Friday, February 24, 2017

back away from the book

I was on a mission a few years ago to finish reading every book that I started for that whole year. This was a big challenge for me, because I am notoriously bad at putting something down if it doesn’t immediately captivate my interest. But I hated going into bookstores and seeing shelves and shelves of books that I had only read the first few chapters of. So, for all of 2015 I completed every single book I started, and I felt good about it. Since then, I have to admit I’ve not finished every book through to completion. And upon further reflection, I think I'm okay with it.

I was having this conversation with someone recently and they admired the ability to put something down if it doesn’t fascinate, or even interest you, and never finish it. I began to think of my reading quirk in a new way after this conversation. Instead of not committing to something I felt I should be, I was redirecting my energy to something else that was better suited to me (usually a different, more interesting book).

So, what’s better? Digging in your heels and following that difficult thing through to the end? Or realizing that there are millions of books in the world and you should spend time reading one better suited to your likes? Obviously I’m talking about more than just books here. And maybe there isn’t a solid answer to this question, but it could depend more on the situation and what that ‘book’ is.

This process of ‘letting things go’ has always been quite difficult for me. I remember being one of the few people to cry at my high school graduation, which seems a bit ridiculous now! It wasn’t because I absolutely loved high school, but the dramatic ending of a time in my life that I knew I would never get back overwhelmed me. That sense of letting go was emotional for me and I didn’t completely understand why.

            If you’ve never taken the Myers Briggs Personality Test I would strongly encourage it. I love finding out more about why my personality is the way it is, and why certain things make me tick, and this is a great tool for that. I am an INFP, which stands for Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, and Perceiving. My personality type is called the mediator, and is described as, “a true idealist, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events.” I relate strongly with most of the description of my personality type through this test, and have learned more about myself through it.

         One very insightful thing I learned by reading about my personality type is that I long for deep and meaningful relationships, yet I avoid many social interactions. I want to get to the end result of finding great friendships, but don't want to have to go through the awkward beginning stages of getting to know people. I want to read an amazing book, but start at chapter 5 when I already know I'm going to love it.

             Because of this characteristic about myself, friends I connect with are friends for life. It takes so much energy and effort to get to that place with someone, relationally, but once I do I cling to them forever! The idea of having a falling out with a close friend is so foreign to me. That would mean letting go of someone and having to replace them with another friend, which would require making another friend which would require finding another human being that I would chose to spend time with over be alone. I know this sounds cynical and awful, but it's true! 

            Now this is not to say that I am some sort of weird, obsessive friend stalker person. If we’re friends you definitely don’t hear from me every day, and probably not even every week (according to my INFP profile this is true to my personality). However, I treasure my friendships and relationships so much, that it’s not abnormal for me to randomly think of someone in my life and nearly be brought to tears with how much I care for them. The well runs deep!

            So now what happens when one of those relationships is no more? What happens when the plant dies or the book is—for whatever reason—unreadable? Well, obviously, I will use whatever means necessary to hang onto it for dear life. If the book is written in another language, I will buy Rosetta Stone. If the plant is dying I will fill it's pot with fertilizer and water it to overflowing (probably killing it further). I will go to extreme lengths to keep this relationship alive because I’ve invested too much and shown too many parts of myself to just let that person walk out.

            This was my old mindset. I clung to their coattails and begged them not to leave. This sounds dramatic, and it is, especially for a very nondramatic person like myself. I used to think something was wrong with me (doesn’t everyone at some point?). But I realized this is the way my brain is wired. I have a hard time making those meaningful connections, and when I do it feels like I’ve struck gold. So if that connection is lost, it hurts me in a very deep and personal way.

              But through looking inward I've realized that these actions are hurting me in the long run. Watering a dead plant won't bring it back to life. It is just a waste of time and energy that could be spent on a living plant. This thought process has helped me come to terms with being able to put the unfinished book back on the shelf. I am able to see something that is dying and refuse to keep watering it out of pity or guilt. This has been true in my life with relationships, but it could also ring true to any number of things; hobbies, a job, etc. 

           Some relationships and meant for a specific time in our lives, and they are healthy to walk away from. Is it still hard? Definitely. I think probably the hardest part of all this is being able to realize when something is not longer beneficial or healthy for you. But we all know it when it happens, that feeling deep in your stomach, and it is time to walk away. Not out of weakness, but out of strength for ourselves and of what is best in the long run.