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Bout of Books 16

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I really enjoyed Bout of Books when I took part in January 2015. Unfortunately owing to a bunch of issues I’d been unable to participate again… until now.  Fortunately for me, this Bout of Books falls on the week where I’m going on holiday with the specific priority of reading. I’m packing a suitcase, going to a small cottage on the Isle of Arran with my boyfriend, and all I plan on doing is reading, eating, and drinking wine.  It’s a much needed break after a really stressful year or so, and I’m really looking forward to visiting an island I’ve been to twice before – once when I was eight, and once when I was fourteen – with fresh eyes. Over the next fortnight I’ll be picking my books and packing, and I can’t wait to share all this with everyone and get back into doing what I do best – chatting about books.

 

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special topics in calamity physics or: how i learned to stop worrying and leave the law

I said in November I’d be back. I didn’t realise it was going to be quite this long.

I had planned a big long re-introductory post but I feel like I both have too much distance and not enough from what happened to give it the quality of insight that something like a nervous breakdown requires. The short version is this: from the age of sixteen I’ve suffered from panic attacks.  These increased in severity and frequency after my dad died.  They increased in severity and frequency again when I obtained my legal traineeship.  And from the beginning of last year, I was in a constant state of anxiety, having multiple panic attacks each week.  I began my legal traineeship and was having multiple panic attacks every day.  I was being sick at least once a day. I was sleeping perhaps three hours a night. I was crying all the time.  I was trembling and feeling like I was about to faint.  All the time.

On 14 September, a Monday, I left the office as I had booked 2.5 days off.  I didn’t sleep the whole time.  I read a lot during those three nights, because it was the only way I could stop myself from sobbing.  On the Thursday, I went straight to my doctor in the morning and cried for about ten minutes in her office.  She signed me off from work. I walked home, stopping for a break to cry on the way.  I got into bed.  I slept.

I didn’t go back.

At first, I was convinced it would just be a week.  Then two weeks. The Prozac would kick in and I would be fine.  The Prozac did kick in.  And I did feel better.  Better than I had in years.  Except when I thought about going back to work. And as the third week rolled round, I knew what I had to do. I had to leave.  I had to stop trying to be someone I wasn’t. I’m not knocking my workplace or my job at all – they made every effort to support me.  But when I thought about the 8, 9, 10 hours I’d be spending there every day, tracking my every second as billable or non-billable, staring at my computer screen, worrying about other people’s money, conducting myself with deference at all times – I felt smaller, and smaller, and less, and less. I don’t know how or why I convinced myself that I was the sort of person that could fit into that mould, into that role. My trouble is, and always has been, that I’ve never been anything other than exactly what I am. I’m not saying that I don’t know how to put a professional face on, but what I do find hard is to be constantly pushing the things that I feel in my heart and know in my head to be true aside. Money and prestige aren’t an incentive for me in that sense.  I know how to be poor.  I’ve hardly ever had much money. What I wish I didn’t know and what I’m trying to unlearn is how to make myself unhappy for something that simply isn’t worth it.

I am so much happier, so much more content at the moment. I am working in a job where I am not using my degree. My contract finishes at the end of the week and I do not have anything lined up for the future.  I am facing uncertainty for the first time in twenty years. This is exactly what I have always feared.

And yet I am happier, more content, and, most importantly, less worried, than I have been in longer than I can remember. Being truthful to what and who I am has been such an amazingly revelatory experience. I feel whole in a way that no career success, no academic success, no relationship has ever made me feel.  It’s not a straight upward progression.  The first few weeks after I made my decision I could barely leave the house, couldn’t be anywhere in public without my earphones in, and was sleeping only intermittently and mostly during the day. Once I was well enough to go back to work in an administrative role, I had good days and bad days. I still wake up trembling and nauseated sometimes feeling the heaviness of things on my heart. The guilt still floods me – how dare you leave a secure career; how dare you put down the yoke of being the most successful person in your family; how dare you how dare you how dare you. But these things happen less frequently. When this happens, I call to mind and concentrate on the advice that Cheryl Strayed gives: go, because you want to.  Because wanting to leave is enough.  What I want and need is a good enough reason and to hell with what anyone else thinks.

My head is clearer. My heart is lighter.

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Compounding my feelings of being a terrible blogger, I came back on WordPress a week or so ago and discovered this comment that I must have seen at some point, but completely forgot about.

Hi there, I enjoy reading your blog and would like to nominate you for a Liebster award. You can find the details here: http://spiralspun.com/2015/02/04/liebster-award/
(I completely understand if you don’t want to take part and I will not feel offended in any way if you choose not to) 🙂

From the lovely Kim at Spiral Spun.  Sorry Kim, I know you said you won’t be offended, but I didn’t even mean not to answer your questions!  I’m just super forgetful.  I won’t pass the award on now as I think that moment has long since gone, but the least I can do is answer the questions you set:

  1. What do you do to cheer yourself up? I’d been having a rough time up til last month – I’ve been struggling with anxiety.  At the worst points, the best thing I could do was every time I had a pernicious, negative thought, to try and concentrate on one related positive thought.  It works a little just to get my mind out of a bad space.  Otherwise, listening to upbeat music like Taylor Swift really has a strong positive influence over my mood.
  2. Which book would you like to have written? That’s a hard one.  From the things I’ve read semi-recently, perhaps The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson.
  3. Which character from a book would you most like to be? I’ve never identified with a fictional character the way I identified with Ruby Oliver, but I think I might be aging out of that, somewhat.  I’m not sure what adult character I would say.
  4. Name something unusual about yourself. 
  5. What is your favourite thing about blogging? Definitely connecting with other like-minded readers, even thought I’ve been severely rubbish about it recently. But yeah, I love chatting with people on here! I don’t have a whole lot of bookish conversation that runs the gamut of the things I like in “real life” so I do enjoy the variety of conversation you can get in the blogging world.
  6. What did you want to be when you grew up? I went through several phases of both wanting to be a teacher and an author.  I think I’d still want to be a teacher if the job was better, but my parents both put me off (they were both teachers).  I still harbour ambitions of writing something, someday.
  7. Name 3 people you would most like to have dinner with? ohhh, I’m struggling!  I’m always scared to meet famous people in case either a. I don’t like them, or b. they don’t like me!  Probably JK Rowling, Jenny Lawson, and Donna Tartt – I think that would be interesting!
  8. What is your favourite quote? 
    “When the stars threw down their spears 
    And water’d heaven with their tears: 
    Did he smile his work to see?
    Did he who made the Lamb make thee?” (There are others, this was the first one that popped into my head!)
  9. What would you like to learn to do? I would love to properly learn another language (either more Spanish or German) and I would love to learn to run my own business.
  10. What scares you? What doesn’t scare me?! Nah, seriously – I’m extremely claustrophobic and I’m very, very afraid of wasps.  I also get very specific social anxieties – I’m not socially anxious as a rule but I get anxious about, for example, having to spend a lot of time with more than one new person, even if I’m not really required to speak or do anything more than be pleasant.  I’m working on it though!
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I aten’t dead, part 2: still aten’t dead

So, some of you may have noticed that I haven’t been around in nearly three months.  There’s a couple of reasons for this.  I started work at a new job in the office where I’ll eventually begin the last stage of my legal training.  I’ll be working there until mid-June.  I also had a rather bad relapse of my anxiety.  This hasn’t finished – in fact, part of what is keeping me going is coming to accept that this is something I have to actively work to guard against as opposed to keeping saying in my head “la la la la everything will be fine and this will never happen again!!!”

So there’s that.

I also had a bit of a reading slump in February as you’ll see from my list on my Read in 2015 page.  I couldn’t get into any of the stuff I was reading, and I dnf-ed a couple of books that I had really expected to like, or even love.  After reading All the Bright Places I was in a pretty stinking mood.  Between all of that, and Terry Pratchett’s passing, there were about six really bad weeks from mid-February onwards, and I wasn’t in any mood to be blogging.

However, I’m now feeling a lot better and ready to be at least somewhat creative again!

I have draft reviews written for the three Official TBR Challenge books I’ve read, as well as the two Back to the Classics challenge books I’ve read on top of Emma.  I’m also 100 pages away from the end of Madame Bovary and should finish it tonight.  I’m on target with both of those challenges despite not posting! I’ll have those full reviews up over the course of this week and next week.

In terms of the Shelf Love challenge, I’m doing reasonably well.  I’ve only bought 4 paper books, and I’m (just) under my ebook spending challenge too! I’ve read 19/20 paper books (depending on how you count Gormenghast, as I’m not finished Titus Alone yet) and I’m on a good roll of reading through my unread paper books at the moment.  My plan is to only read paper books until I go on holiday on 15 June (to Berlin!).  I’ve also split this challenge down a bit, and have divided my paper books down in to those which belong to series, and those which don’t.  I’m reading through the non-series ones first, and it’s working really well.  I’ve been picking out five books at a time, and not picking the next five until I’ve either finished those or decided I can’t finish them.

So that’s where I’m at!  I’m going to go through my newsfeed now and also queue a couple of posts.  I’m hoping to be all caught up by the end of next week.  If anyone’s still reading this, thanks for sticking around.  I’m looking forward to book blogging hopefully from here on out!

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Booking Through Thursday: Weeding

weed

Many thanks to Booking Through Thursday.

Do you ever weed out unwanted books from your library? And if so, what do you do with them?

Yes and no.  I definitely have had, up until about the last year, a problem with holding on to books even if I’m not sure I really want to read them or (even worse) if I have read them and didn’t enjoy them.  The latter problem I am definitely conquering now!  I’ve tried using readitswapit.co.uk and had some great fun with that.  The problem is it often does end up costing you money.   Also, if you have books that no one else wants, you end up having the books you don’t want just sitting there anyway, for a long time.  My instinct now is just to give them to charity.  However, I’d be interested in trying Bookcrossing or maybe hosting a “hate giveaway” at some point in the future? As in, I might not like these books, but someone else will want them?  Of course, if I made it international, shipping might be an issue… I will think on this!

As to getting rid of books I’ve not read… yeah, that doesn’t really happen.  I always think, “what if?”  You never know when a book you open is going to become your favourite so it would just be silly to give away books unread…. right? Right?!

Ah well, as addictions go, it’s relatively harmless…

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New year, new goals: Back to the Classics Challenge

This is a scheduled post.

The first challenge I decided (pretty much immediately) that I wanted to take part in over the New Year is the Back to the Classics challenge.  I quite often find myself putting off reading classic novels, especially some of the older ones, as I visualise them as being challenging and dry.  This often isn’t the case at all and I know this – yet still I put them off.  So, with that in mind I’m going to be reading at least one classic per month this year.  I thought the Back to the Classics challenge was a perfect way to structure this task, picking one book from each category, so I get a variety of classics and don’t just gravitate towards my safe zone.  I’ll be reviewing each one as I go along! You can see the books I’ve chosen below and in my “Other Challenges” tab.

Back to the Classics challenge

backtotheclassics2015BUTTON

Challenge can be found here.  Many thanks to Karen at Books and Chocolate for running this challenge.  I’m gunning for one in each category (12 total) for this challenge.

  • A 19th Century Classic – Emma – Jane Austen (1815)
  • A 20th Century Classic – East of Eden – John Steinbeck (1952)
  • A Classic by a Woman Author – North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)
  • A Classic in Translation – Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (1856)
  • A Very Long Classic Novel – Middlemarch – George Eliot
  • A Classic Novella – A Room with a View – EM Forster (Goodreads has my Kindle edition at 226 pages, with the limit being 250 so I hope this is okay, despite there being longer versions) (1908).
  • A Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title – Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens (1839)
  • A Humorous or Satirical Classic – Candide – Voltaire (1759)
  • A Forgotten Classic The Silver Darlings – Neil M. Gunn (1941)
  • A Nonfiction Classic – A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf (1929)
  • A Classic Children’s Book – Kidnapped – Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
  • A Classic Play – The Glass Menagerie – Tennessee Williams (1945)