Reading Retreat

I am not a sociable person. I require sustained periods of solitude to function properly. I was re-reading my diary the other day, back from the time when I used to have an office job, and reflecting on how exhausted I'd become at the end of the day. I used to blame the relentless nature of the work - it was a phone sales and data entry job, mostly - but now I suspect that a large part of my fatigue stemmed from being with people all day, and the numerous social interactions I had to undertake - a fresh round of small talk with each and every phone call! And I had to be friendly, and chatty, and sound interested! And in between phone calls, there were my fellow workers to interact with! No wonder I staggered out at the end of every Monday, practically catatonic with tiredness.

One way I can reliably win quiet, restorative time for myself is through reading. Since childhood, I've tended to hide myself inside a book. Now that my children have turned into proper people, demanding thoughtful interaction, I sometimes have to retreat from them into the peace of a book to recover my inner balance. The trouble is, they know exactly what I'm up to, and they don't like it. They insist on trying to talk to me while I'm reading, pulling my attention back to themselves. (How dare they.)

So those minutes I can steal during the busy times of the day -- at the stove, stirring dinner; at the table, scoffing lunchbox leftovers; maybe a quiet twenty minutes between putting away the washing and starting dinner preparation, while the kids are chilling after school -- become all the more precious. If I'm sprung, I have to put the book away and go back to being Mum.

But now I'm wondering, did I seek solace in books in the first place because I found people such hard work? Or have years of retreating into reading rendered me unfit for normal human interaction?

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