The Appreciation of Concentration.

I love to read almost as much as I love to listen to music. Generally, I do both at once. This post is not, however, about multitasking… I’m pretty sure I’ve covered my constant battle with the attempt to *not* multitask and I’m still fighting a somewhat losing battle against that inate propensity to focus on more than one thing at once. This post is one of those posts that simply allows me to revel in a newfound gift of my recovered life, the ability to concentrate.

I try not to think to hard about life “before” and life “after”- that is, life in the depths of an eating disorder and life since I committed myself to the care and keeping of my body, mind and spirit. However, it’s somewhat inevitable that for someone as prone to comparisons as I, there will be some superimposition in my mind of images of my life before and after. So who am I to disallow a little personal bragging about how far I’ve come? The very recognition of the strides I’ve made in really acknowledging the way I like to live and the things that I love is a happy by-product of recovery.

Anyway, as I was saying, I love to read. Novels, non-fiction, (healthy) magazines, newspapers, blogs, the backs of shampoo bottles… I’m quite addicted to the written word. If I can understand something (that is, it is preferably in English and a little more begrudgingly in French) I will read it. It’s like an unconscious pull toward the knowledge contained within the page. An itching need to know- yes, I’d even like to know what’s written on the back of a shampoo bottle. Or at least it will do in a fit of boredom.

For a while, however, reading became a chore. When words swim in front of your eyes and the only subjects on your mind are food and exercise, there’s little mental capacity left over for absorption of the beautiful written word. School readings would pile up in front of me and I would skim through, highlighter in hand or taking meticulous notes in order to keep up at least a pretense of academic excellence. Beyond the compulsory readings that goes along with getting an undergraduate degree in the social sciences (a lot of readings, in short) I didn’t even attempt to read other things. I simply did not have the ability to concentrate on reading enjoyable things when there were so many more “important” things requiring my concentration. Like chronicling my daily intake in the margins of my notebooks.

As I said, it’s hard to not think of “before and after”. I don’t even have a clear memory of the haze in which I lived prior to caring for myself enough to help myself. The fog of my lack of concentration tends to eclipse most other aspects of my life at that time. Even after I’d begun my journey toward health, I found concentration elusive. It was a good three months of buying into recovery 100% before I would sit down with a novel and allow myself to be sucked in once again to the magic of a story, the glory of words. The joy of reading gripped me just as strongly as I remembered. No longer did I read the same sentence over and over again- I plowed through book after book, thirst for words as unsatiable as when I was an insomniac child reading in the wee hours of the night.

Now that I’m done treatment, I find myself with tons of time and very little to do to fill the hours. Reading has been an amazing comfort when I’m feeling edgy, and I’ve certainly been tearing through the novels. I’ll read historical fiction, popular fiction, non-fiction, how-to guides… even, most recently, young adult fiction. As with my taste in music, I don’t discriminate along genre-lines. My concentration works for the best and the worst of books, my thirst for knowledge and entertainment sated quite nicely. I appreciate concentration today for allowing me to busy myself in a positive way- rediscovering a long-lost passion. Thanks concentration, you rock.

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