It has been awhile since I have read a novel or a story that has made every part of me come alive. There are certain books that, once picked up, I am unable to put down or think of anything else until I have known them in their entirety. And then, after reading for anywhere from 4-16 hours straight, I am unable to sleep because I am so wrapped up in the magic, and when I do finally drift off, my dreams are filled with vivid scenes spiraling out of my imagination from the pages of these beautiful treasures.
La sombra del viento/The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one such book. (Excuse my inability to properly accent at the moment.) I happened upon this book accidentally, and as soon as I started reading, like with many books before it, I am absolutely amazed that I didn't know it sooner. The book is set in Barcelona, which automatically makes me love it due to the familiarity of street corners and forgotten plazas I spent my four months there exploring. There is something so thrilling of being able to see the places in my mind, as they really are and how I can then imagine them to be 60 years ago, in the time period of the novel. Not to mention the nostalgia and memories these images evoke of my time in the city, and the little glimmers of understanding I was just beginning to glean from its ancient buildings and reserved people. It always amazes me, those moments when a book (or a poem, play, song, work of art) comes to me at just the right moment, in such a way that I can't imagine having never known it before this point, when it is exactly what I need to the point of being magical.
Rather than write an in-depth review and then tell everyone to go read this book (though if you are at all like me you definitely should!), I just want to reflect on the experience of reading and the way it feels when I really fall into a book and can't come out for awhile. I had this experience for the first time probably when I was about 3 years old, and though I am told I couldn't possibly remember this, I remember the first book I could ever 'read'- Scary, Scary Halloween. It was a kids book that I made my parents read to me so much that I memorized it and would 'read' (recite) it to everyone and anyone who would listen. Thus is my first memory of my love of books.
Getting involved in a story that sparks a multitude of memories, emotions, and moments where you forget to breathe does incredible things for me. It's amazing that I can get involved to a point where the entire world disappears and only the world between the pages is real. It makes me sad, sometimes, when I meet a person and discover that she or he doesn't enjoy reading. I wonder how and why she or he has been denied this pleasure that all who are fortunate enough to be literate should be granted. I understand that life is busy, that television is easier, that some books may be boring at certain times. But the right one is out there, just waiting to be discovered by you.
Besides a beautifully complex story filled with multi-layered intrigue (oh dear my inner book-reviewer is coming out), there were several lines in this book that really resonated with my deep passion for books. On page 8, it says (in the translated version that I have) "few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart." (Or HER heart!) That first book has found its way into my heart through many different novels, many different stories that always speak of magic and mythology and love and nature. The same sort of stories always call to me, speak to my imagination and fill me with a wonder and inspiration that I will dedicate my life to encouraging and cultivating, even when the world tells me I am silly. Find the stories that inspire you and seek them out with an open heart.
Another quote at the very end of the book, on page 484: "[A character] says that the art of reading is slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day."
Everything about this rang so true with me. I fear the death of reading, the slow, tortured funeral procession of great literature. I hope for a revival of the joy of reading and storytelling, the reawakening of the imagination and the wonderfulness that is out there in the realities we have yet to create. Don't let this beauty die out; close your eyes and remember a feeling, a moment, a story, a dream that filled your entire heart and mind. Hold on to that feeling and return to it as often as possible. Keep your imagination alive and thriving.
When you do find a story that speaks to you, remember that it only shows us what we already are, the parts of us that we accept and those that we hide from. Don't shy away from it. Read a book that makes you laugh out loud or causes tears to spill from your eyes. Do it in public. Be moved.
Things have improved since my day of doing nothing- it stopped raining long enough so that I was able to play in a great game of ultimate on Wednesday and do a marathon workout/errands/grocery trip yesterday. Of course, it poured all day today and is still pouring, but I had a fantastic day.
One thing I'm starting to understand is how to enjoy not having to wake up at 7 am every day just to 'fit it all in'. While I enjoy waking up early, and I think it's a good idea to keep at least somewhat regular hours, there are few things more satisfying that waking up early, stretching in bed, and then letting the sound of the rain gently lull me back into sleep.
I may have also watched the entire second season of Weeds and eaten an entire pint of chocolate peanut butter 'ice cream' while laying in bed today. (The 'ice cream' is made from coconut milk- my roommate says it's weird but since it's been awhile since I've eaten dairy, it tasted great to me! Highly recommended.)
At first, I felt badly about myself for laying around all day and eating so much of a delicious treat, but then I realized that I deserved to have some time like that in my life. That is part of what the color revolution is all about- living the most fantastic life possible because you deserve it. Instead of falling prey to societal and cultural ideas of productivity and acceptable foods to eat, everybody deserves a 'free day' every once in awhile. Do what you will with it!
I assumed that being done with final exams for the year and not having a whole lot to do this summer would finally bring me the time to relax, sleep normally, eat right, and do all of the things I have been wanting to do for awhile, stress free.
So far I have watched a lot of television on the internet, slept in until 2 pm (I can't remember the last time this happened), and all but ate my weight in peanut butter. All of these are signals that I am mega stressed out!
Apparently it is possible for me to be equally stressed out by having too much time on my hands as when I have too much to do and no time to do it. I don't know if our culture has just conditioned me to be in a constant state of stress, but I really need to find a way around this.
Usually I exercise when I'm stressed, but alas, as I was about to step out the door to go for a run it immediately started to downpour and I'm just not that hardcore about running. And of course I am kicking myself because when I briefly woke up at 8 am it was beautiful out, but instead of taking advantage of that situation I went back to bed for six hours.
Since I am apparently so stressed out that I am paralyzed to do anything at all except endlessly check facebook and eat peanut butter out of the jar (does anybody else do that or is it just me..?), I realized I need a new tactic for de-stressing. I know that showering/bathing works for some, yoga/meditation for others, cleaning yet for different people, but I know that before any of those work for me I need to actually delineate why I am stressed out.
So many of us are in such a constant state of stress that it is crucial to be able to take a step back from it and figure out what exactly it is that is causing all of this stress. What I have done before, and is my suggestion to you, is to grab a notebook/legal pad/piece of blank paper and write in big bold letters at the top "Why I'm Stressed". (Underline it. It will make you feel better already.)
Once you've done that, write down every possible thing that comes to mind until you have nothing left to write. It doesn't matter what it is, whether from the past, present, or future. Hopefully you will get the same sense of relief that I do when I do this little exercise.
A little excerpt from the list that I just made:
Why I'm Stressed:
- I don't know what to do with myself now that I don't have a job, school or responsibilities
- My part time graphic design work isn't going to pay my rent. How am I going to afford living for the next few months?
- I'm afraid I'm not going to stick to my half marathon training schedule. I already let rain stop me. Why did I procrastinate this morning?
- My room is a mess. Need to clean it. Was going to after I worked out. Now that isn't happening. I don't know what to do with my clutter.
This is a great thing to do, too, if you are at work because it gives you a timeout to refocus your energy and put a pause on the worrying. One of the biggest things that I think leads to stress is that so many of us feel that we have to always be doing something and that we have to do it all on our own.
I'm still staring at the monstrous piles on my bedroom floor and still watching the torrential rains outside while sitting on my bed in my workout clothes, knowing that the rain isn't going to stop before my guitar lessons tonight which poses a whole new set of problems. But I'm not going to worry about it right now. If anything comes up I'll add it to my list.
Another thing is that once you have a list, you can look at it and decide what is within your realm of choice and what isn't. Clearly I can't affect the weather, so I am not going to worry about it- I will run during my next rest day. I can work on cleaning my room. That is within my control. By being able to sort out what is under my control and what isn't, I will know what steps to take next, which is a huge help in getting rid of that stress.
The last thing (I know this is long) is to accept stress as part of our lives. While it is a good idea to cut down as much as possible, don't waste all of your energy trying to get rid of it! If possible, enjoy stressful situations by knowing that you have the capacity to get through them. I think I just decided that before I clean my room I'm going to go play in the rain. May as well make the best of this situation!
This is not the post I would have liked to officially started out with for this blog, but my weekend really made me think about how much the choices we make affect everything in our lives. It also made me realize that we will always have to make these choices out of an infinite number of possibilities, and while one choice may have led to something very different than another, it would not have been the better choice or the worse choice; it just would not have been the same choice.
I played in an ultimate frisbee tournament this weekend under unusual circumstances. I won't go into detail, but the team I played with was one of two teams at the tournament from the college my ex-boyfriend goes to, and not only do I know a lot of people on the team from when I was dating him, but it was the first time I had seen him in two years.
We went to very different schools to get our educations. I go to DePaul, in the middle of Chicago, which is in part a liberal arts college and in part a technical/business school. School spirit isn't really a cohesive thing, and my friends are scattered all over Chicago. I don't live on campus and am generally only there for classes, going to the gym, and frisbee practice. He just graduated from a small, liberal arts college in a small town in Iowa where the school is your whole world and there are a lot more opportunities to get involved within the school and there is a much bigger spirit of solidarity. Chances are you also know most people there, whereas at DePaul I know very few in comparison to how many go there.
Hanging out with this group of people from this school for the weekend brought me back to thoughts I have had many times before, 'What if?' thoughts such as, 'What if I had applied to more schools?' or 'What if I had known then what I do now? Would I do it all over again the same way?' Or, more specifically to this situation, 'What if I had gone to the same college as my boyfriend? Where would we be now?' This last one is more because he has been dating someone for almost 2.5 years now and they are clearly headed for marriage. This is totally crazy to me and I will talk about that in a different post, but it's very strange to think that that could have been me. With him or with my more recent ex-boyfriend. And then I think about how maybe I wouldn't find that so crazy if I had made any one different choice in my life and what it comes down to is that it is futile to reflect on the 'what if's' because they are infinite in number.
Hindsight is an interesting perspective but a poor way to judge the decisions you have made in the past, because without those decisions, you can't know if you would be the same person judging in the same way.
There will always be something left undone because there are endless possibilities.
It is rare for me that periods of my past come back and replay themselves so vividly to me as they did this weekend, but I am happy that it happened because it helped me to understand something about comparisons, time, and growing up:
Different is not better or worse, it is just different.
This is a hard concept for me to grasp, but this weekend was a great example. I was able to make a comparison and understand the duality of the decision I had made four years ago to attend a college in a city. While I may be missing out a bit on that sense of community and opportunity to get involved with more things I enjoy more easily, I also have never felt trapped in too small of an area with not enough new faces or goings on. I won't have belonged to a school that prides itself on being nerdy and unique but I have had the opportunity to really live, work, and exist within the city of Chicago. For comparison sake lets say that I may have stayed in love with my high school boyfriend and played with him on a very established ultimate team, but then I wouldn't have had the opportunity to fall in (and out again) of love with someone very different from him and from myself, or the experience of starting the women's team at DePaul.
Neither one decision would have been better than the other. There were advantages and disadvantages to both, but it is impossible to truly imagine my life now without the experiences of the past three years.
I know that I would have been happy either way, and in the end I have no other choice but to be
glad of the decision that I made, because I am happy with who I am now. I've learned that I must accept and embrace all that I have done in the past and all that I am doing right now, and that instead of spending any time focusing on all of the decisions I could have made, I will use my time exploring all of the options still ahead of me with the knowledge that even if something is different, that doesn't make it a better or worse idea. It's just different.
- We will always have choices to make that will affect the rest of our lives.
- 'What if' thoughts waste time and energy; they are infinite in number and what's done is done. With the ways our minds work, the only way to look is forward.
- Understanding the duality of a decision is a big step in learning to accept difference withouth endless comparison. Knowing that there are advantages and disadvantages to any decision and being okay with that is key in living a full life without regret.
- We must accept and love every part of our self and decisions we have made up to this point, even ones we are less than happy about.
- Quit making comparisons between yourself and others, or between decisions you made and could have made. There is no such thing as better or worse. Just different.
I have been talking about creating this blog for awhile, and strangely (or perhaps not so strangely) the main thing that was stopping me was coming up with a good name. I don't know if this is a good one, but it seems fitting to me, as the purpose of this blog will be devoted to ways in which I try to live my life in full color every single moment.
The name also comes from the subtitle of a book I just wrote for design class called The Tie-Dye Manifesto: A Guide to the Color Revolution. Sample spreads to be posted soon.
Now that I have gone for it, here is what will be coming soon:
- A better, customized layout
- Principles of the color revolution
- Ways in which you can live your full life in color, too!