Reading in a time of stress

four books

I’ve been thinking about stress, and how we all respond to it so differently. This time of pandemic is highlighting some of those differences.

I have friends, for example, who need to shut down, taking to their beds to block out the noise and pressure. I have other friends who channel their nervous energies into creating art projects or music or tasty treats. (The latter generously populate their social media feeds with images proving their productivity and setting the rest of us to salivating.) You know who you are. Be warned: when this is all over, I’m coming over for coffee and something delicious! 

Me? I get busy, pouring myself into work, making meals, taking walks, reaching out to friends and family. But besides that? I read.

At first my reading was all coronavirus, all the time.

But you can only do that for so long before you start to realize that maybe one reason you’re not sleeping is because your diet of TOO MUCH NEWS is just proving to be too much. For me, my all news diet lasted about a week. Then I turned to listening to online lectures (first a series about the Black Death, and then a series about Augustine of Hippo’s City of God, (which he wrote following the sack of Rome).

And then – when I’d exhausted those uplifting subjects – I turned to reading books.

The first book I picked up had been at the bottom of the pile on my nightstand for a couple of months. Given to me by my mom, Tuesdays with Morrie (by Mitch Albom) was just what I needed. It’s a gentle story that proved to be the perfect antidote to anxiety. And for a few days, the minutes that I spent each bedtime with Mitch, and his mentor Morrie, offered me the welcome chance to reflect deeply on what it means to be human, to live well and to die well, all in ways that brought comfort and courage.

I’m also reading Fortitude (by Hugh Walpole) aloud with my husband. This is a novel we read to each other in the first year of our marriage, and then again after about 20 years. We’ve now been married almost 35 years, and while I remembered nothing about the book, it was the title that appealed and caused us to pick it up again. Who doesn’t need a little fortitude now? It begins with this thought, “Tisn’t life that matters! ‘Tis the courage you bring to it.”

My 87-year-old mother and I are reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (by C.S. Lewis) together, via FaceTime. Unable to visit in person, our daily FaceTime calls quickly devolved into:

“What’s new?”

“Not much, what’s new with you?” All while I stared at her forehead. She hasn’t quite gotten the hang of holding her iPad so that I can see her entire face. (My mom is not of the selfie generation – she looks at her screen to see my face, and clearly forgets to look at her own.)

But now we are keeping the company of Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy in Narnia – a first for my mom. I was introduced to the book in high school, and then years later, read it again to my children. My mom is loving it. I am too. And I’m relishing the chance to exercise my best witch’s voice.

The other book I’m enjoying is The Diary of a Russian Priest by Alexander Elchaninov, a book I picked up last fall while on a visit to St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary in New York as part of a writers’ workshop. “God created life. The devil defeated it through death. God repulsed the victory of death by Resurrection,” writes Elchaninov.

It’s an eclectic mix, these books, but as I consider the collection now, I see a common thread: each one touches on themes of living and dying, of courage, and of times of upheaval. So maybe I should not be surprised that they are nourishing my spirit.

How about you? What are you reading these days, and why?

 

 

2 thoughts on “Reading in a time of stress

  1. I loved thinking about what I’m reading and also what to read!

    I just discovered that Fortitude is available free on Kindle and have ordered it!

    I have almost finished Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard, and I love it so much that I am lingering over the final pages and sucking the absolute most juice out of them! It’s a book I will read again and again if I live long enough. I also was just nudged to take Thomas Kelly’s book, Testament of Devotion, off my bookshelf for a second read. My copy is highlighted and underlined, just packed with good thoughts. Kelly attended Pickering College in Newmarket, Ontario, where I used to live! I, too, am reading the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for the first time. Finally, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, by Fred Rogers.

    Most exciting news, my brand new, first-ever, prescription reading glasses arrived by mail this week. I cannot believe the difference they make when reading or working at the computer. I thank God for them every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Belinda – thank you for reading and sharing. I must order Renovation of the Heart – on your recommendation! I’ve enjoyed other books by Dallas Willard – he is a wonderful writer. I hope you enjoy Fortitude. I remember the first time that we read it – I bawled. Real tears. I loved it. The second time – no tears, and not quite the same reaction. It speaks to me of the truth that literature reaches us depending on who and where we are in life at a particular moment. I enjoyed thinking about the books that are speaking to me at this point in time and why they are doing so. Thank you for thinking with me! ❤

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