Being exhausted, achy, and miserable yesterday, I spent nearly all day lying in bed, reading (and finishing) NORTH & SOUTH by Elizabeth Gaskell.
I just couldn’t convince myself to get out of bed for longer than a meal. Part of that was because I was miserable and achy, and part of that was because I’d totally fallen into the mid-19th century England that Gaskell described. Fancy clothing, proper manners, class distinctions, people dying right and left. Cotton mills, and strikes, and a passionate, scowly man who, despite being part of the upper-crust of his city, wasn’t quite a gentleman—not by London standards. I was sucked into it, I had trouble imagining what in my real world could possibly be more important or more interesting than Margaret moving to a strange new town, than Thornton and his mill, or—I’ll be honest—whether Margaret & Thornton could manage to both like each other at the same time.
I felt lazy. I felt like I was stealing time from the things I need to do–chores, keeping up with people, contributing to feeding my significant other and myself, watering my poor plants—and from the things I want to do—continuing projects I don’t have time for during the week, working on that story I’m in love with writing, writing blog posts because I like telling the world what it’s like to be me. Etc.
But I LOVE to read. I get absorbed into other worlds, other people’s lives. I love it so much that I’ve taken up writing my own stories, because they don’t exist for me to read yet and I want to know what happens. I love watching movies and TV, but I love books in this whole other way. It’s immersive, not just visual and aural, but a truly engaging book will give me a whole-body experience. I feel emotions and believe opinions that aren’t my own, because the characters feel and believe those things. When I read for an hour at a time, it’s a nice pastime. But reading a book all day—that feels like living the story.
That has its risks, too, of course. When a story becomes more important than real life, is something out of balance*? Is it escapism? Or is it just truly enjoying an activity that isn’t bad for my health?
I don’t know. But aside from the guilt, I liked spending all day reading. And I felt less exhausted, achy, and miserable. So it must be OK, right?
* Don’t they write creepy stories about books taking over a person’s life, a character sucking out the reader’s soul and living in her body? Hmm…