Rediscovering the Library

library

As a young woman, I spent a lot of time in the library. It was more than a place to kill a few hours every day in-between school and work; it was a magical place where all things were possible.

But lately, I have gotten out of the habit of visiting these local treasures. Enrolling in a Ph.D. program interrupted any leisure reading I might have enjoyed for several years and since (temporarily but for what is becoming a more extended time than I originally anticipated) disenrolling, I have, for some reason, not been voraciously reading as I had been in the past. While I still enjoy good books and articles, and read when I can, I often find myself too tired at night when I snuggle into bed to read and too busy during the day to take the time. I also spend much too much time at work in front of a computer so using my eyes to read text above and beyond that time is sometimes undesirable.

I recently visited three local libraries as part of a history research project. I have been to all three countless times before, as I have lived in all three cities, but had not stepped foot in any of them more than once or twice over the past few years. I felt that magic feeling again, a mixture of possibility, stillness, intellectual stimulation, and safety. It is an environment beautifully calibrated with my soul, a place where I feel right at home. According to the 2015 State of America’s Libraries: A Report from the American Library Association, Americans see libraries as “anchors, centers for academic life and research, and cherished spaces.” Yes, that’s it.

Libraries fill my heart with joy and my mind with wisdom. Like my home, the beach, and farms, they are one of the places where I feel most at ease, inspired, and alive. The last time I visited a library. a toddler was screaming and crying after story time because he didn’t want to leave. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Seasonal Sensitivity

winter

I can remember a time when, at about 12 years of age, I walked through the snow in bare feet. For fun. I loved the feeling of the crisp white flakes beneath me. I can also remember loving hot summer days and coming home a hot dirty mess after playing outside all day long and feeling perfectly content and fully alive.

I must be getting old (and you need not remind me that I celebrated a big birthday just two weeks ago), because I no longer enjoy the extremes of the seasons. I function best when it is about 50 to 85 degrees. When it is colder or warmer than this range, I find myself feeling uncentered and longing for those perfect weather days that seem to be becoming more and more rare. So I find myself spending way too much time indoors, protecting myself from the both the blistering heat and the chill of cold winter days.

We find ourselves in patters such as these throughout life. We become trapped in our comfort zones, avoiding things we dislike and becoming somehow disengaged when forced to deal with undesirable circumstances.

What alarms me most is that my comfort zone seems to be getting smaller and smaller. While I once enjoyed the extremes of weather, and not all that long ago, I now only feel my best when the weather happens to be within a range of just 35 degrees. Perhaps this is because more life experience results in a stronger sense of what I most appreciate and desire. Or perhaps this is because I am stuck and clinging to something that arbitrarily brings me comfort in a world where so many things seem to be out of my control.

Either way, immersion in a variety of experiences, especially those which seem challenging to us, make us stronger, more compassionate, and more interesting human beings. So while I really don’t like it when it is hot and humid outside, I am going to do make the most of what is magically presented to me every day and look for the enjoyable excitement, rather than the distraction of discomfort, which that brings. Such is life.