Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happiness is Pursuing Your Passions

In September, Rubin decides to find happiness by pursuing a passion. In her case, her passion is reading:

"Although reading was one of my most important priorities and certainly one of my greatest pleasures, I never really gave it much thought. I wanted more time to read-more books, with more enjoyment. To do so, I gave myself permission to read at whim." (p.228)

She decided to stop reading a book if she finds it uninteresting, rather than force herself to finish it. She weeds her bookcases, and donates unwanted books. She realizes that she hates books about people who have been unjustly accused, and resolves that she won't read them.

This chapter had a great impact on me. For years, I have felt guilty for reading books when I am not commuting. I have always felt that my time off a train should be spent more productively - i.e. socializing, vacuuming (a big need in recent years), doing laundry, balancing my checkbook, etc. Whenever I did read a book, I always had a thought in the back of my mind about what I should be doing instead of reading. Now that I view it as pursuing a passion, I am definitely happier.

Rubin also inspired me to weed my books. While I do this annually, I realized that I still owned many books that I hadn't read in years but did not want to get rid of because to do so would be to admit that my priorities have changed. I have become a different person, one who is NOT going to rereadthe several dozen books currently sitting in a corner of my living room. I'm just not that interested in the Kalevala or Greek philosophy or certain kinds of medieval poetry. Admitting this does not mean that I am a bad person or that my brain is rotting - I've just changed. While I am not happy about the effort that it will take to lug the books into to my branch so that BPL can sell them online to earn money, I am happy that they will be gone soon and not silently reproaching me whenever I sit on my couch.

Last weekend, I helped my sister with her final decluttering. Today, I urged another sister to go through her books and donate them to declutter HER house. I realized that getting rid of books is a way to become a new person. I give myself permission to move away from past interests in order to pursue new ones. I also give myself more free time since I now longer have to dust the books.

Why do people feel guilt over getting rid of books? Is it because of respect for the written word and the ideas they contain? Or is it a refusal to admit that they have changed and moved beyond these books? Please comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For some people it is latte - for others, it's clothing, shoes, sports equipment, or DVDs that are hard to let go. For me also, it is books. I have been trying to lighten up my bookshelves as well. You would think I could give up the college texts (don't even ask from how many years ago) and previous career-related books without a thought! But, no. It is like giving up a bit of one's life and history, and that can be terribly difficult to do. Looking at it as a way to make room for one's future interests and history to be made is a nice way to approach it - except I do want to reduce my stuff - not just replace it with new stuff (including books).