I met my personal, secret 2015 reading goal earlier this month, so I decided to celebrate by rambling about myself and why I review. It's going to be VERY rambly, but it's all sort of loosely connected. Here goes:
More than twenty years ago I was diagnosed with a number of medical problems. First mono, then chronic fatigue syndrome, and eventually fibromyalgia. I've decided the first two were probably cases of misdiagnosis, but oh well. My family doctor was doing the best he could for me with the info available at the time. I spent most of junior high and high school with home tutors, a handful of friends who stuck by me even though I was a boring, sleepy sloth most of the time, and books. Lots and lots of books.
In my 20's I got a little better. I was able to hold down a steady job and make it through my shifts without collapsing, and I even had a bit of a social life, which resulted in me finding someone crazy enough to want to spend the rest of his life with me.
My thirties have been a bit of a health rollercoaster. I've had good years, I've had bad years, and I've had really bad years. I started using Goodreads to catalog my Kindle books during one of the bad years. Did you know chronic pain and fatigue can adversely affect your memory? I didn't. I thought maybe I had early-onset Alzheimer's until the doctor told me my memory lapses were normal for someone like me. "Fibro fog" (or the inability to concentrate) can affect short term memory. I turned to Goodreads because I kept trying to buy books I already owned and had no memory of buying.
I started blogging on Booklikes during one of the really bad years. I was having so much trouble concentrating that I would find myself going through the mechanics of reading without absorbing a single word. During really bad spells, this is me:
I'm going to borrow a little from spoon theory to explain why this was happening. (If you don't want to click the link and read the whole article, spoon theory in a nutshell is an analogy equating the energy it takes to perform physical tasks to spoons. People with chronic illnesses have fewer spoons and run out of them faster, which is why we curl into useless balls after such strenuous tasks as taking a shower and getting dressed. My physical spoon drawer was mostly empty today. I'm still in my nightgown at 7:30 PM.) Spoon theory as Christine Miserandino wrote it mainly applies to the physical aspects of chronic illness, but it's also applicable to the mental aspects. Thanks to the fibro, I only have so many spoons in my mental drawer and I have to use most of them for work. When I run out, I shut down. My concentration is shot and I have trouble even holding a conversation.
So during this really bad year, I was spending all my spoons on work so I wouldn't let my clients down--and reading books to unwind after I'd already hit the shutdown point. Sometimes I could remember them afterward, sometimes I could only remember vague impressions, sometimes nothing at all except that I'd read it. Sometimes not even that much. I decided to start reviewing as a way to help me remember what I'd read and how I'd felt about it. I remember things better if I write them down, and I'd have an online record in my own words. My very first review was basically a much needed reminder to myself not to buy the sequels because I didn't like the book enough to continue with the series. There aren't a lot of details about the story because it had been a while since I'd read it and I couldn't remember much.
Once upon a time, I devoured a novel a day. The library staff in my hometown practically watched me grow up and knew me by name. Half the Barnes & Noble staff knew me on sight. When I started keeping track of my reading, I realized how profoundly the fibro has changed that. I buy most of my books online because I haven't got enough physical spoons to fit in a trip to the library (and there's no guarantee I'll have enough mental spoons to read the books before their due date anyway). No one in the local bookstores know me by name or even by sight, except for the one cashier who knows my husband. In 2014 I read all of 38 books. 38. Some books took me weeks or even months to read. That depressed the hell out of me.
So this year I made a promise to myself. Without neglecting work, I would try to average a book a week and read 52 books this year. It's a far cry from what I used to read, but I thought it might just be manageable. I didn't set up an official reading challenge because I knew that would just give me anxiety, which would defeat the therapeutic purpose of reading. And by not making it official I was also giving myself permission to fail, and if I did no one would be the wiser.
But I didn't fail! Somehow, some way, I scraped together enough mental spoons to meet and even pass my goal while still giving my clients quality work. Which is why I decided to tackle The Goldfinch this month. If it takes me weeks to read it, that's okay. I've met my goal. I can pat myself on the head, take my time, and look forward to all the books I'll read next year.
I think there was something else I wanted to say, but I'm out of spoons and I've hit a wall, so I'm just going to post without proofing and stare blankly at the television. And if you made it through all of that you should come over to my house for chocolate or cupcakes or something because you deserve some sort of reward. Anyway, thanks for indulging my oversharing mood. Y'all are awesome.