It’s Thursday. And This is What I’m Reading.

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Oh. You know. Just hugging a tree with a sign on it. Because BOOKS. Photo cred to J. Forman, whom when I shrieked, “STOP!” immediately backed up the car so I could get this shot.

I wish I had a record of all the books I’ve ever read. Like.every.single.book. Only a million times or so have I finished a book, closed it slowly after rereading the last page a few more times…and sighed. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted more. I wanted to know more, feel more, experience more. I wanted to step inside the book and somehow be part of it for just a little longer. And probably another million times I have closed a book and promptly cried myself to sleep, overcome with the emotion it stirred inside my soul. (I know. Super fun, right?)

Books have always been a steady companion to me. Gimme books over people any day of the week and twice on Sundays. More times than I care to count, I have sat down with a book to escape my life and thought, ‘I will just sit here. And be in this book. And read.’  And you know what? It helped. And okay, I get that it’s not always the BEST solution to life’s problems. But it’s not crack, either. Right? So there’s that.

Books have given me answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking. They’ve been my teacher and I have been their starving student. They’ve whispered to my heart and soul and helped me process things I was not even aware of. The world is so much bigger than what we get to experience in our Ground Hog Day lives. There are infinite thoughts I never would’ve thought. Feelings I never would’ve felt. Worlds I never would’ve imagined or understood. Perspectives this suburban-middle class-white girl never would’ve seen nor shifted- had I not first read them someplace else.

Books change my life every single day.

And so Real Life. Truthfully. will now have a weekly feature called,

“This is What I’m Reading”

I want it to inspire you to do a little more reading in your own life.

And then I hope you’ll tell me what YOU’RE reading.

{And also, now I will have a book catalogue.

Even though it’s about 35 years later than I would’ve liked.)

You guys. It doesn’t matter so much WHAT you’re reading– as long as you Just. Read. (I’m sort of lying- because I hate crappy, poorly written, sub par fiction. But. Still. If that’s your jam, keep reading.)

And besides, reading makes you smarter. And smarter is always better.

Next Thursday on This is What I’m Reading:

Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles

The Fault in Our Stars and Everything That’s Right With my Heart

I’m right in the middle of reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and it is achingly beautiful and tragic and painful and funny and everything in between. Every single time I pick up this damn book there is a lump in my throat and tears well in my eyes. It undoes me. It presses a bruise inside my heart. But like a million books before this one, I wallow in it and I drink it in like a person who is dying of thirst because somehow the pain resonates. I keep reading and I almost weirdly enjoy that emotional tidal wave that threatens. This morning as I snuck in another 10 minutes of reading with my coffee and pumpernickel toast and egg whites, I had the most personally profound thought: All of these tears–these frequent tears– these tears that so closely associate with pain and loss and heartbreak–do not mean I’m broken, as I have always suspected. As I have been led to believe. As I have been told. And that I have been ashamed of. They mean I’m human. And I feel. And I have a big, warm, sometimes complicated heart . And this is not a fault. It is actually quite a beautiful thing.

Like the rest of the human race, I have known tragedy. I have known heartbreak and heartache. I have known my own personal suffering and therefore tears come easily. But I have long said to myself, and more so recently, that this was some sort of indication of my brokenness. A defect of sorts. And I have been told this, as well. And while there may be some partial truth to this- that there are broken parts of me, isn’t this also the human condition? I don’t believe this makes me unique or special in any way–but I have now come to realize-neither does it make me defective.

And in fact, could it perhaps actually be a gift? Not like in a cliche way that makes you want to slap someone who refers to suffering as gift– but could this fragile, tender-to-the-touch heart of mine be a gift for myself and the people whose paths I cross, instead of a burden to bear? Because it means when I say I feel your pain, I really do. Because sometimes I can’t help cry when a friend is crying. Because compassion and kindness and empathy are important-and it hurts when they’re not extended generously and often and without judgement or measure.

And though I do feel life deeply and cry easily, I also laugh easily. And a lot. And did I say easily and a lot? Despite the fact that one of my favorite things to do is be by myself with a book that is undoing my heart and mind (I know, I know…I sound like a real party in a box), I’m actually a truly happy and optimistic person. Is it possible that the heartache makes the happiness easier to recognize and perhaps that much sweeter? “So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” (John Chbosky) But I do know this: I’m okay with it.