Monday, February 15, 2010

TAKING REFUGE IN BOOKS

This sultry, risque lady is my daughter's profile "photo" on Facebook. I do believe the part about curling up with a good book for a well-rounded education (could I make a pun and say "broad" education? Sorry, Kristen!), but I have never curled up with a bad librarian. Well, I guess I could admit that I curled up with a librarian, at least when she was a little girl, because my daughter is a librarian. But then again, she is not a bad librarian. She is a very good librarian. She is the director of serials and fast-track processing in the library department at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

I have been a bad blogger, and bad blogging friend, since the beginning of the year. Rather than blogging and commenting, I have been reading. I have read 17 books since the beginning of the year, and have reviewed all but two on my book blog, "Julie's Bookshelf". (http://www.juliesbookshelf.blogspot.com/).

The latest book I reviewed was "Acedia: Monks, Marriage and Me" by Kathleen Norris. In my review, I printed this quote from the book:

"We may look to physicians or therapists, when our lives go off track, or we may pray the Psalms, or take refuge in a favorite novel. But in a sense we are all seeking the same thing. We want to prepare a good soil where grace can grow; we want to regard the cracks and fissures in ourselves with fresh eyes, so that they may be revealed not merely as the cause or the symptom of our misery but also as places where the light of promise shines through."


~ "Acedia and Me", Kathleen Norris

When my life has gone off track in the past I have looked to both physicians and therapists, and they have responded, first with the little pill called Prozac prescribed by my GP, then with Celexa prescribed by a psychiatrist, plus counseling provided by a social worker and light box therapy to combat my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). And all have helped in the past.

But now, I have no insurance, which means that I continue with the Celexa on a maintenance schedule, thankfully at a relatively low cost. I had a physician's med check a couple of months ago, but there are no more visits with psychiatrists or social workers.

I wish that praying the Psalms helped me, as it does with "Acedia and Me" author Kathleen Norris. But while I do consider myself a spiritual being I suffered a crisis of faith a couple of years ago and now am not quite sure how to categorize myself along the spectrum of faith and religion. But even so, in previous times my prayers always consisted of begging: "God, please GIVE ME . . . "

Although I did not consciously think of it that way until reading "Acedia and Me", perhaps what I have been doing since the New Year is "taking refuge in a novel" (or non-fiction reading).

This year, at least, I do not know any other way to proceed. To live with SAD in any year is to be bound up in a cocoon not of one's making. As a newspaper reporter in the 1990s, I well remember lifestyle guru Faith Popcorn's concept of cocooning - a return to home and hearth.

With most cocoons, one expects for the occupant to eventually burst forth into vibrant spring as a butterfly. But this year, the cocoon binds me up. It chokes me and threatens the very essence of my life.

I have been unemployed for eight months. The onset of winter this year signaled not only the sadness inherent in the term SAD, but also the panic of ever being employed again at the ripe old age of 60.

In the many, many days since I last had a meaningful job, I have done all the things I ever wanted to do given some time off. I have cleaned, and sorted, and thrown away. I can no longer garden. Art is lost to me. TV is indeed that "vast wasteland". What writing I have done is confined to Blogger. I have discovered the ennui of unoccupied days, and the despair of anything ever being "right" or "normal" again.

So now I fill the void with books, and by writing about them, I hope to leave some sort of mark - the wild animal's spoor, as it were - that I did exist in this vast arboreal forest in the dead time, the dead season; that there was indeed life inside the cambrium if not in the bark.

All I can hope is that grace has been growing in me all these days, and that it will come to fruition with the return of the light. I am trying mightily to "prepare a good soil where grace can grow".

8 comments:

Colleen said...

I for one, do not think 'grace' has ever left you. You are a dear soul to many many of your readers and while there is nothing wrong with cocooning or seeking refuge in a book, please know you HAVE impacted many lives right here and more that are not blogging..take care my friend and know that yes, spring will come and with it renewed life..for all of us :-)

AutumnLeaves said...

Winter is a time for cocooning, Julie. It is a great time to immerse ourselves in books. I wish I could think of a way to cheer you, though I suspect mere words just won't do the trick. Where I work, there are many people older than you employed within. (Walmart) They seem to enjoy their job for the social aspects. A couple are into their 80's and spend quite a bit of time cracking wise. Despite my degree, I am thankful to have this job now. It brings in some needed additional income and it gets me off my butt and out of the house. I've never been above any sort of work (not that I am saying you are, but at first it rather rankled that my degree sits and gathers dust).

Carmen said...

you are doing good, i read you in my bloglines as soon as you post.
please don't worry too much
only a little ;-)
now you make me feel like a bad blogger too
i haven't visited blogs either, or commenting and feel bad at times but i guess is part of life, sometimes we can sometimes we can not.
now, the most important is to take care of yourself, your health mainly.
try to keep your spirits up, please?
love and a big hug too

gemma said...

You are charming, creative and beautiful. Qualities of the 3 graces combined. I do like the thought of having more grace grow in a good soil
and especially like the idea of light shining through our cracks & imperfections. I am sad that you are sad. Feel better soon.
I'm kind of a broad library clerk.
:-)

Shopgirl said...

Winter depression is very common. And in these days of fading jobs, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
This too will pass, and soon you will find what you need. Reading is so good, it takes you places, and you live within the pages. One page at a time...it is okay to be
still in winter. Spring is coming...your friends in blogland love all that you are and do.
Your, Mary

Janet said...

You are a gifted, talented, wonderful person....and you're having a tough time of it during the winter months. But the sun will come out again and you will feel better. Cocooning is perfectly natural during dark winter days so enjoy it for what it is. And read to your heart's content. I have always found refuge in books. They can transport me to another place and time. And keep writing wonderful posts on your blog. Or better yet, why not think about writing a book!!!!

Charli and me said...

Dear Julie, I am so sorry you have been going through a difficult time. Your right about reading being a kind of refuge. It works for me. When I feel sad or overwhelmed I read. When I am feeling blue another thing I do is reach out to others. I will call up a friend and invite them to go for lunch or a movie. Most movie theaters have cut rates at certain times. Here I can get in for four dollars. Have you thought about a book club? You are so inteligent you might like it. I love mine and most of the libraries have them. In any case, I hope you are feeling better soon. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

lila said...

I love your writing and blogging!
You don't need a label to catagorize your deep spirituality, though I know about those "crises" of faith!
I spent 90% of today reading...my day off from my job...I don't get around to blogs to read an comment as much as I would like...so I'm always falling behind on what you are doing...I hope you do find time with nature and some sunshine! BTW, you are artistic too...I have pages you did in a Round Robin which I cherish!