Friday, February 6, 2015

Saved by Nancy Pearl


Be honest.

It's February, and those ferocious New Year's Resolutions have crashed.

You haven't lost 12 pounds, exercised for 30 minutes daily or cleaned the closets. Me either.

Change-worthy improvement, however, is still possible. I realized this at Starbuck's. If you stand there long enough, you'll find wisdom.

On the cup sleeves beside me were Oprah's sentiments:

Your life is big. Keep reaching.
Live from the heart of yourself. Seek to be whole, not perfect.
Know what sparks the light in you. Then use that light to illuminate the world.
You are here not to shrink down to less, but to blossom into more of who you are. 

I tried to imagine my big life. Write a novel? Visit The Orkney Islands? Learn to tap dance? All of the above? Do I start today or can I wait for better weather?

I've been down that embrace imperfection road. I get sidetracked every time. I'm the one straightening street signs and picking up litter in the ditch while everyone else dances barefoot in the rain.

Illuminate the world? It's a little late for me to become Mother Teresa. Could I just say kind things each day to a dozen random strangers? Would that count?

I'm all for blossoming, but more of me might not be the best thing in all circles. From my previous post, you'll understand that Trader Joe's might be reluctant to receive more Karenness.

Don't get me wrong. Oprah's concepts rise like chai-infused steam from my hopeful better self. If I were on a slow boat to China with no obligations or distractions, those would all be fine truths to seek. As it is, I only fret myself into paralysis over these big-picture goals.

By this point in the year, I need a quick fix.

Again, Starbuck's holds a cut-to-the-chase solution. In their "The Way I See It" series, legendary Nancy Pearl, Seattle librarian and author of the Book Lust collectionoffers productive, guilt-reducing wisdom on cup #169:

Life's too short to read a book you don't love. At age 50 or younger, give a book 50 pages to see if you like it. Over 50, subtract your age from 100 and that's the number of pages to read before you bail on a book you're not enjoying. And when you turn 100, you get to judge book by its cover!

There's a life-changing strategy you and I can manage if you're a reader, too. Having felt duty-bound since childhood to finish every book I start, I'm thrilled to have a smart woman let me off the hook. She assures us that libraries don't record who finishes a book, nor do they award a Reading Bravely Though Bored Badge.

Go ahead. You're allowed. If you need to practice, deliberately check out a library book that you know isn't YOU. Follow her recipe and BAIL. Notice that she didn't use FAIL.

Maybe that's how you'll blossom this year.

(The closets can wait.)


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2 comments:

  1. I agree completely with the wonderful Nancy Pearl (whose job at the Center for the Book I still covet). Life is too short to read crappy books. I have worked as a book reviewer in the past, and I didn't have a choice but to read through some truly awful fiction, but now that I've quit reviewing for the pittance they paid me (I just review books now for my book blog and on Goodreads) I find that I can easily tell within 25 pages whether or not the book is worth the paper it is printed on.

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  2. Yes, yes, yes. That's what I believe Nancy believes--that we know our "print" selves as well as we know the kind of pizza or shoes we like. I appreciate being freed of that sense of duty that I've always felt for finishing books. (By the way, I used to review books, too, for newspapers.)

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