I used to wonder how I would react to true tragedy.
As a Type A creative with a Gemini star sign and enough anxiety to power the grid at least for a day, I wondered this probably more than I should. But the answer was always the same–I would read my way through. I would write my way out.
It turns out, I was right. In these strange and confusing times, I turn to my stories for both escape and understanding. I create worlds in which I wish to live, events which I want to happen, and experiences which do not include isolation and fear and uncertainty on such a large and global scale.
The week following my grandfather’s passing last fall, I read about a half-dozen Sophie Jordan historical romance novels in about three days. I consumed them like I would stop breathing if I stopped reading. They were the only way to manage my grief and my confusion and myself. When I emerged, I was stronger and more equipped to handle what needed to be handled. Those books gave me a lifeline when I needed it most.
It is far from the only time I have found solace in a book, far from the only time I have escaped stress or sadness or confusion over the state of the world. I read to educate myself, I read to have adventures I will never get, to visit time periods already passed, to find a way to handle our current political and social environment sustainably and without losing my head. Books have been there for me during breakups, during long good-byes, during new moves and during those little moments in the day to day that just feel too hard to handle alone. To me, there is little difference between reading and living. Reading is merely another way to live. Now, more than ever, that is a truth I believe.
And writing is simply how I make sense of the world. When tragedy or victory or oddity strikes, the only way to figure out how I’m truly feeling, what to do next, how to act, and think, is to write. I take in the world through the lens of a writer and there’s no turning it off. I listen to strangers’ conversations. I save ironic moments for the next story, I pocket beautiful gardens and I Ziploc public fights. I take solace in the idea that if I were to face something truly terrible one day, I would have at least one tool to help me compartmentalize, understand and respond to the moment and all those that would follow. If I cannot do anything else during these difficult days, I can record them.
Reading, writing or living is a false dichotomy. To live is to read and write. To write is to read, to read is to write. I recently heard a quote from Pam Allyn that I’ll carry with me.
“Reading is breathing is, writing is breathing out.”
Reading and writing are not two different things. They are part of the very same system–a system that keeps us hopeful. A system that helps to write the future.