 2011

For the Love of Books (and Self-Improvement)!

One of my favorite things in the world, is a beaten up, scuffed up, old bookshelf in my bedroom that contains about a dozen books I've read and loved, a pile of my husband's books, and half a dozen or so books that I have read about a quarter of the way through.  (The rest of my well-loved books are still in storage, waiting for a large bookshelf to be purchased and installed in our basement once it's developed!)

I've always been a reader.  My mom tells me that I began to read at about 4 years old, and quickly began to gobble up the books in the children's section of the library.  In grade 2, I clearly remembered being chastised by the teacher for daydreaming when I was supposed to be silently reading an assigned piece along with the rest of the class.  Mrs. Wall, a stern, steel-gray-haired woman who was tall and lean with large, grayish-blue, plastic framed glasses (it was the 80's!), looked down at me with crossed arms and asked why I wasn't reading my work like all the other students.  I told her that I was done!  She sputtered and looked indignant for a moment then exclaimed "I think that is highly unlikely since I haven't finished reading it yet!"  She then began to smugly question me on the material, hoping to reveal my assumed deceit, yet I was able to answer each of her interrogating demands.  I don't remember any sort of acknowledgment conceding towards my honesty and apparent superior ability, but a few of the other students smiled at me, glad that I had one-upped our grim, domineering, older teacher.

For now, I don't have quite as much undisturbed time to immerse myself in a good book, and I've actually turned to more non-fiction because it's a lot easier to set down when life's duties are calling.  However, as I mentioned at the beginning, I have a small pile of books that I've only partly delved into, even though I really would like to finish each of them!  They are mostly parenting, marriage and self-improvement type books - topics that I uphold as a priority in my life, but I just can't seem to commit myself to regular study and completion of each book.  Honestly, this bothers me a lot.  Comprehension is not my problem, nor is it time-restraints (as I well displayed my ability to read quickly from the time I was 7 years old.) 

So what is stopping me from improving my life and learning the valuable lessons these books are freely offering to teach me, at my leisure?  It feels as though there is a greater underlying power at work, jeopardizing my desired results.   It reminds me of a team of people competing towards one unified goal and prize, only someone on the team undermines the goal and sabotages the team's ability to win because they succumb to the pressure of temptation or they lack endurance.  It seems that inside me, something continuously disrupts me and keeps me from digging deeper and reading through these books that will give me life-changing revelations!

Am I lazy? Perhaps.  Am I being subconsciously thwarted by my inner struggles?  Perhaps this is also true.

Once again, I am drawn to the idea of creating goals and making a plan.  In the same way that I create sticker-reward charts for my children, and have a training plan outlined for the half-marathon I will compete in this summer, I feel like I need to create a specific path for myself if I wish to overcome.

Whenever someone has a physical goal, say, to lose 20 pounds or to firm up or to be able to run 5K, they WILL NOT accomplish their goal without a plan.  Could you imagine if someone said: "Yep, I'm going to lose 20 pounds." and when asked how they would do it, replied: "Oh, I don't know.  I just want it to happen, so hopefully it will work."?  You would shake your head at them, maybe offer them a half-hearted "Good luck" and then expect to see no change over the next few months.

However, if someone says that they are setting out to lose 20 pounds and they have joined Curves or Weightwatchers, it's easy to encourage them and have high expectations toward their outcome.

I've been wondering about the same thing for my spiritual development.  Somewhere in the distance, I see myself becoming stronger, more gracious and kind and a better spouse and parent.  However, just wishing for this with no plans or path set out before me, is akin to wanting to lose weight without any plan to diet or exercise (or take some expensive, yet dangerous pills guaranteed to shed pounds).

I want to be purposeful in my walk as a believer in Christ.  I have to honestly assess my efforts to improve (possibly by reading books that I know will encourage and enlighten me) and compare those efforts to the time I waste and squander on a daily basis engaging in unprofitable activities.

The best way I can think of, in my busy life, to promote development,  is to purposefully commit to reading more - even if it means putting my "assigned book" in the bathroom.  Realistically, I should be able to read a chapter a day, which means I could complete several books a month.

My point in sharing my struggles with reading, serve both to make me accountable and to hopefully inspire you to "step it up" in the areas that you struggle with.  Without a plan, how will you achieve your goals?  Plans serve to uphold purpose, and purpose is the wind that sets us sailing into destiny.

Now off to my "quiet space" to hide and read for a few moments...

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