I went to the bookstore just before my surgery thinking now’s the time I’m going to read. I’ve been waiting for time to read ever since Jacob was ten days old and started his I’m-gonna-make-you-insane-and-want-to-throw-me-in-a-garbage-dumpster screaming mantra. Lately my excuse to not read is my discovery that like Jacob I too am dyslexic and while I can read I have never been the kind of women who steals away an afternoon in the corner of a cafe reading an entire novel. If I went to a cafe to read – which I wouldn’t because I can’t read with any noise or movement – I would probably read one chapter in five hours.
I used to think I just wasn’t smart, reading and re-reading words until I got it, always underlining any important sentence and writing in the margins of every book and magazine so I would remember what I had just read. Then one day on my journey into dyslexia with Jacob I realized, hey wait a minute, alot of that is ME. Alot of the reason I ducked every time a good friend recommended a gorgeous new novel was that it was too much hard work to get through it.
When two kids appeared this seemed to solidify my non-reader status because I had better things to do like wiping snotty noses, researching and executing extreme semi-humane methods on how to get your child to sleep, and breaking up sibling attacks that ended in bloody bodily parts; sitting in cafes in a comfy chair curled up with a book was off my menu.
Now I read, but my genre is children’s literature. Not bad when I’m feeling my inner Dr. Seuss, and getting better now that the tween years are upon us and Rick Riordan’s books have entered our lives and I’ve found outrageously creative books like The Adventures of Hugo Caberet. But I still dream of being a reader, the kind of mother who juggles five kids and has read The Help, Cleopatra, and a book of poetry tucked into her kitchen shelves between Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking and The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics.
A mom can dream, right?
Having a hysterectomy felt like the best shot I’ve got to read until Aden is packed off to college (at which point I will probably be too busy to read from all the therapy I’ll need adjusting to life without “Mom, I know you’re going to say no but…” and “Mom, I know you’ve just walked in from food shopping, present buying, and dog walking, but my school project is due tomorrow so can you sit down now for the next three hours and help me?”).
Walking into Politics and Prose is like waking up in literary heaven. The evening I was there an author on climate change was having a book signing and fascinating interview on the main floor. There’s a cafe for all those people who annoy me because I want to be like them, curling up with a cup of tea reading. I had a vague idea of what kind of book I wanted to buy but no titles. It’s not very smart to go to a bookstore without the title of a book. And especially to go to a literary bookstore and approach the person sitting under a sign that says “Information” because really they don’t want to provide a therapy session on what type of book I want. They don’t know me, don’t want to know me (unless I was a famous author), and just looking at me in my stained yoga pants and brown down coat with the broken zipper they can sense I’m a mother who hasn’t read in ages and will not know what I want to read, will dislike any of their suggestions, and most likely cannot retain the name of more than one book at a time so I will have to write down every book suggestion and that will take ages. Also, they’d rather listen to the author on climate change whose voice is coming out of every speaker in the store.
I decide not to bother the “Information” person. Probably I should have picked up The Essential Guide to Hysterectomy or maybe 101 Handy Hints for a Happy Hysterectomy. I knew I’d stay away from The Hysterectomy Hoax: The Truth About Why Many Hysterectomies Are Unnecessary and How to Avoid Them. (I get the “hoax” line of thinking, I’m a feminist, but I want to know from that author is if she ever passed ten blood clots every minute?).
In the end I don’t go near the very topic I was about to enter – the Big H – because I never like to over-prep for anything. That’s always when things don’t work out. I tell this to pregnant women alot who read every single book and hours before their labor begins are running to the bookstore for more books on pregnancy and birth. Stop already. Enough. There is a time for knowledge and a time to just let it flow. For me that meant getting into my body, doing my yoga nidra, deep relaxation and not even thinking about having surgery to remove my uterus and a 7cm cyst on my ovary.
I wanted something light and easy to read. A happy memoir, if that existed. That’s when I remembered an article I read several weeks go on how moms in their forties were reinventing how to stay happy in a marriage with kids…and writing about it. I got out my IPhone and Googled the article. The author mentioned four popular memoirs. I bought three: Devotion, The Slippery Year and The Happiness Project.
The good news is I have been reading them these past few days. And I’ve been reading faster than normal (which makes me wonder if someone should study the effects of 600 mg of Motrin every 6 hours on a dyslexics’s reading).
The bad news from reading these memoirs is this: I discovered I’m middle-aged.
Of course I know I’m forty-four, but at no time have I ever considered myself middle-aged. Could I really be in the middle of my life? How did that happen? I have noticed the sag here and there, but in general I don’t wake up thinking I’m mid-life. Yet when I read these books that’s about all they talk about – how annoying people now are at mid-life, how at mid-life that trip to Target that your child begs for is the last thing in the world you want to do so you sometimes lie and say Target closed early today, and how your brain cannot remember anything beyond the dog’s name at mid-life.
The book I’m enjoying the most is The Slippery Year by Melanie Gideon. She is a riot. I can’t stop laughing at her observations like her relationship with her husband who snores alot. Here’s an excerpt:
Snoring is just snoring. But there’s a medical diagnosis for the twitching. PLMD – Periodic Limb Movement Disorder. As a result of my husband’s PLMD I have developed IWTFKYD – I Want to Fucking Kill You Disorder. All my girlfriend’s have it. They may not admit it, but they do. It’s a silent epidemic.
I am laughing-out-loud while reading this book so much that I’m now thinking of myself as middle-aged and liking it. And I’m not thinking about my swelly post-hysterectomy belly and how uncomfortable it is to get up and pee in the middle of the night. Thank you, Melanie.
And thank you Hysterectomy for the gift of having time to read.