Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Reading is my refuge

When we moved to a 3rm HDB rental flat in 2002, I was so thankful that we chose one that was within walking distance to necessities - hawker, bus stop, train station, church, grocery, and, most importantly, the library. It was a place I frequently visited with my then 2-year-old son. The possibilities of exploration were boundless.

We borrowed children's books for me to read to Kelvin. Sometimes I even let him "choose" the books he found interesting - usually illustrated ones, mostly related to automobiles. He loved to pretend reading books, I think it also helped him read at an early age. Every night, he would ask me to read of the small children's books my aunt gave him - all 10 or so of them!

Then I noticed several craft books that seemed interesting. Although a toddler at home kept me busy, when he was asleep or busy playing I realized I could do something productive as well - to hone those artistic skills I might have. I used to send greeting cards to friends and relatives and I thought it would be more meaningful if I sent hand-made cards. I borrowed card-making books, stocked up on paper materials and stationery, and before I knew it I was already sending hand-made birthday cards and Christmas cards. From reading books on card-making I progressed to perusing scrapbooking books then sewing books and so on. Personal projects followed thereafter. 

I'm also into self-help books, although I'm starting to think they haven't done much for me (or maybe I just don't notice). There are endless parenting and marriage books to read and learn from. Some are good and practical, and from those I take notes with the hope of incorporating them in my parenting journey and married life. Then there are travel guidebooks which I use as reference when planning our holidays.

As my role as stay-at-home-mom progressed from taking care of a toddler to juggling between a toddler and a new-born to coping with primary school going boys, my interest in reading books, and the reason why I crave for them, also changed. As my responsibility became more and more challenging, and my life filled with frequent ups and downs of mothering (read: feelings of frustration, depression, and the likes), reading became no longer just a pastime or an avenue to learn new skills or hone existing ones. I started reading books with the intention of escaping moments that take the best of me.  

There are days that are just too painful to go through, either I'm feeling melancholic or livid, that I need to just shut everything and everyone out and be in a different place - where I can empty my mind even just for a while, or fill it up with thoughts other than those conflicting in my mind and my heart. A place where I can leave my reality for a while, not to turn away from the problem in hand, but to give myself a time off (before I have a mental breakdown). It can be in my bedroom at home or in a park where I can sit down, feel the breeze, and indulge myself in reading.

Reading calms me down. I can pick a book from my stash (I have Chicken Soup series, some novels, self-help books, etc), flip the pages and read the story where my flipping takes me. I like Chicken Soup series because the people are real, the stories are real, the conflicts are real, the feelings are real, and the lessons insightful. More often than not, by some chance or divine intervention, the story relates to the situation I'm in and provides enlightenment. I've shed buckets of tears reading the personal experiences of the writers/contributors. These are the heavy stuff - they pierce through my heart all the time. But, at the same time, they provided temporary relief - one that I needed while going through such unfavorable moments/feelings. 

For light reading I go for novels (how I wish I'd started reading them a long time ago) - they tickle my imagination and take me away on some reading adventure as I go through each page.  Once (or twice), I read a trilogy in a week! I got so engrossed in the story unraveling mysteries that I just couldn't put the book (or e-book) down. Before I knew it, I was done with the third book and forgot what it was that made me feel bad in the first place. I could identify with the pain the characters go through and that eases the personal pain I'm feeling. I could feel the love that is portrayed in the story and it brings me back to the moment when I felt the same way before. I'm a sucker for love stories, whether it's Twilight or The Fault In Our Stars or Divergent (don't they all have some love angles in their novels??). It just gives me this buoyant feeling afterwards. 

Over the past few months or years, it has become a routine. Whenever I feel down or mad, I sit down and read. It doesn't matter whether I've already read the book/s several times because I have a few favorites that I turn to and they always (guaranteed 100%) entertain and perk me up. Some of the stories end well, and it gives me comfort and reassurance that even if I'm feeling very low and confused and frustrated now, somehow everything will be alright. That everything is just a phase in my life, and that I will be able to overcome the challenge, no matter what. Reading is a safe haven where I emerge rejuvenated. 

Here is a list of the books that does it for me:
  1. Chicken Soup for the Soul 
  2. Chicken Soup for the Romantic Soul 
  3. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Women
  4. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stay-at-home Moms (to relate to our struggles as SAHMs)
  5. Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Mothers
  6. Daily Grace for Women
  7. A Cup of Comfort for Mothers (a cup we should always fill)
  8. Meditations for Living in Balance (don't we all need balance in life?)
  9. The Four Things That Matter Most: A book about living (Ira Byock) - highly recommended
  10. Stay Home, Stay Happy (for a less guilty stay-at-home-mom feeling)
  11. Tuesdays With Morrie (more life lessons to learn and buckets of tears to shed)
  12. Twilight Series (who wouldn't fall in love with a conservative, good-natured vampire?)
  13. Fifty Shades trilogy (to be read with extreme caution and an open mind)
  14. The Fault in Our Stars (heart-wrenching)

I'm thankful for thoughtful friends who understand my love for reading and gift me accordingly. And also those who gladly share their prized possessions with no time limit. I still have a long list of books to read (referred by bookworm friends) and I'm looking forward to reading all them and more. It doesn't mean that my life will always be filled with challenges that frustrate me to the bones. It means I will allot more "me time" to revitalize my spirit. 

If you are not a fan of reading yet maybe you should try it some time and see what good it can do for you and to you.

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