I feel like I've forgotten who I am these past few months. I love reading but haven't let myself do it for quite some time out of sheer guilt that I should be doing something else...something productive. We have a house now, and there are endless projects that I could work on to make it our home. I'm happily married, and there is always something that I could be doing for my husband. I work full-time and am gone from home a lot, so my time spent here is precious to me. Sometimes it can simply be difficult to allow myself the pleasure of turning the pages of a good book. For many reasons, I've not really allowed myself "joy reading" for a while. I've got too much to do to justify sitting down and doing one of the things I truly love.
The past few months have been a real struggle for me. I feel self-absorbed, like all I ever think about is which couch to save money for our living room. Or which picture should be hung where. I haven't taken the time to really reach out to others around me. I've become so worried about what goes into the house that I've made it harder for it to be a home. I don't feel like I've been a very good friend or neighbor or daughter or sister or wife. I haven't been the one reaching out to others around me who probably need the love and presence that I could easily provide. Without a better way to describe it...I've become lost.
Noticing these changes in me, and not liking them one bit, I finally gave in and allowed myself to read a book. I was hoping doing something that has always brought me such happiness would remind me of who I could be. The book I chose couldn't have been better for my "getting-back-into-it" reading. My sister-in-law let me borrow it, and I can't believe how long it has taken me to read the 451 pages...almost two weeks. Have I really gotten out of the habit of reading that much? I could usually do something like that in four days! Needless to say, I loved becoming a reader again. I loved picking up the book instead of doing something electronic or mindless.
The book of discussion is The Help, Kathryn Stockett's first novel, and a true gem. She wrote about her experience growing up in a white family in Mississippi in the early 1960s. Everyone had black maids back then, but she brought to light, through well-written fiction, the situations these women faced as they worked to raise the children and keep the homes of women who degraded them constantly.
Perhaps I grew up in a sheltered location, but I am still shocked when I learn about situations involving racism. It blows my mind to think it could ever exist, let alone be so cruel and abusive. With knowledge that it still goes on today, it was so enlightening to read about how, just fifty years ago, some people didn't think other people were people. I read about their experiences and their interactions and their unwritten laws that had to be followed in the deep South during that time. And I just kept thinking about the stupidity that was being shown. We are so loved, no matter what we look like, where we live, or how many pieces of serving silver we've had to polish that day.
Reading this book has made me want to be nicer...waving to people while I drive and striking up conversations with people as I wait in line at the bank. This behavior isn't something new. I've always "bothered" people when I am in crowded public places. I've always strived to make every situation personal by smiling at those I meet. But I feel like my perspective has changed...I want to know about them, and not just have them feel welcome because I'm being friendly. I want to knock on doors of those who live close to me and introduce myself. With a plate of cookies, of course. I want to help the stranger lift something into an elusive shopping cart, and then just be happy that I helped without needing anything in return. I want to be there for others, and stop being there for me.
The timing comes into play that we've just begun a new year. It's a great time to start fresh and feel renewed. Now is my chance to be a better person. A better woman. A better friend. The Help was a wonderful read that has only positively made me change my way of thinking. I want to do better at living because of what was held in between the front and back covers of this book. I recommend reading it to see how it impacts you.