Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book Challenges and Blessings

Darla D is participating in another blogger's book challenge for 2008. I considered joining it, especially since I own some books by the authors in the category around which the challenge revolves. But then I thought, "wait a second here. How many books do I have in my personal library that I haven't read yet, or that I've gotten half-way through only to be distracted by schoolwork, performances, cupcakes, newspapers, a movie, a butterfly, or sleep?" I have plenty in that category.

Heck, I discovered one on the bottom shelf of my nightstand just the other day. I'd gotten about a third into it last year, when school started up and my nights were sacrificed to the thesis god. I just returned a book to the library yesterday that I took a break from to read another book. Had that book not been a library book - and not been about a health issue that I'm dealing with and trying to manage - there's a good possibility that that book would've migrated to the bottom shelf as well. I'm looking at a book right now that I just scored off of BookMooch.com. It's a follow up to a book I began 4 years ago on MLK weekend. I got a few chapters into it and school began, and the rest is history. Plus, it didn't help that I took it with me on vacation. It's hard for me to read on vacation, particularly if I'm visiting someplace new. And starting a book on vacation is almost a guarantee I won't finish it. I'd rather spend time with my family and friends or discovering the newness of the place. So, maybe I should go back to the original book and read it first? Hmm?

My reading challenge for 2008, then: read at least 10 books in my own library which I have not read at all, or which were sacrificed to some other distraction, earlier. ** Side note: I've often wondered if that's a character or intelligence flaw that I have, that I don't always finish books that I begin. Remember in grade school how educators and authority figures always kind of poo-poo people who don't finish what they start? But maybe that's as much an indictment of the writing. If the story itself, or storytelling, is not engaging enough for me to ignore the family or friends I'm visiting, or the sound of the surf, or the DVD special edition of The Big Lebowski that just came in the mail, then maybe that's not my fault. (Of course, I almost always finish what I start; it might just take me months or years to get interested in the activity enough again to complete it. Clearly, I'm not the industrious personality that built America.)

Another thing I'm trying to do for 2008 is be grateful. I think I become crabbier the older I get and the last thing I ever want to be is a grump or a curmudgeon. I want to be aware of my blessings, big and little.

Saturday, I was hefting a big box toward the post office to mail out. As I approached the pull-out door, a woman who was walking my direction, pulled open the door for me. I thanked her. She began to go inside, and I pushed open the push-indoor with my hip. "Oh, okay, you've got it," she said and smiled as she walked away. She wanted to help me all the way in to the post office, even though that's not where she was going. When I realized that, I couldn't help but smile and feel blessed. She was going out of her way to help me, a stranger! It's a little thing, but in an area where so few people thank you for holding open the door - and I am crabby about it - it stands out.

Last night, as I was lying in bed, falling asleep, I was listening to Honey breathing deeply. He's the kind who can fall asleep when his head hits the pillow. (Me: I always have a million thoughts competing for attention in my waning waking moments.) All I could think was how grateful I was for his health. I listened to him breathe in and I thanked God for his healthy lungs, for their ability to intake and process. Then I started praying thanks to God that he is healthy, that he is healthy now, that I have him now, that he has his health now. And it began to grow. I began to pray thanks for the health of others and for myself and for the time we all have here and all have together.

A good family friend of ours - her parents and mine are college buddies - lost her husband to a car wreck a couple of months ago, leaving her with a two-year-old. Since I learned of her loss a few weeks ago, I've been unable to feel anything but just sorrow for her. I can't even begin to imagine her grief right now. But last night, I was also thinking that she was very lucky to have had him when she did. I imagined the laughter they shared. This is not to minimize her grief and her loss, but I also thanked God for the time that she had with him, and of course, asked him to comfort her. That's probably what was the impetus for my impromptu thankfulness: death. A freelancer in my office yesterday learned that good friend of hers just lost a baby, a few hours after she gave brith. Again: unimaginable grief. How thankful I am that I have the people in my life and how they are in my life, for however long they are here!

We have to be thankful for what we have, when we have it; and for who is in our lives and how they are in our lives. I was thankful for Honey, in his current health, lying beside me. I will be thankful for him when he's ailing or decrepit. I will be thankful for him when he's gone. I thanked God for my current health, jagged as it is these days. I want to learn to be thankful if the jaggedness ever actually calcifies into something that affects my permanent health. I am who I am and I have what I have. I may as well be grateful.


Virginia Gal said...

well my motto for books is if you can't get into it in a 100 pages, forget about it.

yes we must be thankful each day for what we have been given. Too dwell elsewhere is to lead into darkness and away from God, no?

mommanator said...

How beautifully said Mollie!
We have so much to be thankful every day we hardly tip the iceberg of our thankfulness!

Kate said...

Thank you for this post. I found your blog through virginia gal. I've been going through a bit of a slump recently and really appreciated being reminded of the things that are important in life - health, love, friends. And I like the idea of 'I am who I am and I have what I have. I may as well be grateful.' So true. Thank you.

Darla D said...

I love your book challenge idea. I actually find myself neglecting books I buy (doesn't happen often these days, but sometimes I just can't resist) because of the due dates of library books. Sure, I have the advantage of not getting charged fines because I work at the library, but I still have to bring the books back so other people can read them. So I will join your "personal library" challenge! Now all you need is a cool logo to post on your sidebar. :-)

And VA Gal - you are generous - I only give a book 50 pages. Unless I've heard amazing things about it and have been warned that it's a bit slow in the beginning.

I enjoyed your post, Molly. It is always good to stop a moment and be thankful, isn't it!?