This is Jane.
Jane is overwhelmed by the daily tornados in her life.
But she can’t quit her job and she can’t sell the kids. Not that she wanted to, of course. The thought never crossed her mind. Ever.
Jane figured out that it took a more than tired tips and tricks to get her reading life back on track. She had to re-evaluate why she was reading in the first place and which strategies were going to work for her. Tiny habits, habit stacking, pinpointing the best time in her day, finding a book whisperer and building her 5 star book stack finally made the difference in reviving her favorite hobby.
Most men live lives of quiet desperation.
Most women, too.
It wasn’t that Jane was unhappy with her life. She was just overwhelmed by trying to make it work.
The unmet need to recharge had been threatening to push her over the edge and the people around her didn’t realize the depth of her frustration.
Not that she wanted to change any of the big things. She was happy with her career path (though sometimes she wished for a new boss).
She was happy with her marriage even when there wasn’t much time for it.
The kids drove her up the wall sometimes till she stopped to remember how much she wanted to become a mom– how elusive that dream had been. And now she had it, in all it’s messy glory.
They wanted a house. Now they had one.
Their dream house got away, but this one was nice. She loved the neighborhood, except for the next door neighbors to the left.
She thought once she got the dishwasher installed that she’d be able to keep up with the house, the cleaning, her life. But it hadn’t happened.
She ran on the hamster wheel just to keep things from falling apart.
If she stopped running, even for half a day, it all started to crumble.
In her past life, reading was the one thing that helped keep her sane.
Now, she couldn’t figure out a way to make it part of her life and she missed it. A lot.
Wrinkled clothes. Cobwebs. Dust. Mail stacked up. The endless errands. And feeding the family. It’s a big job that will expand to fill all the time and more.
With so much to do, so many things to juggle, so much overwhelm, who had time to read?
The cold hard truth was she wasted a lot of time. She wasn’t productive on the weekends. She easily got sucked down a Netflix rabbit hole. Or Pinterest. Or Instagram. Any of the three could suck her in.
Some nights she couldn’t face the dirty dishes. Some weekends the clean clothes would pile up in laundry baskets that didn’t get folded and put away.
She hit her limits when she just couldn’t move forward any longer. When she was too wiped out for conversation, picking up or even composing a text.
This was the life she always wanted. So why was she so frustrated? Why was it so difficult to squeeze in time for her favorite past time?
And, more importantly, what could she do about it?
On her lunch hour, Jane ran out to pick up her glasses that were scheduled to be ready. As luck would have it, she beat the delivery by 15 minutes.
So she pulled out her phone and starting scrolling, trying not to worry about what happened if they didn’t arrive before she had to go back to work. She couldn’t come after work and tomorrow’s lunch hour was already booked.
She scrolled past 11 Tips to Make Time to Read When You’re Too Busy, then stopped and went back.
Yes. She was too busy. Yes, she wanted to make time to read. She missed it. A lot.
Audio books were the key, she read.
Multi-task and do double duty. Listen to them while folding laundry or walking the dog.
Join Goodreads, it said.
Start a Book Club.
Read at night.
Get up 15 minutes earlier and read while the house is still quiet. Are you kidding? She was already a one or two snooze alarm gal. Getting up on time was a serious challenge. Getting up earlier was not an option. Especially not to indulge in a hobby.
Read after you put the kids down to bed. “This one might work,” she thought, “if I don’t fall asleep.”
Hmm. What about audio books?
That one might work.
Always have a stack of books ready that you want to read.
How was she going to make that happen? How was she going to find a stack of books that she wanted to read?
Her name was called. Her glasses were ready. Whew. She was going to make it back to work in time.
Jane had gotten excited reading through the 11 Tips Blog Post.
This is what she was missing. Her favorite memories as a kid were reading under covers with a flashlight. Daring, secretive, can’t-wait-to-find-out-what-happens, delicious reading.
As a college student she checked out books from the library or filled up a bag at the library sale and binged into the wee hours.
When she got her first job, she’d come home after work and microwave leftovers then lie on the couch and read, read, read.
Now there was no time for that
She wanted to get it back. Not all the time. She wasn’t ready to just ditch everything and walk away. But sometimes. Sometimes she just needed to fall down that rabbit hole with Alice and gaze in wonder at a world that looked nothing like hers.
11 Tips to the Rescue
Jane started implementing the 11 Tips right away.
This is going to work! Listen to audio books while folding clothes.
Of course, kids fighting in the background make it hard to focus on the story.
Who thought this was a good idea?
Time to pick up Kid #2 from soccer practice.
She got there 10 minutes early, just like The Tips said.
She pulled into the soccer field parking lot carefully, trying to avoid the burgundy mini-van belonging to Mrs. Busybody who was on a nonstop tirade complaining about the coach.
She parked at the far end, pulled out her book and read the first page three times. What happened to her powers of focus and concentration? She must have pushed them all out with the last delivery.
When she’s about to try for the fourth time here comes Mrs. Busybody.
She hasn’t escaped. She hasn’t retreated or refreshed or renewed.
She’s on the same hamster wheel fast as ever with no relief in sight.
Was trying to hide from another parent really a good life skill? Probably not. She’d have to talk to the therapist about that one.
The problem is things go wrong. Things always go wrong. Just today Kid #2 forgot his cleats. Kid #4 had a fever and needs to be picked up at the nurse’s office. Kid #3’s teacher suggested getting an evaluation for dyslexia. Dyslexia? Hmm. Maybe that was the problem the whole time.
And hubby just developed a lactose intolerance. Need to change the whole family’s diet or cook two different suppers every night since all the best meals revolve around cheese. Survival tactic number 17 now thrown out the window. Pizza night on Fridays.
Time for a Paradigm Shift
Things weren’t getting better. They were getting worse. Why weren’t the 11 Tips working?
Jane mulled over the reasons she wanted to read. To escape. To learn something new. To forget about the swirl in her brain. To crawl under the covers and hide her head. To quit adulting for awhile.
And to quiet the voices in her head that told her that she didn’t have enough.
The question was, did she have enough?
What if she believed that she had enough time? Enough energy? Enough resources to get everything done that God had planned? What if she really believed that? Would it change everything?
Would she stop trying to multi-task and squeeze productivity out of every minute? Would she quit preparing homemade dinners and start buying prepared meals out of the freezer section?
She wanted to spend time relaxing, but she felt so guilty when she did.
The unfinished work haunted her.
Pushing away everything that needed to get done and just indulging in a great read would be so much better if she didn’t feel guilty about it, if she thought she deserved the break and she could completely relax and refresh.
Jane made a decision.
She was going to fight for the one thing that worked for her to relieve stress. She was going to figure out how to make it work, because she needed some respite from the daily tornados.
So, she did a little soul searching to figure out why she felt guilty when she sat down to relax. Why she felt so inadequate when it came to keeping up with life’s demands.
Why she believed that she didn’t deserve to have time off.
Why she felt unworthy.
She finally came to the conclusion that she deserved a little R & R and that it would make her a better mom, a better wife and a better employee.
She just had to figure out how.
Last evening, she listened to an audio book while folding laundry then emerged from the laundry room to find the living room and dining room destroyed.
Fort making was in process, which meant couch cushions from the living room had migrated to the living room and a tarp from the back porch was covering the dining room table held down by doorstops from the entryway.
She didn’t like to squelch creativity.
Wasn’t it proof positive of the naturally high intelligence that lay buried in her kids?
But, while she was folding laundry and listening to an audio book, somehow she breezed 15 minutes past bedtime and there was no time or energy to attack this mess now. It would have to wait another day.
Driving home from work she decided to rethink her strategy.
Tonight after supper she would set the timer for 15 minutes.
Then assign two kids to work on supper clean up and two kids to fort deconstruction.
At the end of 15 minutes, she’d have the younger girls get ready for bed and meet her on her bed for a chapter of Wind in the Willows.
Then she’d tuck them in, say prayers and put on Adventures in Odyssey CD.
The older two would get an hour for homework, then meet up in the living room for hot chocolate and a chapter of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
The fact was, as fun as it was to listen to audio books while folding laundry, it made more sense to spend her reading time with her kids.
She loved The Chronicles of Narnia. She loved Wind in the Willows.
So did the kids. It was a win-win.
Reading aloud to the kids worked better than listening to audio books while folding laundry. Even though the dog ended up vomiting on the carpet at the beginning of her second read aloud session, she still felt this was a better way to go. Almost magic.
On Saturday morning at 10:33, she pulled up to a coffee shop 20 minutes from home. It was half the distance between her house and the town where her college roommate lived and they liked to meet occasionally to catch up.
Since she was running a few minutes late, she rushed in and placed her order, paid and then checked her phone.
Drat! Two missed calls and three missed texts from her friend. Dog emgerency. She was headed to the vet and wouldn’t be able to meet up for coffee.
Now she wished she had heeded the wise words from Anne Bogel, “Never leave home without a book and a snack.”
Of course, a snack wouldn’t be helpful here, but now that her coffee was paid for she could have enjoyed some peace and quiet with her nose in a book. If only she had a book.
She grabbed her coffee and found a comfortable couch.
She started scouring the internet. Who has reading tastes like mine? Who can I trust? Where can I find a book whisperer?
Fifty-two minutes later she had a list and she headed straight to the library.
She was going to build that stack of books.
Yep. Finding great books was a different hobby than reading, but almost as much fun. Everyone loves a treasure hunt.
She found a book whisperer who talked about starting a reading habit using tiny habits and habit stacking.
Habit stacking, a concept introduced in James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, links a new habit that you’re trying to start to an old, already established habit.
She decided to try it.
Afternoons and evenings were when she needed to chill and put her feet up. After running all day she got to the point when she couldn’t face a sink full of dishes or another sibling squabble.
Which habits could she stack?
She decided to go with 6 minutes of reading after cleaning up her desk at work to go home.
She would set the timer for 6 minutes, read and then get in the car to go home.
Six minutes wouldn’t make much difference in the mad supper rush, but it would slow her breathing and relax her muscles. A small exhale before the evenings demands.
Of course it wouldn’t work the evenings there was a game. But if she did it every other day before leaving work, she thought she could build a habit.
Finding a book whisperer and having a stack of books that you’re looking forward to reading is almost magic, too, she thought.
Her next chance came Friday night.
The kids were dropped off to spend the night at Grandma’s.
Hubby’s flight was scheduled to land at 6:42. They had reservations at their favorite Italian restaurant by the airport at 7:30.
She had just finished up a quick clean of the bedroom and master bath when he texted to say bad weather in Chicago was messing with his flight. He was being bumped 24 hours. Could she re-schedule the dinner reservations for next week?
No problem. She’d microwave some leftover chicken Alfredo.
And . . . a whole evening at home by herself? What to do?
She looked over at the night stand to the stack of books sitting there.
This was her chance.
The Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald Davis. She found that one after an internet search on resources for Dyslexia. Turns out Kid # 3 was a textbook case and a perfect candidate for the Davis program.
Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. She heard about that one on the What Should I Read Next? podcast. So many readers and listeners went on and on about it. She wanted to see what all the buzz was about.
Educated by Tara Westover and Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Quesheri.
She heard about them from a blog post from a book whisperer she was getting to know. She loved a well-written memoir.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Leoncioni. That one came highly recommended by her boss. But maybe tonight wasn’t the best night for that one.
She reached for Hannah Coulter.
She smiled a secret smile. It really did make a difference to have that stack there. It was even fun to create it and know when the time was right, they were waiting for her.
Room to breathe. Time to relax and exhale. Time to fall in love with reading again.