A Week with no Reading and Writing
The idea behind this experiment was pretty simple. I was going on vacation. There were no books that I had a burning desire to read. Maintaining my blog was going to be inconvenient (but possible) and would have annoyed my wife (not a good idea). So I simplified things. During my week-long vacation, I decided that I would not read or write.
Because of this simple decision, three good things happened during my vacation.
1. I went to bed earlier.
This might sound trivial, but it’s very important. Getting to bed earlier (because I wasn’t reading after bedtime) meant I woke up earlier, more refreshed and less grumpy. I saw sunrises that I otherwise would have missed. I ate breakfast before my family got up (I eat way more than anyone else in my family, and sometimes they get mad when they have to wait for me to finish).
I had time to analyze various routes (reading a map isn’t really reading) before we left the hotel every morning. We got to the amusement park before it opened and avoided a lot of the lines (until the afternoon crowd got there). We got to the mountain roads before they got clogged. We got to the beaches before they became overcrowded. And no traffic (until we left in the evenings) meant much less bickering in the car.
2. I was nicer to my children.
I’m usually fairly pleasant to/around my kids, but something happens to me when I’m deep in concentration (whether it’s reading or writing). If I get interrupted, my response is sometimes rude. My kids get their feelings hurt, and I have to apologize. My wife also gets mad, and sometimes apologizing isn’t enough. I try to warn them to not interrupt me if I’m reading or writing unless it’s really important, but to kids, everything is really important, and to my wife, nothing should be more important than her, so I have bad moments every once in a while.
Last week when I didn’t read or write, I didn’t have bad moments. I was never getting interrupted because I was never deep in concentration (except when I was driving). I didn’t snap at their requests because I really wasn’t doing anything else. I was in a good mood (except for a couple afternoon traffic jams).
My only bad moment wasn’t really my fault. My daughter was goofing around in the hotel room and accidentally kung fued me in the groin. The only good thing about getting kung fued in the groin is that I couldn’t immediately respond (and it’s the immediate responses that hurt my children’s feelings). I had time to think things through.
3. I didn’t get into stupid arguments with my wife.
My wife watches tv while I read. This should be a peaceful arrangement (I can tune out the television most of the time), but then she ruins it by talking to me during the commercials (it’s not wise for me to tune out my wife). The commercials rarely correspond with chapter/scene breaks in the books I’m reading, and I occasionally snap at her with something like ‘I don’t interrupt your show just because I finish a chapter!” and then we argue about stupid stuff until her show starts up again, and we stop arguing. I have my faults, but I know not to argue with my wife my wife during a reality show.
With nothing to read at night, I watched television in the hotel room with my wife and learned a lot about what not to wear (I’d better update my wardrobe or I might be embarrassed on cable) and that home remodelers almost always choose to “list it.” It was a remarkably peaceful hotel room for only one television. But this arrangement never would have worked during football season.
Last week reinforced my belief that reading and writing are not addictions. I enjoy reading and writing, but I can stop whenever I want. It’s not like drinking or smoking or playing video games (or watching porn) where the urge is constant and sometimes overwhelming for some people. I didn’t miss the reading or writing (or smoking or drinking or watching…).
Now that we’ve returned home, and we’re back to our routines, I have begun reading and writing again. But now I’m going to be more careful about snapping at my family when they interrupt me. After all, my kids are at an age when they actually like being around me (despite my faults), and that phase isn’t going to last much longer. Plus, my daughter has learned the power of the “accidental” kung fu kick, and she’s not afraid to use it.