While I’ve never needed a reason to read a book, now I have a justifiable excuse. I read for my mental health. There is even a term for it: “Biotherapy”. Books like most entertainment – movies, TV shows, and live sports – provide a break from reality. For the time that the drama has our attention, our own troubles fade into the background. The weight of our mundane lives is ever so briefly lifted.
It is more that mere distraction that makes reading so powerful. Research is showing that not only does the reader benefit by having an emotional break from ‘real-life’ – reading increases one’s compassion for another’s suffering. It is our relationship to the protagonist that influence us. In December 2013, scientists proved what many readers knew already, that the reader is ‘mentally’ in the body of the character. The hero’s victories and losses become our own. The reader is transported along with the character and both emerge changed in the end.
“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.”
~James Baldwin, American author (1924-1987)
Guilty pleasures are things that may be slightly embarrassing for a profession, mature adult to confess to do and enjoying.
I am not giving up anything for Lent; however, I thought I would confess to some of my guilty little pleasures.
- I play Candy Crush at lunch. Those addictive little colored candies are a ‘gateway’ game.
- Dog Shaming photos. There are dozens of lists on Facebook and YouTube. They are all basically the same and I don’t care. I love all of them (probably because I have two little guys that could top the lists at home.)
- I saw ‘Vampire Academy’ in theaters. Yes, it is kinda a teen movie and campy. Don’t care. I had great time. Last year I attempted some of the Oscar winners. (Hey I had a weak moment of maturity) I felt boring, confused and cheated. I don’t want to spend an hour after a film trying to decipher what the h*ll it was about.
- Sometimes, I eat peanut butter off a spoon (then giving the pups peanut butter too.)
- I like asking the husband to reach things on high shelves.
- Last one is the biggie, I read (and occasionally write) romance novels.
Marriage vows cover the extremes. Richer or Poorer. Sickness and Health. But they don’t mention ‘when-your-wife-gets-off-work-and-changes-into-sweatpants’.
I’m cute. Short, curvy, and can look pretty good when I try. For work, I have some professional, sophisticated outfits. “Meeting Days” I usually get especially dressed up with high-heels and maybe even mascara. Unfortunately, the husband only gets to see it for as long as it takes me to change once I get in the house (after I say ‘hello’ to the puppies – I have priorities). Then it’s comfy-time. The shoes come off. The classy but confining clothes are tossed and out comes the t-shirts. It’s a little unfair that around the person I care for most, the one person in the world I want to find me attractive, I’m a little slob.
I guess it’s because we expect the ones who love us to put up with us. We trust they won’t abandon us when they find our imperfections.
When we are sick we will put on a brave face for visitors but snap at the ones taking care of us.
It’s not fair. The people we share our lives with deserve better. They at least deserve more than strangers and acquaintances. Yet, it would break my heart to know he tried to put on a front for me. I want him to be comfortable, to be himself (even if that means wearing sweatpants and an old t-shirt).
Valentine’s Day is a day for love, surprising your loved ones and showing that affection with gifts. Despite how obnoxious you find flowers and chocolates to be, they are inescapable and you should probably just get over it. Flowers and chocolates are clichés because they are the perfect gifts. They are relatively inexpensive, readily available, pretty and almost EVERYONE likes them (except for cynical a*sholes).
Christmas is the grand daddy of the holiday family and the most pimped out. But it’s established enough to handle it. No matter how crazy the shopping season gets or how closely to Halloween shops start pumping Jingle Bells, Christmas still has its own traditions. It is a far-reaching family holiday. Valentine’s is intimate and vulnerable. Taking advantage of Valentine’s is like kicking a puppy.
The biggest ‘fail’ I have seen so far was a billboard for cool sculpting, a non-surgical aesthetic procedure. (If you buy the cosmetic package for your sweetheart you deserve the inevitable smack to the face.) I understand marketing and advertizing firms try to capitalize on holiday fervor, but, yeah, they shouldn’t have touched that one.
The commercialization of some holidays is completely unsuccessful. For example, I don’t have a compulsion to buy new furniture on President’s Day. However, I have strong affection for the iconic red roses and box of candy, even if it has been years since the husband and I exchanged tokens. We still have memories of those early days: The excitement of new love, the joy of just having someone to spend the holiday with and the anticipation of Valentine’s Day.
For jaded Hallmark-conspiracy theorists out there, you are probably right, but I still don’t care. If you don’t want to buy into a cliché, you better get creative. Foot rubs, home-cooked dinners, and all-inclusive vacations are accepted expressions of True Love.
My mother always said the reason she didn’t kill us growing up was because we were ‘cute’. (That is also the reason my father has been spared through 30+ years of marriage.) Cute is purely an evolved survival technique. As annoyed as I was cleaning up once again after the new puppy; he was cute and I loved the little pooping b*stard.
Cute is also important for relationships. Cute helps to lighten a strained, stressful situation. Cute is often the first introduction to love. Personally, I find a big man scruffy man with bright blue eyes ‘cute’.
You have no reason to believe me as a random voice on the internet, but I am a loyal person. I am steadfast in character at my job. I am fiercely loyal to my husband, family, friends…Yet the grocery store needs tangible proof of my regard. I must furnish proof that ‘yes I am a loyal patron of fill-in-the-blank store. The grocery store was only the first. Now I can’t venture into the petstore, sporting goods or office supply place without getting guilted into filling out another card application with the line, ‘…but you’ll save $$$’ or ‘sorry the save price is for members-only.’
I have recently decided to downsize my man-wallet (actually it was falling apart at the seams, so there was little deciding on my part). Between my cellphone armored in its special element proof box and my brick of a wallet, going anywhere entailed me barreling around with pounds of ‘stuff’.
Commence with the wallet purge.
I pulled out every card from the seemingly endless slots and pockets. By the end, I had a playing deck sized stack of plastic. I quickly separated the essentials: driver’s license, work ID, insurance, debit card…But what to keep of the rest? Is it really worth saving $0.30 my next trip at the gas station to carry around one more thing in my wallet. My husband discovered the phone-wallet. It’s ingenious. Phone and wallet conveniently together with space enough for six cards. So guess what now I have…six cards.
I haven’t completely abandoned those that didn’t make the prestigious final cut. Most businesses do accept a phone number or email to prove your ‘loyalty’ and there are more apps and things like ‘Passbook’. But why do I have to share personal information just to get a fair price on goods and services.
I’m frugal. That’s why I had so many cards in the first place and making me have one won’t make it any more likely I will shop there. I have yet to reach the point in my life where I have infinite disposable income, so the best way to ensure my loyalty is to offer the best product at the best price.
January. Time to want to be a better person; or at least pretend to be. Within five minutes of listening to the car radio on my morning commute, I feel compelled to refinance debit, diet and join a gym. (Thank you targeted marketing – way to zero in on our guilt of spending and eating too much during the holidays.) Commercial influences aside, I am trying to eat better and exercise more (Very original resolutions – I’ll let you know that’s going in a few weeks.).
The winter weather before Christmas is ‘festive’. Winter weather in January is an annoying hassle. The lights are gone. Everything is grey…and cold…and wet.
Hallmark reminds us there’s still Valentine’s Day. But Valentine’s has never been abundantly important to me. Not because I’m cynical or bitter. Quite the opposite. I married someone I love very much and who despite all evidence to the contrary thinks I’m perfect. We trying to be sweet and romantic all the time, not just on prescribed days on the calendar.
I hope you weren’t reading this expecting a pep talk to aleve your own winter funk. I don’t have any answers. My only advice is to hold out on your resolutions as long as possible then find someone to snuggle up with until the sloshy yuck melts…and pretend it’s Valentine’s Day.