Thursday, 20 December 2012

Literature as Therapy

I have been reading 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett, and am finding it very hard to put down.  I liked 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison, and have read another book this year on the same subject - slavery or the period just post-slavery in the deep South - which was also brilliant, although I can't think of the name of it just now.  I will amend this post to include it when I remember.

I usually only have the time (or allow myself to have the time) to read much fiction when I am feeling under the weather.  This time though, I am not poorly - but the kids have been, all of them in turn.  It has been exhausting - emotionally as much as anything else.  I find it so hard when they are ill, and this has been quite a bad virus.  They've had very high temperatures, coughs and colds, aches and pains, been off their food...  Flu symptoms really, but thank goodness it has not been as long lived as proper flu.  I feel like it has been going on for ever, but the first one to get ill was last Wednesday, and all four were finally back at school this morning.  Fingers crossed, we are more or less through it now. 

Anyway, yesterday I was starting to feel quite drained.  I did some Christmas shopping at the weekend, anticipating being stuck indoors again this week.  And I knew Paul could always buy the food and gifts we needed, or I could go out in the evenings when he got home from work, so I wasn't panicking too much about the festive stuff.  But I haven't been able to leave the house much, even to walk the dog, and I think that the lack of exercise, the disturbed nights and the stress of it all was starting to get to me.  I needed some sort of therapy.

So I picked up my book group book of this month - The Help - and got stuck in.  It was no effort of course, as it never is with the best books.  This one is a page turner - and it was such a relief to be immersed in another world, one that doesn't involve Nurofen or Calpol or cool flannels or hot water bottles..  Not that the alternative world of black people in 1960s Mississippi was any easier - but goodness, it made me feel grateful for what I have, and for what I don't have to put up with.

I am half way through the book already, which is a lot of reading for me.  I read for at least three hours most days, but almost all of that is on the net - I even read the newspapers on the net now, except at the weekend when I treat myself to paper copies.  Apart from the newspapers I mostly read about mental health - whatever is on Mad in America, and other blogs as and when I find the time.  It is reading for pleasure, in a way - I find it all very interesting so I don't feel that it is a chore - but it's not nearly as relaxing as reading fiction. 

I feel a New Year's resolution coming on - to read more fiction.  I make a lot of New Year's resolutions, I enjoy the process for some reason.   Most years the resolutions are all more or less the same - which is to say, I suppose, that I don't often see them through.  But this will be a new one, and I will try to prioritise it. 

Other books I am reading at the moment include 'Selfhood' by Terry Lynch and 'The Divided Self' by RD Laing.  Which is part of the reason why I turned to fiction this week.  It is all very well taking an interest in mental health, but sometimes I feel that it is in danger of becoming an obsession - and that paradoxically, too much learning about it all does my head in! 

Balance, as ever, remains key.  I'm going to start yoga in the New Year too.  Ommm....   

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