When was the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing?

Recently I have been troubled with insomnia. This is one of the cruelest forms of ailment for me, as I am a self -confessed lover of sleep. When I was a teenager I could easily sleep sixteen hours a day, often coming home from school and taken a nap of several hours. My parents told me I would grow out of it, but I never did. Over the years I have mentioned my sleep-proneness to many doctors and have been given many explanations : anemia, written loss, growing pains, social adjustment issues, autoimmune issues… the diagnosis keep coming and yet the symptoms stay the same.

So insomnia is an entirely new thing for me. Well, not entirely new, I had a period in university when I also struggled to sleep, but I wrote it off to homesickness. One thing I have learner from insomnia is that I am a dysfunctional tired person. I literally fail to function. I am cranky, hungry, irrational, and emotional if I have any less than seven hours sleep. Currently I am lucky to get three or four “real” hours of sleep a night.

You see, now I am a “real” adult I have that terrible oppressive and dreaded thing called a routine: get up at 6.45, drive to work at 7.15, home by 6pm, dinner by 7.30, bedtime at 10.45. Our household follows these rules whether my brain plays along or not. So at 11pm each night for the past many, many nights I have been in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to my husbands and hounds reap the slumber-based benefits of a body on a routine.

So as to not upset the balance of sleep for my family it is important to keep sound and movement to a minimum, so I have passed the time as best as I know how – listening to my breathing and trying not to stimulate my brain with anything as radical as a thought.

Most of the time I fail. After realising what an erratic breather I am (something many people have told me in my life but I always considered exaggerated), I have spent my insomnia doing the following things: planning my novel for nanowrimo (its coming along nicely), panicking about nanowrimo (its a pretty big project, y’all), reading (thanks kindle fire), learning how to proficiently use a touch screen keypad for large chunks of text (this blog post is proof of that.. thanks again to my kindle fire), and making a mental list of all the things I plan to do the following day / week / year.

So, as far as my own breathing goes, my conclusion is this : I know this question is supposed to encourage people to slow down and take more time to be introspective, but forced introspection is a terrible thing, especially when doing so jealously listening to the contented snores of three blissfully dreaming bed-dwellers.

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If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?

 

So the Amazon Kindle Fire is an amazing thing, isn’t it? I feel somewhat blasphemous writing this on my macbook, knowing that the Fire was cause of much pain for iPad sales last Christmas, but since indulging myself in January I have barely passed a full day without switching it on. In fact, my addiction is such that I probably use it to check my email and facebook more that I use my laptop. However, non-literary indiscretions aside, I purchased the Kindle Fire as a means to reignite my love of reading, and it hasn’t been a disappointment.

Truthfully, I have been a little let down that some of the books I would like to read are not available in the kindle store (can I get a petition started for LOTR, please?), but for the most part I have been able to read many books that I wouldn’t have otherwise read for fear of stepping foot in a shop. It’s a sad reflection, really, that I absolutely loathe shopping as an adult. I used to adore bookshops with a passion, and would come out armed with volumes of fiction that I would read in a matter of days. Now it’s all coffee and magazines, expensive stationary and iPhone cases and teenagers loping through the aisles searching for the bathrooms.

Purchasing the Fire was a true test of “what is my favourite book”, translated, in e-form, to “which book do I want to download first”. Those that know me won’t be surprised by the fact that after a few minutes and some clumsy finger clicks, my fresh-out-of-the-box Kindle had a brand-spanking-wonderful version of Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ on it. It’s my absolute favourite, made more special by the fact that I read it whilst in high school, and it ignited a romanticism in me that I would have imagined crazy before. I even had a reading from it at my wedding.

I would dearly love to make everyone in the world read ‘Wuthering Heights’, but only if I could make them see it the way I see it, which, let’s face it, is unlikely. Any work of fiction carries the risk of personal taste and interpretation. Let’s take Joseph Keller’s modern day classic, ‘Catch 22’. I read this in high school too, and I hated it. I don’t know that I even got to the end. I thoroughly bored me – me, who read Charles Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ when I was 10. I tossed it on my heaving bookshelf with contempt and never gave it a second thought, where it lay discarded until my sister picked it up. That very copy of ‘Catch 22’ still graces her shelf, it has travelled around the world with her, and is now bound together with electrical tape from being thumbed through and read so many times.

I think that my point on fiction has been made clear: you can’t prescribe it. Being told you have to read this book, is a sad temptation for fate to make certain you hate it.

So, back to the question, if I could make all high school students read one book, what would it be? I’m tempted to say “the dictionary” in a derisive tone, as it appears most people could benefit from the read. But I’ll give a proper response.

And here is my answer: Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne.

But wait, it’s a work of fiction, isn’t it? Well, probably (although I like to imagine Eeyore really does roam gloomily through the English woods), but it’s not fiction in the same way. The one wish I have for teenagers, as I see them teetering around in their high heels and tweeting pictures of their iPhones, is that they could reconnect with their childhoods. I would love the idea of a group of teenagers united by the beautiful illustrations by E. H. Shepherd, drawing parallels between their friends and the enthusiastic Tigger or the ever-loyal and unquestioning Piglet. Rather than focusing on lust and torment, like ‘Wuthering Heights’, or the horrors of war and politics, like ‘Catch 22’, A. A. Milne focuses only on the values of friendship, imagination, and innocence. It is a book that we could all benefit from falling in love with – a book that reminds adults that we were children once, and that could possibly, very possibly, remind our children – because teenagers are still children – that they can still believe.