When my books flooded I was of course devastated. Most of these I have duplicated on my kindle already. But who can read anymore? Lack of concentration, old age, pandemic languishing, check, check and check. Growing up surrounded by books, I never took them for granted. From the earliest age, I could remember the glee of receiving a box from the Bantam bestseller list every month. My father worked in the industry when it was glamorous, like Mad Men. My parents had those same floral prints on their clothes and couches during the 70's. I think for a minute they were a power couple. Now publishing is an outpost of top authors and die hards but most of us don't read. I tried to listen to a book recently -- too many distractions. Savoring the hard won inner journey of devouring a good novel is one of life's greatest joys.
And yet as the industry tanked, so did our family.
The books stopped coming when my father took off for a venture into film which never quite accelerated, after some brief successes. As the world turned digital, I embraced it. My father did not. He's read more than anyone I know and doesn't even wear glasses in his old age. I guess denying your age has its benefits. But denying that your whole industry has disappeared is not so helpful. My best girlfriend realized her business of menswear clothing design was vanishing so she shifted gears to social work, of all things. But not my dad. The books were his lifeblood. How can you toss a book? Truly. Only a person of brazen lack of self-regard could treat books this way. Books made you smart. I once offered my daughter $200 to read The Hobbit.
The arrogance and narcissism and mood swings around my father continued to swirl from coast to coast, legendary book man that he was -- now flirting with girls half his age out of Bryn Mawr -- wannabe copy editors and such, he thought he was still in the game long after it was over. Like Willy Loman he just kept pitching those manuscripts to whomever would listen. Being graced with youthful good looks only fueled his need. Hear ye, hear ye, come get a book or two. My sister also had a need to be heard and subsequently became a drama teacher. Everyone in my family and my husband's were all English majors of one varietal or another. School teachers, speech therapists, theater people, writers, educators, editors and poets. These were our people.
What does any of this have to do with therapy you ask? Well teens and young adults who are working, studying, creating goals and visions, taking summer school, and getting internships are doing well in this grind we call our economy. Yet those who lost their motivation during the pandemic have no tools for getting out of bed. Not a surprise, it all comes back to my favorite intervention: structure. A daily routine and a nightly routine, and creating a separation between the two is a start. You can even trick yourself into having structure. But the looming longness of our days seems to have the opposite effect: boredom and then catatonia. As my yoga teacher says, "set an intention." Even for the smallest things. You can stretch and grow and make mistakes and still live to tell the tale. Surviving a layoff, a breakup, a bad boss and an office party -- even a pandemic, are all opportunities for learning. In Burn's book "Feeling Good," the bible of CBT, he simply states that making mistakes is the ONLY way to learn. And in my favorite Ted Talk, Meg Jay says, your 20's is the time to try things. How else can you know what you like or don't like? Again and again young women come to my office or screen saying "I'm afraid/crippled/fearful/paralyzed/triggered that I don't know what I'm supposed to know." How can you know without experience? How can you get where you're going without trial and error? I like the expression, you can't blame yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you knew it... Get outside and keep your body moving. The only way around is through. Then curl up with a good book and sit a while.