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The Comfort of the Familiar

I know I’m not alone in saying my productivity has been… less than ideal as Covid-19 changes the face of the landscape of our lives all over the world. Hell, this blog was started with the intention of posting it in March as per my goal of one blog per month. Obviously, this was not posted, or even finished, in March. Whoops?

I’m just struggling right now: struggling with motivation, with feeling like a failure, struggling to find the words to explain how I’m feeling, or with making words at all, frankly. I saw my therapist for the second time yesterday – finally getting off my ass and finding a therapist is one of the few successes I’ve managed recently, though even that feels like a failure somehow too – and she talked about how we’re all collectively going through trauma right now, that we’re grieving as a community on an unprecedented scale.

“You should own that,” she said, “and name it as such when you feel like you aren’t doing enough. Grieving is doing something. Processing your emotions is doing something. Even if it feels like you aren’t doing anything at all, your mind and body and emotions are working in the background just keeping you afloat.”

That made me feel … well something, which I suppose is better than feeling nothing? (Remember that whole “struggling to find the words to explain how I’m feeling” thing? Yeah consider that in full effect here.) It also made me look at those things that are feeling unproductive and framing them a little differently.

The biggie I’ve noticed is that while I’m reading – and reading much more than usual, seriously I’m 8 books ahead of my Goodreads goal for the year which never happens – I’m only reading books I’ve read before. My monstrous physical book TBR, which I’d hoped to make some major progress on while working from home with all of my normal “commute” time open for me to dive into books, is still just as massive as it was at the start of things. I keep thinking I’ll reach for a new book, or even start one, and then inevitably set it aside a few chapters in and go back to my shelves for one of my old favorites, one I’ve read dozens and dozens of times.

New stories, I’ve realized, feel like effort to me. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I need to pay attention to what I read, to really immerse myself in the store to experience it as it goes along.

I don’t have that kind of focus in me right now. Not left over after work and the news and work and this strange system where I “leave” work but still am home – in the same place where all of that job stress has been happening. It’s exhausting, I’m realizing, mentally, physically, and emotionally, and at the end of the day, I just don’t have the energy I usually do to dive into new books.

It’s bumming me out, I won’t lie.

However, reading my old favorites again? Letting characters and plots and worlds I know almost as well as this one sink over me? That feels like it takes no effort at all. It’s comforting and almost energizing. I can rest with the familiar stories, and that rest is something I need desperately lately. Ilona Andrews, Tamora Pierce, Robin McKinley: they’re all authors whose stories I love and find myself drawn to over and over again, and I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that I’m drawn to them now. I’m sure over the next few weeks (months, years?) I’ll be drawn back to them again and again, along with the other faves on my shelves that I haven’t reached for quite yet. It’s only a matter of time, I think. Part of me wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up reading most of my previously read shelves over the course of this without reading a single new book.

That wouldn’t be ideal, of course, and I would like to make progress on my TBR as I said. But maybe I can alternate between new and old, capturing that comfort of the familiar and holding it close to help energize me into another new world, new story.

It’s a hope. I hope too that I’ll be gentle to myself whatever I ended up (doing, achieving, trying) reading.

I hope you’re gentle with yourselves too.

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