Recently (and I’m sure you’ve heard this from me a few times let alone our entire universe), I’ve been struggling with reading. I’m more attached to my phone than my book and usually those outcomes are never good. Mostly because when I’m attached to my phone over a book, I’m reading about the news. I’m doomscrolling. I’m updating my phone every few seconds swiping up on apps hoping some miracle piece of news will tell us all that we can finally rest easy.
Sadly, that’s not going to happen and the more I look at my phone, the less time is dedicated to reading. But even when I’m reading a book, I’m not really there. I’m off thinking about what I read on my phone. I’m literally thinking about my phone! It’s this vicious cycle of doomscrolling and not reading that I want to escape from so badly. My husband and I have been talking about how we consume so much content on the Internet and how much of it affects us in so many ways. But the reality is that while I’m looking at my phone, I’m not doing something productive like reading a book.
Last month, I was in such a slump from reading that big science fiction novel that I just didn’t want to read anymore. Every time I picked up a book, it felt like such a chore to get myself to pay attention. I felt like a robot on auto-drive reading the pages, but not really absorbing or engaging with the stories. I think this is the first low I’ve had in a really long time. Let’s not even discuss the level of sadness and depression I feel because of the pandemic and everything going on in the news.
So, recently, a friend of mine told me that she’s been staying off her phone by knitting. She was telling me that she would borrow audiobooks from the library, listen to them, and simultaneously knitted a bunch of sweaters and hats. I thought to myself, “wow, it’s been years since I knitted.” And I think I stopped knitting because I moved to a city that doesn’t require anymore than a light jacket or hoodie during its colder months.
But thinking back on when I was knitting a lot, I realized that I did it to keep my hands busy. I used to believe the old adage “idle hands are the devil’s playthings” and while I wasn’t getting into a lot of trouble, my hands always seem to fidget when I’m absent-mindedly sitting on the couch watching TV. So I took up knitting to keep my hands busy while I watched TV at night. I never considered reading books while knitting because how do you pay attention to a story when you’re focused on a knitting project?
It felt just like riding a bike. It was incredible how easily I fell back into the pattern of knitting and purling while getting through my audiobook. I suddenly find myself finishing off one knitting project and moving on to the next; my audiobooks following along with me as I went. My fingers moved deftly creating tension and release with every stitch. I could feel myself coming back to myself. It was wild. After I finished my blanket, I started a cardigan. It’s funny because I’ve been knitting for years, but I’ve never made a piece of clothing. These pandemic times really make the hard stuff look like an easy challenge to tackle.
And the one thing I noticed the entire time I was knitting and listening to an audiobook, I didn’t pick up my phone once. I was lost on a faraway planet or sent to another dimension. I was knitting but also dreaming up fantasy worlds and falling in love with romance or on the edge of my seat in a thriller. I was captivated and reading my books.
I was in the zone. I was reading and getting deep into these wonderful worlds authors created while also creating a piece of work I can own for the rest of my life. The feeling of creating over consuming is so invigorating. I felt creative for the first time in a very long time and I didn’t want that feeling to go away. I can see myself really getting through my books and reading and enjoying it because I have something to keep my idle hands busy. For the first time in a few months I wasn’t conscious of what was being said online or in the news. I somehow separated myself from the Internet and rewarded myself with something productive with a physical creation set as the outcome.
I took a deep breath and sighed so much relief from myself. I plan on continuing to read my books via audiobooks (and obviously the books I physically own because they need love to) and knit. I’m so glad knitting was brought back into my life and while most folks were crafting all the way at the beginning of the pandemic, it’s finally my turn to join in.
And I realized that it’s important to listen to your mind and body. It’s important to give yourself room to do other things when you can’t focus or concentrate. I think the biggest takeaway for me in this situation is that there’s room for flexibility in your life as long as you keep thinking about ways to find it.
What’s something you’ve been doing outside of reading these past few months?