I am one of those people who do not make friends very easily. I know an awful lot of people but I can truthfully say that I can count on my fingers on both hands the amount of people I would call real friends. I don’t even know if they all count because some of them are related to me and they don’t really get a choice. I know people who every time they move jobs – they keep in touch with all their workmates. I know people who on social media sites have hundreds of friends but this bears no relation to the truth.
Whenever I moved jobs I seemed to end up not keeping in touch with most of those people. I either moved away or friendships that I had thought were important turned out not to be so. I am not apportioning blame – it was just one of those things. People lose touch, drop off the radar, get embroiled in their own lives and forget to keep in touch. I am as much guilty of this as the next person.
I think a lot of the time I live in my own head. I spend a whole chunk of my free time thinking about my kids, my house, my work, my life. I read a lot of books and sometimes feel like my books are more important to me than real living and breathing people. I feel invested in the stories that accompanied me growing as a person. Much in the same way that my music has kept me sane over the years I think my books are like old friends. I also understand that to a lot of people this post will just seem bonkers. How can books take the place of people?
I am always safe with a book. Okay it can leave you feeling heart-broken, bereft and grief stricken if you get immersed into a good story. It can draw emotions out of you that you didn’t even realise were there. I love reading books that make me feel something. If I end up in floods of tears with rivers of tears dripping from the end of my nose – then that is exactly how it is meant to be. If I end up laughing out loud, big gut-wrenching belly laughs then that is also the measure of a good book.
I remember the first days when I realised that I could not remove myself from the power of good literature. At high school I had an old English teacher who did not have the best image. She was older, wore old fashioned clothes. I never ever thought she would be able to relate to young adults. In her class I read two things which moved me in very different ways. I read Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen. For those of you that don’t know – this is a poem about the horrors of the first world war. The most amazing thing about this poem was we had to memorise it, two lines at a time. I had to live and breathe this poem for however many days it took us to memorise two lines a day. This was epiphany number one. I had never read much poetry but having to take the time to learn it, live with it and understand it – I could not believe how powerful it was. I was horrified and amazed all at the same time. The beauty by which Owen created pictures in my mind of such horror brought me to a life-long love of poetry.
The second stroke of literary genius this teacher did was to get me to read Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee. I would never ever in a million years have picked up this book but we had to read it as part of our course. I never realised prose could be so poetic and beautiful. It conjured up the most tender moments and opened up a world of vocabulary to me. This teacher changed my life for the better.
If you are really lucky you get to combine both things – good books with good company. It is very rare that I meet someone with a love of literature to match my own. As a single parent I get lots of time to devote to my favourite hobby of reading. I do realise that this does not marry itself with a good social life though. To be completely honest I can find the traditional going out to the pub, getting drunk to be quite boring. I would much rather have a good natter about a good book than get involved in petty little drunken squabbles, little alcohol induced dramas and buy in to the rumour mill, the bitchiness that comes with nights on the town.
Maybe this is part of the reason why I feel better bearing my soul on here than to a real person. I have a little anonymity here. I don’t feel judged by how high my heels are, how orange my skin is (what is up with fake tans anyway?), how much money I have spent on clothes, make-up etc. I don’t listen to gossip, I don’t care about gossip, I don’t care about people who gossip. I like being insular, I love spending time with my friends, I love listening to music 100% of the time, I love reading books. I don’t feel like I am missing out on life by not going out as much as most people.
I find joy in many things. I love seeing the joy in my kids eyes when they laugh. I enjoy talking with the people who mean the most to me. I love to laugh, discuss life, chat to and spend time with my friends. I love taking long walks with or without my kids and seeing the beauty in every day. I like to wake up with the hope everyday that something good is going to happen. I like to wake up and embrace my day. I like to learn new things on a daily basis. I have a huge appetite for learning. I was lucky enough today to be introduced to the poetry of Anis Mojgani and am over the moon that one of my friends thought enough of me to share it.
So today my secret joy is this poet. This poet is a life affirming guarantee that there are good things in the world. With the right viewpoint life is limitless – you just have to go out and try.