Before I was a writer, I was an insatiable reader.
I remember the monthly thrill, all during elementary school, of my teacher passing out the Scholastic Weekly Reader book order form. I would avidly circle all the titles on my wish list. So many books to read! So many worlds to inhabit! How to contain oneself at the sheer potential of it all? I couldn’t begin to conceive of how to whittle the list down; once a book blurb hooked me (and most of them did in some way), I couldn’t possibly pick one to say goodbye to over the others. I would say they were like my kids, because most people relate to the inability to choose among children. Except they weren’t at all like my kids. They were like unique and special stories that couldn’t be swapped and substituted one for the other. No analogy necessary in my world.
I could never figure out a set of criteria by which to judge the books, to rate one over the other so that some might be removed from the list.*
Fortunately, I never had to figure that particular Rubik’s Cube out. No matter how tight money was, even in the still grey of winter in a seasonal Cape Cod town, my mom never told me no, never set a limit to how many I could get. She has since told me that the way she figured it, as long as I was reading them all, I could have them all. And I most certainly did read them all!
Of the ridiculously many incredible gifts my mother has given me over my lifetime, this is perhaps the one I treasure the most, as this was where she first opened the door for me to feed the need and grow the seed the way that worked for me.
She did this again for me in high school. I had been going through the traditional teen angst, struggling with who I was and who I wanted to be. I was terribly self-conscious and uncomfortable in my skin, and the last thing in the world I wanted was for anyone to know that.
One day in the thick of it, my mom hugged me and held me and gently suggested I take a walk down to the hippy dippy new age shop downtown. Said maybe I could find a book that might help me through this feeling. I probably resisted at first, because it’s always been difficult for me to admit that I need help – that I can’t deal with something on my own.
And the idea of walking into the place, of crossing the threshold and people seeing me need help, actively approaching and entering a place to get help, was a real tough one for me.
But I did need help, and here was my mom, offering up a plan. I sure didn’t have one that was working, so off I eventually went.
My mother’s wisdom is boundless and so very sensitive, and of course this was exactly what I needed. I browsed for hours, mesmerized by the beautiful crystals, the peaceful, enchanting music, the thick musky scent of the incense, and the inexplicable comfort I found there. I left with a crystal necklace – not understanding why it felt so nice to wear but trusting my attraction to it – and a couple of books. Self-help books on the way we speak to ourselves and how we view ourselves.
Although nothing could ever replace my love for fiction, at that point I developed a new and different love, that for reading about the self and how to be more of who you want to be.
Since then, I’ve read sunshine knows how many books, magazine articles, blog posts, newsletter articles, and promotional emails. If it pertains to motivation, goals, happiness, health, or self-exploration, I’ve probably either read it or else have it on that sacred endless list of Books to Read. Yeah, you know that list; the one that grows exponentially faster than we can read and remove our entries. That collection of titles that seems to offer reassuring and quantifiable insight into who we are and how to become who we want to be.
* I also happen to have about 38 different shades of brown eye shadow and 11 pairs of similarly blue-green earrings, because they all have just slightly different subtleties and special features. Any attempt to decrease the stash leaves me with furrowed brow and saddened heart at the thought of missing that particular shade of shadow or jewel in my life. They are all so freaking beautiful! Sometimes I ask myself how it is that other people CAN choose.
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