Unrelenting lingering cough from a recent cold. Limping from an old foot injury that had flared up mostly because I ignored the first signs of trouble and kept standing and walking; too much to do. Loss of 3 pounds when I wasn’t trying, just skipping meals. Totally frazzled basket case. Wondering if I really was over the hill. And the New Jersey weather this winter wasn’t helping anything. That was me two weeks ago.
Part of the pressure at that point was preparing for a vacation. Leaving a business for two weeks, even in the capable of hands of Dani, my assistant, seems to require that the work of those weeks be crammed into the previous ones: payroll done in advance, January’s required tax filings, bills paid, ordering planned, emergency contacts for tenants should the building’s boiler fail one more time or some other disaster occur. And the weather! Couldn’t plan any day too far in advance, it would probably snow.
I don’t think I’ve felt quite so done-in and overwhelmed since my days as a single working mother thirty years ago, and I had a lot more stamina and reserve energy back then. The point of all this is not to complain, but explain. As I prepared to leave for some sunshine in the Caribbean, I made up my mind that, for once, I was going to spend the entire time doing exactly what I wanted. I would prepare as best I could for my responsibilities in New Jersey, and then the rest of the world be damned (husband excepted – but his physical and mental state were about the same as mine, and he wanted isolation just as much.)
In our wonderful world of technology and communication, it is just too easy to keep in touch, to keep working even when on vacation. This is not the first year we have been able to take a winter vacation in the sunshine, but I have always gone with computer, iPad, phone, and a list of things to catch up on while away from the daily chores. I still had the devices this time; I just didn’t use them. And the only “catastrophe” that occurred was a failure of the vacuum cleaner, so the salt tracked in from the constantly coated New Jersey sidewalks had to wait a bit.
So now, I have decided to let the world wait. What is it I want to do? Well, although the iPad was loaded with books for emergencies, a lot of the suitcase space was once again filled with real paper crime fiction books. Not the ones I should read for ordering, or book group, or some other work-related purpose, but the ones selected from the huge “to be read” pile because I had been longing to read them.
After a few days the cough was gone, the foot no longer throbbed, and I realized how long it had been since I had truly felt the “lost in a book” experience. So much of my reading time in recent years has been in short intervals, between other tasks, and with thoughts from elsewhere intruding, that I had forgotten the joy of being totally immersed in someone else’s world. I realize that I can turn off the devices and the racing mind, and plan to carve time out to do that regularly. It will benefit both my physical and mental health.
An interesting side observation from this trip was the total absence of electronic reading devices. We have vacationed in the same small hotel, which is on the beach and also has a private tropical garden, for several years.. There are visitors from all over the world, and in past years I marveled at the number of tablets and other readers taken on the beach (I am sure I would drop mine). This year I did not see one; every lounging reader, beach or garden, had a paper book. Is this indicative of a trend? Maybe enough e-readers were dropped in sand or water, or everyone discovered, as I did a few years ago, that one cannot read on a tablet wearing sunglasses. Or maybe the desire for the feel of a “real” book has returned.
On returning to my real world and my communications devices, I spent some time catching up with my fellow bloggers here on Dead Guy. I had totally missed the Isabel Allende controversy and enjoyed Erin’s excellent post bringing me up to date. Jeff’s words about life being short and enjoying the things we do for entertainment unreservedly reinforced what I learned while away; when I read my crime fiction, I’m going to immerse myself in it completely. His comment about “literary” books, “snoozers about people who stare out the window and think about their lives” erased any lingering insecurity I had about admitting how those books bore me. I’ve gotten a lot of food for thought about life from characters in books, but it’s been from the ones whose ordinary lives have been stressed by the extraordinary circumstances of a crime and who have to face realities and make decisions that get them in touch with themselves and the world in a concrete and practical way.
So I’m back, healthy and re-energized. Even this horrible winter brought a benefit; the ice storm mid-week caused our flight to be cancelled, and we got an extra day of vacation. I plan to share some of my thoughts on the wonderful books I lost myself in over the next few weeks, and add more as I follow my resolution to escape regularly and completely into the marveilous world of crime fiction. And I need to lose those 3 pounds again, plus the others I gained.