I was packing away our books today, glancing over each title as I stacked it on the others, when I got to thinking about my friend, Sarah.
Many of us would like to think we are voracious readers. Until you read like Sarah does, though, you can’t claim that title.
Sarah has 11 children. She reads during swim lessons. She reads while waiting in the pickup line after sports practices. She reads before bed. She reads in the morning. She reads to her children, with her children, and when she’s not with her children.
Bookshelves fill their home. It’s not a stretch to say she’s collected thousands upon thousands of books.
I used to spend a lot of time with Sarah and her family, when I was in college. We’d be sitting in the living room, talking, and she’d quietly get up and walk over to the shelf. She’d thumb across the rows until she found the one she wanted, open it up, and turn to a dog-eared page. She’d read something she had underlined, one time long ago—words suddenly necessary and appropriate for the conversation at hand.
Sarah does this. She quotes books in the middle of conversations. The words she has read strengthen and fortify her own convictions, arguments, and opinions. She admits that she hasn’t come to her (strong!) beliefs in a vacuum.
As I was packing away my books today and thinking about how much I’ve been reading lately, I realized: I want to be like Sarah. And the only way to do that is to read and read and read some more.
I’m slowing my world, even as THE world is spiraling out of control.
I’m re-discovering these books, my oldest loves, and I can feel my brain growing. My conversations are becoming more interesting. My children are happier. My mind is working, but at ease.
These books are re-forming me into someone I’ve wanted to become for a very, very long time indeed.
Someone like Sarah.
Author's note: I wrote this in March, when I was finishing up the last of the packing in our Oregon home!
I like goals. I like habits. I like routines and systems and brainstorming ways to become more productive, more efficient, and more well-rounded.
But I just finished reading the book Atomic Habits, and I’ve realized that those things aren’t actually what I want. What I want is to become the sort of person who does certain sorts of things. It’s not about the things themselves. It’s about identity.
This mindset shift is critical, because it has released me from the confines of numerical goals. The issue with numbers is that...they’re inflexible. And I live in a world where flexibility is essential to my sanity and the well-being of my family members. I’m a mom. Days don’t always go according to plan or schedule. Trying to accomplish goals with numbers attached leaves me stressed and with little patience for the “interruptions” that my children become.
So I’m changing my tactics. Instead of practicing piano for 20 minutes a day, I’m simply going to become the kind of person who sits down at the piano bench and plays every day. Whether it’s one minute, or two songs, or ten minutes with a child on my lap playing along, or five minutes uninterrupted--it doesn’t matter. The number of minutes and the type of practice have become irrelevant. I can become the kind of person who plays piano each day under any one of these scenarios.
Instead of exercising for 30 minutes, 3 days a week, I’m simply going to become the sort of person who doesn’t miss a workout on workout days. If I run the stairs a few times, it’s a win. If I push my kids in the stroller for a power-walk up the hill, it’s a win. And, on the days I can manage an uninterrupted 30 minutes, that’ll be a win as well. Again, the length of the workout matters not. What matters is the kind of person I’m becoming, and every minute of exercise on a workout day makes me into her.
I want to start journalling again. So I'm writing one sentence a night. Just one sentence. That's all I'm allowed. It's not about the journalling, really. It's about becoming the kind of woman who keeps a paper trail of the moments of her life...so that she doesn't forget.
Habits, routines, systems, and schedules are great. But identity is better and far more permanent. Instead of being productive as an end in itself, I want every moment of productivity to mold me into a certain sort of person.
The work of life is far more rewarding, when I think of it this way.
hey, i'm jordan.
i write here because i think our words are worth sharing.