Sharan is in the throes of writing a children’s book, so she’s researching other children’s books, and on this trip, I gathered, looking at some old favorites. She mentioned Charlotte’s Web, which took me on a (another) brief mental holiday. I traveled clear back to 1970, to a winter Sunday when I was in first grade. That day, I checked myself into the pink sheets of my bed for the whole day and read Charlotte’s Web cover to cover. I picked it up after breakfast for what I thought would be a chapter or two, and for the very first time, for a long book like that at least, I couldn’t put it down. I had a vice grip on it that would not release until I was utterly devastated the end when [GREAT BIG SPOILER ALERT] Charlotte dies at the fair. And even then, I still loved the book and would have begun reading all over again at the first page, had it not been time for dinner. We all know I have never been one to miss a meal. Besides, my next book, The Trumpet of the Swan, awaited me, so I knew it was time to move on.
Since I was four I have been a good, fast reader. Books, as they say, are my friends. Or they have been, until I got sick. As those aneurysms started growing—long before I knew they were there—it seems like someone poured rubber cement in my brain. So the thoughts are a bit sticky. The reading device has become slow, glue-y. My memory? Oh just forget it. I don’t mean to be funny. When the aneurysm ruptured and I had all the anesthesia—twice—well, the rubber cement turned into, I don’t know what, tar, maybe. Thought processes drag along like mud.
However, because they are plodingly slow, I still have something called metacognition. I can still think about what I am thinking about and learning. In other words, I still have my smarts about me. Metacognition might be compared to a ladder that I can use to climb my way out of the goop, even if it is slowly. That’s the plan, anyway.
That means I can think about how little I can read—but, I have found, I am starting to be able to think more about what I have read. Metacognition is helping me build ladders up and around my thinking and memory problems. Slowly. Frustratingly. But it is working.
So many times I drew a picture for a student with learning disabilities and said, “This is your brain, and this is another learner’s brain. In his brain, learning makes a straight line from point A here to point B here. In your brain, if we start at point A, there may be too many mountains for the information to get to point B via a straight line, so your brain has to find different pathways. It will take longer for you to make the trip, maybe for a few months, maybe forever. But you CAN do it.
Hmmm….it never occurred to me that I might offer this pep talk to myself. In fact, let me register that I hate giving this pep talk to myself…except that it works.
Thus, I just signed up on Goodreads.com to read 20 books in 2012. That is laughable. Hah! Scott, in particular, will cackle at that number, and if it were only a lifetime ago, Carlos and I would have cackled evilly at the puny number that poor Heidi was reading, particularly since I have nothing but free time! But there it is…and I feel terribly stressed at the commitment: Holy shit. That’s almost two books a month. And I’ve also committed myself to three journal entries a week, two blog entries, and one art project, as well as one finished writing project a month. This is a LOT, people. Well, I guess you never know what you can do until you try, and even if you fail miserably, do it with style (I don’t mean this. I hate failure. I will die trying).
Today I did read probably around twenty pages of prose from the book Liz gave me for Christmas, The Cookbook Collector, (only one of about ten fantastic gifts, including, incidentally, a Cary Grant film box set, which I have yet to watch…any takers for a film fest?). But twenty pages is the far reaches of my ability to read at one sitting.
There are not words to describe the loss I feel about my ability to jam through a novel in two days, or even read a magazine in a single sitting–kind of like a death in the family. At the same time, how great is this? I’m on a reading marathon.
How much are you reading? What are you reading?