I rarely strike out on my own anymore. I generally choose to be with my husband, children or friends. About a week ago I found myself all alone in the car. I left the house planning to meet up with some friends for a movie. I met up with myself instead. As I drove I began asking myself what I REALLY wanted to do with this "me" time. Now that I was in the car I could go anywhere or do anything. I didn't want to go to the movie. I didn't want to go home. So, now what? I had a couple of hours where I could do anything I wanted and recharge my personal batteries. All of a sudden I remembered something I used to do regularly. Escape to Barnes & Noble. I would pick up an assortment of books on random subjects, hunker down in a soft leather armchair and skim through the pages.
So, on this particular night, as I found myself pulling into the Barnes & Noble parking lot, I wondered if it would hold the same magic it had in the past. I entered the doors and was surrounded by familiarity. I've always loved the music they play. It's rarely anything I own. I love the beauty of the books stacked neatly and artistically. I even like the smell. I wandered around looking at this and that. Picking up a book here and there. I’d run my fingers along the spines and flip through the pages. As I gathered books I began to remember "me." It was like getting reacquainted with a close friend. I began to remember who I am, my interests, my needs… my essence.
I looked at the journals. I used to always carry a small notebook or journal with me. I tried to pick out beautiful little journals that begged to be written in. I have a fun collection of these notebooks filled with thoughts, notes, impressions, quotes, love, fury, questions, and lists.
Where was my notebook? When had I laid it aside?
I gravitated toward some sections like organization, self-improvement, cooking, psychology, fashion, puzzles, IQ tests and humor. In the past I'd spent hours and hours in these sections. I was repelled by computer, business, crafts, and fiction. I stood there, in the middle of the store, clutching my stack of books, wondering why I had strayed from the books I love. I've been trying to read fiction but when I do venture into fiction I become too obsessed. I will read to the exclusion of everything else. I’m not disciplined enough to read a little at a time. Self-help books and the like are easier for me to take in bits here and there.
I began to remember more and more about myself as I read some of the familiar titles. "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway." Am I living too comfortably? Am I taking risks?
"You Mean I'm Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy" That book was revolutionary for me. I was diagnosed with ADD when I was 28. That book really helped me put the ADD into perspective.
There were so many old “friends” on the shelves. There was Sark! Oh Sark, where have you been? Sark, a favorite author, is very liberal and I don't agree with everything she writes. But, she was the one that inspired me to bravely strike out on my own as a single girl. To be a "Succulent, Wild Woman." I used to take myself to dinner, to movies, to the ballet, and on vacations. Yes. All by myself. I would dress up and go to fancy restaurants all by myself. I'd occupy myself with a book or, better yet, imagine up a back story of why a young girl like me was alone.
I was severely disappointed by the lack of cozy armchairs at this Barnes & Noble location. Didn't they know I was coming? This, of course, brought yet another epiphany. Why don't I have a chair at home? Okay I have lots of chairs. I have chairs for dining, for rocking and for computing. I have tall chairs and short chairs. I have wood chairs and upholstered chairs. Chairs. Chairs. Chairs. What I’m missing is a chair of refuge. I want a chair whose cushions are inviting and pillowy. I want a chair that is so comfortable that when life has me down I can retreat to it. When I lived with my roommate I had a time out chair. It was a bright orange folding chair, it was all I could afford. But, if I was having issues or just needed to be alone, I would go sit in my chair. I'd write, or read, or just sit. Why don't I have a chair? I am now on a hunt for the perfect chair. Here are a few inspirations.
This brings me to yet another question. Why oh why have I neglected my writing? I love to write. It helps me make sense of my life. It helps me deal with emotion. It gives me permission to forget. What I mean is that once I write a list of things to do then I don't have to remember the list and continually mull it over in my head. It's the same with emotion. Once I have addressed an emotion and written it out on paper it brings peace. If it was a happy emotion then I have peace because I don't have to try to remember all the details. It is there for me to read and remember at any time. If it is a "negative" emotion then writing it tempers it. As I write the pain and anger flow onto the paper. As I write I begin to analyze my feelings. "Why am I feeling this way? How could I have handled the situation better? What do I want to say or do now?" It's like personal therapy. So, I say again, why haven't I been writing? Why is my journal covered in dust and my blog neglected?
On a lark, I picked up a book called The Passion Test. I expected it to contain some sort of quiz that would pinpoint my life’s purpose in 150 multiple choice questions. I like to take these tests and see how accurate they are. It turns out this was deeper than that. So, I didn’t spend much time with it. But, as I perused it’s pages I ran across a simple question. It’s a question that I am excited to explore. “Where do you want to be in 5 years?” Simple. Yes. But, really. Where DO I want to be? Not “where will my family be.” In 5 years I will be 40. I will have a 7 year old daughter and a 5 year old son and possibly another child. I expect that I will be a stay at home mom. I will have been married for 10 years. But what do I want? What do I want my kids to see me doing? What personal goals do I have? The sky is the limit. If I want to be in shape then I need to start working on it. Do I want to finish my schooling? Probably not in the next 5 years. Do I want to become a freelance writer? A photographer? A street performer? Hmmm, interesting. Do I want to learn to sew better? Organize better? See the world? Go on a cruise? Where do I want to be spiritually? ???
I found myself venturing into new types of books this trip. I picked up a few children's books, parenting books and relationship books. I used to read relationship books like, "The Rules" or "He's Just Not That Into You." Now the books are how to make your marriage better. Then, of course, there are parenting books to explore. So much to read. So much to do. So little time.
I sat and pondered and read and marinated in wonder. How had I forgotten this retreat? It has been 5 years. 5 great years. I haven't been spending time at my local Barnes & Noble because I wanted to be with my husband and children. But, as closing time arrived and I was forced to leave the store I realized that I found myself in those stacks of books. My family needs me to visit Barnes & Noble once in a while to help me be a better me.