A few days ago my sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday. And, after some consideration, I was able to give her an idea.
But when she first asked, the immediate thought that came into my head was this:
I want an hour to myself to read a book.
It was the same thing I’d said to my counsellor on the phone during our most recent session, where I’d outlined how all four of my parents need so much right now and how my sisters and I are stretched to our breaking points trying to help. How my sisters are, again, taking turns supporting my mother as she cares for my stepfather at home, and how I am, again, incapable of doing more than offering moral support as my children require that I put them first, and you can’t bring a five year old into a house where someone is dying in the living room and wants (understandably) peace and quiet.
Reading is my self-care.
It always has been. Even when I’ve been at my busiest with teaching or the PhD I’ve been able to scrape some time here and there for a book.
Not much time, this year, but some.
P. is less than a week out from being two months old.
Since she was born, I have read exactly ONE book. I read it while nursing her during the week my mother was here at the end of June, because my mother took charge of E.
I am partway through another, which I have been reading while pumping after P.’s first feed of the day.
Fifteen minute stretches.
That’s all the time I’ve been getting.
When E. was this tiny, I read books while he napped as I paced around the living room with him strapped to my chest in a carrier. I remember vividly that George R. R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons was released that spring, as well as the paperback version of Guy Gavriel Kay’s Under Heaven.
E.’s infancy was different. I didn’t have an older child who wants and needs my attention when the baby is sleeping. I wasn’t teaching a course that demands every spare second I can muster. I can rationalize reading while pumping because I don’t have both hands free to work on the computer, so I can’t do anything with the course, and both children are sleeping.
I still miss my books.
I own every book Guy Gavriel Kay has written. He is one of my most beloved authors and I reread his books frequently (some of them every year).
His next book, River of Stars, was released in 2013, and I bought it and saved it to read when I was overseas in the UK by myself for those first two weeks. I stayed up too late one night to finish it because I knew I didn’t have a toddler who would wake me up early the next morning.
The book I’m currently reading in fifteen minutes stretches is his latest, Children of Earth and Sky.
I did not buy it, as I prefer to have his books in paperback so they take up less room on the shelf. Instead, I put it on hold at the library and waited for months for it to be my turn.
It will be due back before I can get it finished.
For my birthday, Q. gave me three things:
- The newest Harry Potter book
- A gift certificate to a bakery in our neighbourhood which has a few tables at which one can sit and drink tea and eat cake
- The promise to take P. for a morning or an afternoon every couple of weeks in the fall, when E. is in school, so that I will actually have time to go and sit in the bakery and drink tea and eat cake and read my book.
He gave me time.
Without me asking, without me saying a word, he knew exactly what I most needed.
I love him so much.