I have not been a great reader the last few years. A known sleepy baby, the moment I open a book after work, I’m snoozin’. Sometimes books bring me a brief solace from the horrors of Twitter and Facebook, introducing me to new things. Recently I’ve been reading Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, which has reintroduced me to the magic of Brian Eno and is giving me ideas for how to mix up my creative life. But mostly, I am reading a page at a time, slogging through, and falling asleep.
Despite my sleepiness, I have also been indulging in some rereading. Rereading is a favorite self-soothing practice of mine. Rereading texts that mattered to me is a guarantee, unlike with new books, which might be disappointing or put me to sleep. You didn’t hear it from me, a master of the humanities.
In the throes of anxiety and depression, I used to read aloud from Marilyn Hacker’s Presentation Piece to calm myself down. Now, in a happier part of my life, I have returned to the book for inspiration. This particular excerpt reminds me of the beauty and the power of routine, which is something I see more clearly as I get older. Marilyn also speaks to a certain longing I feel lately for connection with my environment and the people around me. Sometimes, reading someone else reveal what is inside of you is the most calming activity of all. She writes,
But nothing extraordinary will happen
today. There’s no interesting mail:
a postcard, bills, very professional letters
that only want a kind of ritual
reply. I chew my pen and watch the plants
and would very much like to put my hands
in dirt or in someone else’s hands.
Another poet I’m perpetually rereading is Rupi Kaur. Rupi is, among other things, a genius, an Instagram phenom, and the soother of many traumas. I look to her for a reminder that I am powerful in and of myself, and but that friendships and relationships can make me even more powerful. My personal favorite poem from milk and honey is showcased with two light bulbs and reads,
i do not want to have you
to fill the empty parts of me
i want to be full on my own
i want to be so complete
i could light a whole city
i want to have you
cause the two of us combined
could set it on fire
Finally, I’ve dipped even further back into my Extreme Self-help Days, to the Happiness Project – a book I loved at the time because it helped me add structure to my world. Rereading now, I can’t believe I could tolerate this book in 2012. The premise is that a rich white lady who has everything decides she wants to be happier, so she makes a lot of charts. At the time of first reading, I was a poor white lady who could barely get her brain together to read a chart. Perhaps it was an aspirational read for me. Whatever the appeal then, it is somewhat more relatable to me as a more settled, satisfied person. Some things I’ve remembered from rereading that I am trying to implement in my own life:
- Don’t use electronics when you wake up in the middle of the night.
- Give yourself gold stars for doing small things that you’ve resolved to do (being nice to someone who frustrates you, going for an extra walk around the block, ironing your clothes) – no one else is going to.
- To shake things up, implement a policy of Extreme Niceness and give people a damn break. We’re all just trying to get by in this life, and Extreme Niceness to others usually carries over to ourselves.
Rereading has lit up dark, dusty parts of my brain with renewed purpose.
What are your favorite books to revisit? What have you learned from reruns?