A dear friend once told me that she loved the way I "drank life down in big gulps." That way of describing it--a thirst for life, for new experiences, that I'd go out and pursue with gusto--has stuck with me for years. That thirst has led me to say yes to some pretty big/scary opportunities from cross-country and international moves to new careers to writing ambitious projects. It has led me to spend a great deal of my time living and working outside my comfort zone as I focus on growing and learning and experiencing ALL THE THINGS.
But there's a dark side to that thirst, because I'm pretty terrible at the fine art of doing nothing. My kids pointed this out to me over the summer as I crammed as much hiking, sight-seeing, market visiting, and regional-food-tasting as possible into our summer visit to France. In fact, my son said he'd love to have a vacation where we did nothing but lounge by the pool.
So, being the over-achiever that I am, I planned exactly that--a week in Mexico at a resort where we'd do nothing but sit on the beach or by the pool. As the trip drew near, I was definitely tempted to schedule a few excursions: Mayan ruins, famous magic-infused cenotes (caves), fabulous reef snorkeling. But we agreed I wouldn't book anything until we got to Mexico.
Then we arrived last Saturday and learned that the seas were going to be choppy enough both to close some of the ports and, even on the calmer days, stir up too much sediment for nice snorkeling. And that the ruins I most wanted to see were three hours away. On top of that, highway construction was going to extend travel times. It felt like a message from the universe that I should keep my promise to do nothing. So that's what we did.
That's how my vacation shifted from my usual extreme sight-seeing extravaganza to a reading-by-the-pool vacation. And friends, I don't regret it one bit. And not just because I read so many great books (although I did!), but because at the end of the trip, my youngest exclaimed, "Mom, you did it! You didn't wake me up early one time this whole week for a hike or sightseeing" with awe in their voice, as if they really didn't think it was possible for me to just chill out.
One of my favorite parts of this new plan was the friend I made by the pool. This fine fellow crawled out of the brush to sun himself by my lounger one day. A real-life dragon, huge and ornery, as all good dragons are. Photo courtesy of my husband, because I was too busy talking to my dragon friend to get a good close-up.
But another favorite part was just reading for pure pleasure. Not for comp titles (for myself or my clients) or to be up-to-date on award contenders or even out of desperation for a happy ending, which is how I spent so much of our COVID quarantine--devouring romance because I needed to have that guarantee that things would work out during very uncertain times.
So in the past eight days, I read eight books (and finished a ninth!). All eight of these books were ones I'd been meaning to read for quite some time, all eight were recommended by folks whose reading tastes are a good match to mine. And all were selected at random from what was already on my Kindle/Libro.fm audio account/library account.
I didn't have an agenda when I dug into these books, and I actually started a few different ones and put them aside because I wasn't feeling it. And yet, despite the seemingly random nature of these books, some themes arose. Survival in the face of physical or emotional suffering. Fighting society's expectations and labels. The importance of one really good friend.
I'm hoping that I can take some of this pleasure reading and carry it into my reading life now that I'm back home. I know I'll be reading books that I should read/need to read too, but I hope I'll grab ones "just because" as well.
And who knows? I may have to schedule more reading holidays in the future. Maybe some of those "big gulps" that I love can be big gulps of zen.
Have you read anything truly delicious recently? Let me know, because I need to refill my Kindle after last week's reading!