Sunday, January 9, 2005

Reading -- A lifelong struggle

I'm reading a great book.  Some of you know that I'm not much of a book-reader.  It's been the fight of my life.  I used to read very well up until I reached the middle of first grade (yes, I remember this).  I was in the advanced reading groups and read aloud with enthusiasm.  At some point that shifted.  I was brought to an eye doctor where he diagnosed me with a lazy eye.  Thus began the second joke of all jokes.  The first being I was always late "because I was born late."  The second seems obvious:  I was lazy.  Neither were funny to me.  But they stuck.  I got away with a lot, using my branded labels.

Anyway, they slapped the ugliest glasses on my little six-year-old face just to "train" my eyes to look at the same place at the same time.  Looking back (ha, get it? looking ba... oh nevermind) I think I was just bored out of my mind and no one really got that.

I was supposed to wear said ugly glasses for reading and watching TV.  I refused to wear them.  I hid them, often.  One day, I had all the neighborhood kids at my house.  We were watching TV.  My mom asked, "Where are your glasses?"  I shrugged with a look like she was speaking in tongues.  A few friends giggled, "You wear glasses?"  I rolled my eyes and made like my mom was crazy, "I don't know what she's talking about."

A moment passed when my mom came around the corner and physically placed the ugly glasses on my face.  She stood tall (just over five feet) with a smug look of victory, her fists proud on her hips -- the only thing missing was a cape and a big S on her shirt.  Everyone laughed.  Everyone!  That was the last time anyone ever saw those glasses.  I hid them once and for all -- said I lost them.  Surprisingly, my folks gave up on making me wear them. 

In the time I was "supposed to" be wearing the glasses, I avoided reading -- that way I didn't have to wear them.  Easy.  Not-so-easy in the longrun.

It stunted my reading progression in elementary school.  I could read.  I loved words (still do).  But I had difficulty reading aloud without stammering and tripping over letters within words, sometimes missing whole words in a sentence.  I'd read the same sentence twice without realizing it.  I'd skip a paragraph.  It was embarrassing.  I focused so much on trying to read each word with perfection that I completely missed the idea of comprehension.

Eventually, my eyes corrected themselves.  [At a later eye appointment, doc told me I had "better than 20/20 vision."  So, I just thought the whole "glasses thing" was a torture device.]  But the psychological damage had already been done.  I survived high school and college without ever reading an assigned book -- fiction, non-fiction, text books.  I figured out all I had to do was show up to class and pay attention to the discussion.  I would skim for notes before tests, but that was the extent of my reading.*

The thought of reading aloud still terrifies me today.  I was asked to read to a fifth grade class recently and I panicked.  I told the teacher I'd sweep floors or clean pencil sharpeners -- anything but read aloud. 

I learned in my adult life that I actually love to read -- non-fiction.  Anything else just seems like a waste of time -- to me.  My mind is like a constant dry sponge, eager to soak up knowledge about many different subjects.  My interests change with the wind.  When I want to know about something, I research it till I fall asleep.  Or until another interest sweeps me off my feet.

I'm fascinated by people and where they come from, what their stories are, what their lives were/are like, how they feel, what they think, why they behave the way they do.  That's why I like reading journals and blogs.  They are short, ongoing, personal accounts.  Snippets of life from all over.  Inspiring and informative.

I like books that help me live a better life.  With non-fiction, I can read one page of a self-improvement book and put that information to use.  Like the one I'm reading now -- Organizing from the Inside Out (by Julie Morgenstern).  I may never pick it up again but already I've learned enough to get myself more organized.  Reading on can only help me get even more organized.  And that's where my passion lies at the moment.  I've gained new tools, a new way of looking at things, new information.  It opens doors to many levels of life and the world around me.

Oooh, gotta run.  My roommate's ready to clear out/organize the common areas of the apartment.  Gotta do it while the mood strikes.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

* There were only a few fiction books I ever fully read as a kid.  And really, the person I have to thank for that is my aunt who made us read for one hour a day when my brother and I would visit.  I loved being there, with my cousins and all the fun things we'd do together.  But the reading...that was a huge price to pay.  I resisted.  I suffered.  I remember one time being "locked" in a room with my cousins, each of us with a book of our choice.  My cousins seemed a little too enthusiastic about reading in silence.  I thought I'd be able to get their attention to play a game instead of reading, since we were the only ones in the room.  But nope.  They wanted to read.  To my surprise, the hour was up before I was ready to put the book down.  I can't remember which one.  But they were always only written by Judy Blume.  I still love those books today.


txsguinan said...

Poor baby freee!  Amazing the spirit-killing things adults can do to their children in the name of 'help.'  My brother had to wear glasses at a young age too ~ and grew out of it in a year or two.  Come to think of it, he hates reading ficton as well, but will read nonfiction avidly....hmmnnn.

Thanks for those links...I thought I knew Judy Blume ~ NPR!  And I've never thought of organization as a way of getting to know oneself; interesting concept.  Makes me want to clean out my sock drawer.  :)

trinainmobile said...

Okay, this entry I could definitely relate to!  You hid your glasses.  When I was 9, after trying every trick in the book NOT to have to wear the ugly things, I took off on my bike and while zooming down a hill, threw the glasses in front of the tires and ran over 'em.  Didn't work though.  Ended up back at the eye doctor's office and my mom picked out an even uglier pair!  Ugh!  You never can out-do a mom, especially mine.  She knew what I did...watched me do it!  LOL

Hugs, Trina

sistercdr said...

I've developed a wandering eye as I've gotten older.  It took me several doctors to find out why my left eye will just decide to look at something else sometimes.  Drives me crazy.  Since I love to read, I'm grateful that it doesn't affect my near vision, but if I'm looking beyond my hand, you can count on me looking at two different things.  It drives me crazy, and since my eyes were always considered my best feature, it's double insanity since I hesitate to look anyone in the eye now.  They have to pick just one.

onestrangecat said...

I have always loved to read (not out loud though) and never can figure out people who don't like to.  Maybe they have stories like yours.


martinsek5 said...

This is fascinating to me becuz reading is my favorite thing to do!  It's not too late for you to love it!  Pamela

nellemclaughlin said...

I have been wearing glasses since third grade. Grrrrr I hate them. Went through my thirties and forties wearing contact lenses. I inherited glaucoma from my great grandmother and began having to put lots of drops in my eyes about five years ago. I gave up the contacts and am back to glasses. Hard thing is that now I need TWO pairs: one for close up as well. What a nuisance! At least now they make stylish ones, designer ones. Mine are so expensive for distance, I only get a pair every few years. Remember Dorothy Parker's "Men don't makes passes at girl's who wear glasses"? I don't mind wearing them anymore, I am happy to be able to see with them. Nelle

linus131999 said...

just wanted to say happy new year

chasenkids said...

I remember having to wear glasses in school. I was called "Four eyed Nappy Lasagna" Lasagna sounded most like my maiden name, Nappy because I had an afro, and four eyes because of the coca cola bottles on my face that were supposed to help me see better. Unlike you, I still wear contacts... glasses make me want to curl up in a fetal position and cry. I'm kidding... I'm so over the Nappy Lasagna thing.....

I do love to read though. Always have. And I LOVE Judy Blume. She got me through a lot of grief. (See


andreakingme said...

I grew up on Judy Blume books, so I'm not surprised that she was able to hook you. Judy, Judy, Judy! My favorites were ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET and BLUBBER and the FUDGE books. Oh and DEENIE was good too!

I hear you about mothers embarrassing their daughters. Oogie used to do it to me all the time. "Where are your glasses?" she'd ask. "Where is your retainer?" and "Blow your nose." Yowza, I was a screwy kid! Glasses, braces, running nose.

And I always had my nose in a book, too. Always. Non-fiction is a bit difficult for me to read, especially the self-help books because if I don't DO what they suggest, I feel even more like a slug. You know? Gimme a fictional tale of daring-do any time!

(That said, I received the book you sent. It came from Myrna and Dan and puzzled me big time until I finally remembered what you'd said. Hah! I leafed through it and read a couple of passages ... kinda got choked up. This is one I'll read in slow sips, the better to absorb it. Thank you!!!!)

judithheartsong said...

this was a wonderful entry to share........ thanks for writing! judi

indigosunmoon said...

I just hate my glasses Trish!  I feel like a complete dork when I'm wearing them, but damnit! I can't see without them!  Ugh!

gatorspictures said...

very brave to share this, trish.
and by the way...if you have
any reading struggles, you
cannot tell it by your eloquent
way of communication... c

kristeenaelise said...

I recently read a book by Judy Blume that I hadn't found before.  Its called "Summer Sisters" and it was a really good read.  (just a thought!  you might enjoy it, and its written for an adult audience)

I've been de-cluttering too...actually a lot of us have.  Must be in the atmosphere!
=) kris

diannevan said... much is said in this entry.
Your ability to see the labels that were slapped upon you and the damage they did is incredible. I remember when I was a kid, nobody wore glasses.  Now, probably 1/3rd of elementary students have them.  Why?  It's probably a combination of better screening and more damage caused by computers/TVs.  It's no longer a stigma to wear them, plus, they make NICE glasses now, even for little ones.  

But the reading part of your entry is what really got to me.  I laugh because you and I are polar opposites.  You have your music and I have my books.  Fiction takes me away.  If I had your job, I'd have a Walkman strapped to my hip and I'd hit the library and listen to audiobooks during my entire workday with the pooches.  My mom listens for 8 straight hours while she's weaving her baskets at work and I envy that.

I can definitely see you as being a non-fiction girl.  You're the type who wants to know everything about everything.  For me, non-fiction is usually too boring to be a good read.  I want a story!!  Granted, fiction is full of information, too.  It's just written in a way that doesn't seem like a text's more like living it.  

Keep up those books!

freeepeace said...

GIGI - Interesting about your brother.  That just might be the only thing he and I have in common. ;)  This organization kick I'm on is really new to me.  I never thought of it as important or as a reflection of myself.  But it's making sense to me today.  So I'm starting there.  My sock drawer is a whole 'nother story!

TRINA - Awww, the things we did as kids.  I'm pretty sure my parents knew I hid my glasses.  I imagine it wasn't worth the fight to them.  There are some things they let me get away with.  But mostly it's true that our parents see least till later, when we learned to how to be more discreet. ;)

SISTERCDR - Can you actually see two things at the same time?  Or do you try to focus on one thing that one eye is focused on?  Fascinating really.

KATHY - That's how I feel about people who don't have a TV.  I don't watch nearly as much as I used to -- even before remote controls and cable.  I remember having a black & white TV.  Still, I watched as much as possible.  But, now I read more.  Hmm...

PAMELA - I do love reading ... just not fiction.  And if I *have* to read it, I resist more than if I feel like I *discovered* it on my own.  Psychological, I know.

freeepeace said...

NELLE - The thing is, I actually wanted glasses later.  I insisted on getting them in college.  The prescription was so far off and blurry that it hurt my eyes and gave me headaches.  I could see much better without them.  I think the doc knew I wanted glasses and saw an easy meal -- like a used car salesperson to a first-time buyer.

LINUS - Happy New Year.

JAIME - Aww, cute nickname.  Sad story.  Thank God for Judy Blume.


Would you believe glasses AND braces are totally cool today?  Kids actually *want* them.  Today I think glasses on a woman are totally sexy.  Like those Janeane Garofalo ones.  Or Tina Fey from SNL.  Ooooh.....

Yep, your fiction was like my TV shows.  I totally get it.

Wow, the book arrived in record time.  I was gonna send a card to arrive before the book.  USPS rocks sometimes.  Take your time with the book.  That's how it's meant to be read.  Just open it whenever the mood strikes.  Read a sentence or paragraph and you can be done.

JUDITH - :) xo

freeepeace said...

CONNIE - I love glasses today.  On kids and adults.  I think they are cute on kids -- gives them a look of intelligence.  And they're sexy on adults -- gives them a look of intelligence, in a whole different way.  lol

GATOR - Yeah, the struggles I have with reading today are basically that I read really really slow and get really really bored, really really fast. Ha!  Whoops, so much for my eloquence.  ;)

KRIS - Believe it or not, I've tried to read Judy Blume's adult books.  I haven't been able to get into them.  I could try again.  I just discovered there's one of her Young Readers books I don't have.  I might try that one first. :P

DIANNE - True.  Glasses are cool and cute today.  They weren't when we were kids.  For the record: It's not always music that moves me.  There are days I don't even turn the radio on in the car.  Sometimes I'll be listening to music while cleaning or working and at some point I have to shut it off.  What I want instead is the TV in the background.  And sometimes silence.  If it's first thing in the morning, I wouldn't be able to listen to books on tape -- talking puts me to sleep.  Wouldn't be good for business...or freeway safety.

I actually love fiction -- in the form of a movie or TV show. That's been consistent in my life.

mallory4284 said...

I'm in an Ed Reading class this semester. It's all about literacy and reading in elementary schools. Should be interesting....

This entry just reminded me of that class. And I got your joke. ;)

Have fun with the rest of your book!! It's nice to have a good book to read!

-- Mallory

ryanagi said...

What a shame that a love of reading was kinda teased out of you at such an early age. I've always loved reading. It's a real escape for me. Always has been. But I am a slow reader. My husband has made comments about how my eyes bounce around when I am reading, where most folks eyes just move slightly from side to side, or even not at all. I hear there are ways to retrain the eyes to take in an entire page of text at a time. I'm intrigued, but not enough to give up my slow boat way of savoring each book I read. LOL

screaminremo303 said...

I find that each book has a different tempo and pace, and the written word is no different than notes on a sheet of music. Follow the changes, don't miss the Coda, and try not to rush the beat.

indigosunmoon said...

Hey Trish...It's me again.  I was watching the news tonight, and just wanted to let you know I was thinking about you. I hope you are ok, and I hope it stops raining for yall soon!
Love you!

alphawoman1 said...

I go through spells where I read a lot of fiction in the mystery genre, written by women about women, then written by men about cops, then lawyers.  Then I'll switch to classic literature, then I'll go to travel books, then back to Oprah recommendations!  I have been reading since I could hold a book.  I find it to be my greatest escape route!  A book goes everywhere with you.  I never leave home without one!  

memphislove said...

Great Blog! ~Amy

slowmotionlife said...

My sister loves self-improvement books.  I've never been able to stomach them.  LOL  Funny how our tastes differ so drastically there, but she was always the academic, I was always the dreamer.  Over the years, I've gained a distaste for modern literature and usually lean toward the classics and poetry.  This month has really been about getting back to my love of literature and books.  I've taken many of my best books out of storage.  It feels so liberating to have them near me again, as if their very presence brings me a sense of calm and creativity.  I'm also going through the organizational process now, so I'm interested to learn some of the concepts you took away from this book you've read.  :D

krobbie67 said...

I love to read. EVERYTHING. Give me a label on a can. I'll read it. I love it all and don't do it nearly enough. I allow too many other things to distract me. I currently have four books that I've started and not finished. And, I'm thinking I'd like to borrow your organization book. LOL! ;-) ---Robbie

babyshark28 said...

Well, my reading comprehension is about nill.  I know, I remember being in school and begin tested on it.  Always scored about two grades under me. :( I just can't focus on things sometimes.  If it keeps my interest, I'll do okay...if not. Forget about it!   like you, skipping over sentances...reading paragraphes more than once, sentances over and over until they made sense to me...most of the time they didn't.  It was terrible, but, I love to read.  so, what can you do?  keep reading.  
sometimes my comments, atleast to me, seem a little off to me.  and I miss subjects that the journaler had made good points on, I generally keep to just one subject that has stuck in my head.
>reading over your entry again<
so sorry your mom wasn't sensitive enough to just let it go....
happy organizing!!  (though, your probably done now)

stephweiss said...

I wore those same glasses, I think. Ugly & designed to make both eys look in the same direction. Unfortunately, I did the same thing you did, and I didn't wear 'em. So I had to go through it all again when I was in college. Still didn't take. To this day, when I'm tired, they drift off in different directions. I still read like crazy, but mostly with one eye closed. I know, it means I need glasses again but I'm tired of glasses.