I’m not surprised it is mid-February since 2015 has been an eventful year. By February, Zade had 6 new stitches, Kal breathed easier after his surgery and some healing time, and Layla started practicing violin, a nod to my successful childhood best friend.
There’s much reflection on each of those alone, but this post is anchored by two things: my bookshelves and yoga.
A few nights ago I found myself staring at my bookshelves. The mix of work puzzled me as if I hadn’t slept near these shelves for years. I found myself gazing past my small golden Faulkner collection, past my graduate school texts (a section including anthologies with sheer, delicate pages smelling like my old local library in Chicago), and stopping directly in the middle, a place that has entertained lots of ebb and flow over the years. I had to stare at this space for a bit.
Three books were crammed next to each other: Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club, a text I spent months and months with as my rite of passage through graduate school; E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, a novel I’m guilty of enjoying but challenges my better judgement; and Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, a novel I am drawn to at least once a year but one that I’ve never actually finished.
I suddenly felt immense guilt that I’d put on display a combination high literature with fan fiction. Moving beyond that, I felt wasteful that in my off time away from parenting and grading and reading to prepare lessons, I find myself truly wanting to read the easy book. And so I fought it. I picked up Beer in the Snooker Club again.
My palm tickled as I fanned through crinkled post-it notes and plastic tabs, reminding me of how invested I was Ghali’s life, his suicide, and his fiction that I’d spend hours and hours proving was more autobiographical than anything else. Russian novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says that literature and art are the only vehicles we have for experiences we didn’t have; he says that lies can win against a lot in the world, but not against art. Such beautiful ideas, poignant and deserving of our attention. I’m not surprised I am consistently taken aback by the truth fiction gifts, the poetry non-fiction soothes, and the need I have for all of it.
Quick-fix fiction, like satisfying your hunger with a quick snack from the vending machine, is telling of my busy life now. In Art of Fiction, David Lodge says that if you accidentally nod off in the middle of a Henry James sentence, you’ll find yourself completely lost. Quiet time is stolen in moments, and while finishing classics is a goal, to quote my friend Tally, it’s not where my life is right now.
So here I have three books, one I’d forgotten I’d honored, one I am not proud of, and one I haven’t finished; each representing a time in my life, but each doing it in its own way.
Each of us has or own way, and this is one of the many reasons I love yoga. Yoga is your own practice; therefore, you can adjust and clarify your poses as needed. So much of what is helpful to my own yoga practice is the small narrative inspirations the instructor offers. When she says, “notice the area that’s tense and breathe life into it,” or when she reminds me that yoga is the quieting of one’s mind, I’m soothed by her narrative, the calming metaphors.
All this brings me back here, a moment where I try to gently nudge my book shelf and thank her for storing my little private practice. I’ll try to avoid judging her.
Instead, I’ll be thankful for the stories around me, the stories on my shelf, the stories tucked away in my head, the stories we inspire, and the stories whose proximity is enough for my life right now because I know their truths will be ready for me when I’m ready for them.