Monday, April 15, 2013

Glutton for Punishment - Sometimes

I think I've mentioned here before that I'm some sort of an addict. Or, rather, maybe a glutton? (PS: Every time I say/hear "glutton" I think of Steel Magnolias: "You know, I used to think you were crazy for marrying that man. Then for a few years I thought you were a glutton for punishment. Now I know you must be on some mission from God." Anyone else? OK then.) I have a tendency to overdo things, but don't be alarmed. I don't shoot up too much heroin (or any heroin, at that) or even drink too much (well, not often, at least), instead I have a tendency to obsess over things to unhealthy extremes.

Example 1: If there are jellybeans in my home (especially of the Starburst variety) I will go out of my way to walk by those damned beans and grab a handful at least 20 times a day until they are gone. Or until I am sick - literally sick - and even then I might just chomp four or five more.

Example 2: If Sex & the City comes on TV, even if I've already seen that episode 20,453 times (note: I have seen them all 20,453 times), I will watch it anyway, and much to David's misfortune, I will quote every line and make the same sweeping proclamations I always make (to no one in particular): "I mean HOW do you decide between Big and Aidan - HOW? They're both flawed and perfect. Gush. I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm Team Big for life, but..." (Poor David).

Example 3: If there are chips of any kind in my home, see Example 1.

But it's not all bad, rot-your-brain/teeth stuff. Sometimes I get hooked on good things, too. Reading great books is a good example of this. As an editor who spends 70% of the work day squinting at a manuscript or article, I often struggle to read on week nights without feeling like my eyes are going to bleed. (Ouch.) So I strive for weekend reading after my eyes have gotten a bit of rest, and once I'm hooked on a good story, I tell my ole' eyes to man up, and just completely let go, loosing myself in the lives of the characters, the worlds created and enhanced with every turning page.

I cry a lot in books, does this happen to you? Sometimes it even happens when nothing sad or moving took place - I just "come to" and find myself clutching the edges of the book, tears streaming, lost in avenues of the story. Sometimes I cry because I love a character so much, or because I can relate to something someone is going through so strongly it takes my breath away. Then there is the "Oh shit, there are only 10 pages left," realization cry. The toddler-style stomping tantrum, "But I don't waaaaaaaa-aant it to end! WAH!" I'm just that bratty (and proud of it).

Of course the reading thing gives way to getting hooked on one specific author. My most extreme obsessions over the past few years have been Jhumpa Lahiri and Jonathan Franzen. My love for Jhumpa was sparked back in college when David sent me one of her short stories "A Temporary Matter," and things got extreme when I finally got my hands on Interpreter of Maladies, her first collection of short stories. My appetite grew more intense with every bite. Unaccustomed Earth. I was completely submerged in this collection; I never came up for air. OK, maybe once. Then, after seeing the movie, I read The Namesake, and surprised myself with how much I connected to this story of place, belonging, responsibility, tradition, family, and love. Impossibly, my best friend invited me to hear Jhumpa read several ago at an event in Washington, DC. I was so nervous that I refused to get my book signed, and David had to drag me in line and basically hold me up and tell me to breathe. (Poor David again.) I am anxiously awaiting her next piece, and I strongly encourage you to check out her stuff!

I also discovered my old friend (I wish) Jonathan Franzen while in college. (I've written about this very much loved/not-loved man and my obsession with him previously.) He was a guest at a yearly creative writing event and he read an excerpt from "My Bird Problem." I was immediately dead. I searched for it for years. I thought about it all the time, but I couldn't figure out what the essay was and how to get a copy. It wasn't until Freedom came out that I was finally able to track it down. I re-read the article, printed it out, saved it in a file, read Freedom (wept), reread my favorite essay from How to Be Alone, read The Corrections, read Freedom again (wept again), and now I'm reading Strong Motion, a novel set in Boston that makes me miss my friend Emily Brown. From here, I think I'll check out The Twenty-Seventh City then sit and pray for another book to come out - and maaaaybe read Freedom again. I honestly cannot get enough of this man. So many people don't like him and can't relate to his writing, but I feel like every line was written for me - isn't it magical how that can happen?

So I might eat too much, whine too much, and expect too much from people, but at least here, in this reading space, I know I am exempt from judgment or criticism. I am free to lose myself in these moments of throat-pinching, head-nodding, soul-stirring understanding. That feeling - knowing that you can be seen in the truest sense, that you are loved, and - despite the moments of darkness and uncertainty - that you are not alone.

1 comment:

SMD @ lifeaccordingtosteph said...

I often cry while reading or after I finish a great book. I am just caught up in all of it, and I just need to let it all out.