R I F

Remember when we were little and on Saturday mornings, between SchoolHouse Rock and the shows & cartoons we loved, there were commercials for RIF:Reading is Fundamental?  Well, reading never was ANYthing but fun to me, and it was with no doubt, a fundamental part of my life.  I loved, and still do, being lost in a book.  I loved to be transported through time and places and ‘meet’ new and interesting characters.  I loved to escape, and did.  I recall throughout my childhood that in between school, dance classes, and cheerleading, I was always involved with a book…even after I discovered boys, I STILL read every single night before bed.

Later in college, when I HAD to read for classes, I also still read for pleasure, and found it oddly stimulating that I could put down an enormous text book after hours of required reading and writing, and what was sometimes tedious work, but feel utterly joyful as I picked up whatever book was on my night table as I got comfortable under the covers.  My daughter loved being read to, and during my early college years when I took the necessary English literature and basic writing and language classes, her bedtime stories were my homework…if I could describe her expressions, and the excitement and anticipation in her little six-year-old goddess green eyes as she laid in her bed, and her body positively shivered with expectancy, when she waited to find out what Nora Helmer was -GOING TO DO- as we neared the end of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, or how she was practically paralyzed with fear in her bed while she realized, even at her tender age, that The Yellow Wallpaper was a serious short story narrative about an unnamed woman going totally and irreparably mad…

Some nights when I would turn out her light and then go into my room, I would wonder if reading to her these “too mature” books, and there were many, over a number of years,  was “too much” for a little kid, but we also read the entire Little House on the Prairie series and Harriet the Spy and fairy tale after fairy tale after fairy tale, so as she grew I sort of assumed I tempered the inappropriate subject matter with more age appropriate stories.  I now read to her children, not every night but at least a couple times a week at bedtime, whether I am babysitting them or not.  The funny thing is that my daughter was a very good reader, but she still loved to be read to, and I find that is the case with her children as well; the older one reads at a very advanced level, two grades ahead of her actual grade, but she loves to get into her comfy covers and curl up next to her sister, who now at seven reads too, and it’s like we go on a mind vacation together…right now the story we are reading involves a little Asian girl, a mountain where nothing grows, a man from the moon, and a dragon who can’t fly…after their shower, when they know it is going to be reading time, they have their teeth brushed, their hair combed, and are in their pajamas and in bed without any fuss or complaints, and in record time!!!  They WANT a story…and these hours of reading to them has rekindled a spark in me too…

A couple of years ago I briefly dated a man who could not believe, one, that I did not have cable, and two, that I did not have a television in my bedroom, so because we spent a lot of time together over several months, I proceeded to get both, but with that choice came a terrible consequence…I stopped reading at bed time most of the time.  I would start a book, or read a chapter here and there, but my voracious reading habit fell away and it’s only been recently that I have discovered that my ability to sleep deeply and soundly through the night was directly related to reading.  I found over the last years my sleep patterns disturbed and my circadian rhythm wonky, and tried NyQuil ZZZzzz, tried proper sleeping pills, tried Tylenol PM, tried lavender sachets, and aromatherapy oil by my bed, but nothing worked perfectly or consistently, every time…sure, some nights I would have a restful and revitalizing sleep but those were interspersed with tossing and turning and waking up at ridiculously odd hours of the late late night, or early early morning, and being unable to fall back to sleep.

BUT…a couple weeks ago I determined after careful consideration, and seriously contemplating my present tense, that the primary thing I really missed about my old habits was reading at bed time.  I remembered the term RIF, Reading is Fundamental, and I thought to myself, “why yes, yes it is.”  …insert a different boyfriend, or insert other night habits like crocheting, or activities like going out on dates,  insert wine or minus sweets…too many variables made it difficult to pinpoint WHAT was wrong with my sleep, but I knew the one constant I always had before, was a book at bedtime…so I looked at the eight books on my night table, all with a bookmark and all read to a degree, but not one from cover to cover, and I decided THIS was a change I could easily make in my life, and so I did.  I re-read The Alchemist in about 5 nights and I am almost finished with Augusten Burroughs’  new book at night three…My mind still gets ahead of me sometimes:  I worry over all sorts of things…myself, my daughter, my sister, my aging parents, my boyfriend, my grandchildren, my job, my credit, my wallet, my house, my future…BUT when I am in my super soft flannel sheets, on my gloriously fluffy down pillows, under my warm Pendleton wool blanket, tucked into my totally overpriced but whiter than white Matelasse coverlet, and I feel the book in my hands, and smell the texture of the paper, and my glasses are off and I can see those words and letters in front of my eyes, I feel every worry, every thought, every concern just dissipate into the atmosphere…and I feel, as soon as I start to read, the sensation of rest, and deep sleep set in, and I disappear into the pages…

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