"I Don't Have Time to Read" and Other Impossible Sayings

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

"I don't have time to read".

"I just don't have the attention span anymore."

"I think Netflix will make it into a series soon anyway."

Real things I have been told by adult women when asked what they are reading lately.
I don't mean reading things like blog posts and news articles (as much as I love that you are reading this right now!), I'm talking about actual, in your hands, books that you close at the end with a sense of accomplishment.

I get it. You're busy, I'm busy, we're all catering to some sort of urgent need at most hours of the day. But our minds are important, and did not cease to be important once we became adults. If you have children, or work with children, I would argue that you have an even greater obligation to feed your mind with the tools to guide the next generation.

We cannot give our children what we refuse to cultivate in ourselves. What we do not value, they in turn will not value. Those who go against the parental example are the exception that proves the rule - not evidence of an eventuality. And that means reading. Real reading.

You might recall an Elementary school teacher, somewhere along the line, telling the class, "Your mind is a muscle, you have to exercise it." Your mind did not suddenly lack a need for maintenance upon your graduation from school. The fading of a mind may not be missed right away, but to let our minds atrophy is to lose a part of what it means to be fully human.

Reading allows us to enter into communion with the Other in a more intimate way than is possible through mere conversation. It is a melding of minds without a loss of the persons. I remain me, but I become more fully myself in relationship with others - with a relationship with God being the greatest form of this communion. This is why deep spiritual reading is of such importance in the monastic life, and no less important for the laity.

However, our reading must be translated into meaning if it is to act on our minds and souls.This translation is most effective when it is made in companionship. Humanity has never been intended to exist as solitary individuals ("It is not good for man to be alone" Genesis 2:18) It is not enough to read, it is necessary to read together - to allow ourselves to be changed by what we read in living words.

This is what it means to be present.
This is what it means to be human.
This is what it means to Love. To love ourselves is to love others, and to love others is to love ourselves. In this love we fulfill what it means to be human.
In this we fulfill our call to live fully as Children of God. Learning in relationship to other human beings is, thus, innately and intimately tied to the universal call to holiness.

I'm hoping to get a post up in the next few weeks with practical tips for making this kind of reading happen "in the trenches of motherhood" or in a very busy life. What advice would you give for someone struggling to find the time, or mental stamina, for this kind of deep reading? Is it something you struggle with as well?


  1. One tip I have (though I read much less than I’d like) is to identify your bad habits on social media and work on them. Scrolling too much and spending hours clicking down rabbit holes online diminishes my attention span. And over time it makes sitting down and focusing on deep thinking and reflecting harder. And really, how much good does reading a million articles and statuses do for us? Not much, I think. Take time for self-examination and kill the bad habits that are ruining your reading ability!

  2. Yes yes yes!!!!! I'm so glad you're talking about this. It made me so sad when I talk with women who say that they only check out library books for their kids and that they don't have time to read anymore. Not only is reading possible while "in the trenches of motherhood," but I think it's especially important and necessary and basically everything that you said about being human :) I definitely think it's more of a challenge to do "deep reading" as opposed to fluffier reading that's for fun, and for me it's good to snatch even a few minutes of quiet and work slowly through spiritual books. Even 3 minutes-I'm guessing that most people can work 3 minutes of silence for deep reading into the day. Lock yourself in the bathroom while your toddler is playing happily, wake up a teensy bit earlier than normal, have a "technology free" appointed so that you're more willing to pick up a book than hop online...just do something! And groups like Well Read Mom are fantastic for the community aspect to work through these kinds of things together.

  3. Amen! I always tell other moms to just start by reading a few minutes a day to build up their attention span. It's so important to continue educating ourselves!