An Affair to Forget

by Belinda Munoz on June 16, 2010

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I started an affair.  My heart soared those first few moments.  Every night and every morning, I would sneak delightful minutes to indulge in this affair.

OOOPS

And then, without warning, our dynamic changed.  We hit a wall.  My object of affection suddenly lost its appeal.  I began to question my motives.  I started to doubt my capacity for commitment.  Our little sessions began to feel less of a pleasurable encounter and more like an endurance test.

And so, today, I’ve decided to put an end to my misery.

The object of my misery?  A fiction book that I picked up months ago.  The halfway point.  That’s as far as I got before admitting defeat.

I started to think it was me.  That I’m way too shallow, distracted, unsympathetic and lacking a real love of fiction books.  (I did take a break from them for a long time.)

But, I had a therapy session with myself and decided that it’s not me.

FROM DECISION TO ACTION

Oh how I thought it was me.  After all, it’s written by a highly-acclaimed author whose one other book I loved.  I was sure I’d inhale it in a few nights.

And I really did give it the old college try.  I slogged through chapter after chapter, drifting in and out of sleep.  I cheated with several other books which I began and ended with ease and enjoyment.  At the end of each, I’d go back to to that first book, hoping for a rekindled perspective.

But it never came.  Not a chuckle.  Not a snort.  Not a tear.  Not a peek into a window of enlightenment.  Not the slightest bit of caring from the emotional creature that I am.

So, I’m done.  I’m shelving it.  Letting go and moving on.  Closing the book, so to speak.

DOUBT AND CERTAINTY

I have a hard time admitting defeat when I read a book.  I think it’s disrespectful to the author(s) and I’m often inclined to think it’s just me being lazy when a book doesn’t grab me.

But, having lived through my share of volumes of required and unrequired reading, I’m learning that books are very much like other life experiences.  Some will tap into that universal well of emotions that make us feel celebrated and connected to one another.  Some will challenge us and draw a hard line between us and them.  And some will fail to make that connection except for alongside those with a spine and a cover on a bookshelf.

I doubt that this author would be surprised that I put her book down, unfinished and unloved.

I am certain that this does not in any way diminish my appreciation for fiction books, works of art that they are.  And certainly, it does not make me less sympathetic to real life characters who live and breathe their own sets of doubts and certainties.  Just like me.

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I have a guest post over at Steven Aitchison’s blog entitled Break Out of the Avoidance-Apathy-Regret Cycle. I *met* Steven through a blogging bootcamp before I had a blog and he has been a supportive friend to many bloggers like me.  Hope you’ll check it out!

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  1. Do you let yourself endure an activity because you think you should?  Because you think it’s good for you?  Because you made a commitment to yourself?
  2. Have you ever put a book down without getting to the end?
  3. Do you think we should end what we start?  Do you believe that all beginnings have an ending?
  4. Are we human beings designed to struggle with letting go and moving on?  How do you know when it’s time to let go and move on?

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Image by deardarling.

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June 17, 2010 at 1:51 am

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Roman Soluk June 16, 2010 at 1:48 am

Hi Belinda! Very nice and inspiring blog you have! I like your writing and I’ll be following it now.

Thanks!

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2 Kate June 16, 2010 at 2:40 am

This reallt resonates with me, I am a voracious reader and hate to leave a book unfinished. However I now think if I am not enjoying it, I shouldn’t be reading it, perhaps it is just not the right time. If I pick it up again in 6 months, I might devour it in a weekend.
On another note, I once decided I was going to be a runner. I do a lot of exercise, but never really running, mainly because I hate it! But I was determined – for 3 weeks I forced myself to go, I got much better at it. But I dreaded it, it was only because I had promised myself that I continued. After 4 weeks, I had a serious talk to myself, why was I doing this?! There are plenty of other ways to stay fit, ways which I enjoy. So I stopped and I didn’t feel I had let myself down, I had given it a good go and knew it was time to stop. But that is the hard part, knowing when to stop. This is when I really had to listen to my gut instinct!!

Many thanks,
Kate

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3 Phil - Less Ordinary Living June 16, 2010 at 5:14 am

Belinda –

I’m an avid reader and usually have 4 or 5 books on the boil at any one time. When I was younger I would never give up on a book – now I ditch a few. Maybe I can hear the sands of time ticking a little louder? When I find myself thinking “when will this end” and wishing it would, I seriously consider ending any book or activity. LIfe is short and precious, so I guess I’m just making the most of it. Thanks for a great post and hope you find a good novel soon.

Phil

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4 Tony Single June 16, 2010 at 5:52 am

I can relate to this, Belinda. I remember back in my youth when I’d have nearly ten books on the go at any one time. That was nothing to me. The more the merrier! 🙂

Nowadays, I’m lucky if I get through even one book in a month. Between fatigued eyes that clap out after the first page, and a desire to not waste my time on anything that doesn’t engage me emotionally, well… let’s just say that not many things (let alone books) make the cut, as it were.

Which is not to say that because I don’t like something that it isn’t any good. Quite the opposite. I have been able to recognise quality whenever I see it… it just hasn’t floated my personal boat is all. Funny, really.

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5 TheKitchenWitch June 16, 2010 at 6:39 am

I used to force myself to weather through things I didn’t love (or sometimes even like). I’m getting better at waving the white flag. Especially with books. If I’m not in serious like by page 30, outta there!

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6 Katie June 16, 2010 at 7:51 am

Yes, I did the same thing with a book by one of my favourite authors. I was so annoyed that I started talking to the book, coaxing it along, then just berating it. So I put it down unfinished. I felt really good about that choice. It wasn’t working for me so why slog. Great post.

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7 BigLittleWolf June 16, 2010 at 7:59 am

When I was younger, I would “stick it out” with a book, dutifully. I felt somehow that I needed to give it a chance. Now, if it doesn’t hold me in its embrace within 10 pages, forget it.

Part of that is maturing, less time, more activities (and people) vying for my attention. And some of it is that I am a more discerning reader.

Bottom line? I’m a quality over quantity person. I no longer feel I “owe it” to an author to tough it out if the writing doesn’t reach me. The same holds true in relationships – though I am much more likely to give people rather than paragraphs ample time to percolate.

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8 Rudri June 16, 2010 at 11:01 am

I have often struggled with the same thing when it comes to books. I want to give a certain book a fair chance, but if it doesn’t pique my interest, I have learned to cut my losses and put it down. I didn’t do that in my twenties, but I’ve learned that if a certain style doesn’t speak to me, that it is ok to move on to another book.

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9 Fr. Michael June 16, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Belinda,
I often start books and don’t finish. I’ve learned not to feel guilty about it. Sometimes a book just doesn’t capture me like I thought it would. So, I just put it away and start another. Also, sometimes I’ll get halfway through a book and then pick it up weeks and months later. Not ideal, but it’s my MO.
I’m certain you’d devour my book in day! : )

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10 Kristen @ Motherese June 16, 2010 at 1:25 pm

For years, I never allowed myself to “quit” a book partway through. But recently I’ve adopted a 50 page rule. If I’m not into it 50 pages in, I put it aside. Life is too short – and opportunities to read too rare – to read mindlessly out of a sense of guilt or obligation. So I say, Good for you for knowing when to say when!

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11 Mark June 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Books are interesting, sometimes they grab you and sometimes they don’t. I have put many a book down that did not grab me, picked it years later and fully enjoyed it. Sometimes we are not ready for what is written and sometimes the writing simply does not speak to us.

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12 Madeleine Kolb June 16, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Well, Belinda,
You certainly hit a chord with this one! My experience is quite similar to yours. I read a lot and used to read fiction, but now I almost never do. There are so many tempting non-fiction books that I can’t wait to start reading.

I have on occasion put down a book without finishing it. But I’ve also stopped watching a movie because it’s too plodding or ridiculous or whatever. (Actually, my BF and I have done that a lot lately.) I don’t see a problem with that at all.

Q: “Do you let yourself endure an activity because you think you should?”
A: Not really. As Kate’s comment suggests, it doesn’t make sense to force yourself to do exercise you really dislike when there are so many other options. I think the take-away message is “Don’t stop exercising, but, pick something you love to do and stick with it.”

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13 Sara June 16, 2010 at 3:18 pm

Belinda,

I admire your determination. I am a fickle lover when it comes to books. If they don’t grab and demand my attention very quickly, I will them down in a heartbeat.

On the other, my youngest is more like you. She will keep going and going and I must admit there have been times when this served her well and the book ended up being a favorite.

My older daughter’s husband will NOT…under any circumstances…fail to complete a book. I’ve watched him sleeping in chairs with the book on his lap, but he will not pick up another until the last page of the current one is read!

I must sadly admit that I will not often endure an activity because I think I should. This causes me problems…like, for example in the areas of exercise. I have to find ways to keep activities like this entertaining. I’m not saying this is good thing. It’s one of those things I will always have to work on:~)

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14 Aging Mommy June 16, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I love love love books and like you have a hard time admitting defeat when I really don’t like a book and usually keep going to the bitter end. Drives me crazy doing that and equally as crazy if I finally surrender and give up on it 🙂

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15 Giulietta June 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Hi Belinda,

Like how your wrote the article. The book infatuation gone sour kept me interested. I wanted to keep turning the pages so to speak.

If you were trying to slog through a list of the 100 hardest books to read in order to write a book about that feat, you might want to keep going. But if you’re trying to do this for “fun” or “relaxation” it sounds counterproductive. Better to find a new book to fall in love with — after all there’s no shortage of “available” books …

Thx. Giulietta

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16 Justine June 16, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I have the “winners don’t quit” ingrained in me growing up and this has affected how I read as well. I used to plow through, good or bad, but now with myriad things on my to-do list and books on my nightstand begging to be read, I’m OK with stepping away for a bit and coming back to it later. However, by the second attempt, if it still doesn’t grab me, I just move on. It’s so over by then.

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17 Tess The Bold Life June 17, 2010 at 5:44 am

Belinda,
I never finish a book that doesn’t excite me. I figure they’re so many great books out there…why should I? Many books others believe are greats, even proven greats don’t grab me. I just move on to the next. Weird…I know!

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18 Christine LaRocque June 17, 2010 at 9:38 am

There was a time when I really struggled with this too. Admittedly I still do from time to time, but mostly I recognize that there is so little time that I simply can’t waste it reading stuff I don’t enjoy. It’s very liberating. Now if only my book club would figure that out.

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19 Eva @ EvaEvolving June 17, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Oh my, this is such a loaded post – in a good way. As far as books go, I rarely quit a book. I’m not sure if this is related to guilt or the perpetual hope that things will “click” in the very next chapter. But I like Kristen’s approach, to set a sort of limit. I’ll suffer through 50 pages, but no longer if you haven’t drawn me in. That certainly seems to be a good time-management strategy.

But the bigger issue, as you wisely point out, is how quick we are to move on from an endeavor if it just isn’t working out. And this is a tricky issue. Where is that tipping point between knowing for certain that you don’t enjoy something/aren’t good at it and maintaining the possibility that you still could “get it” at a future point? How do you know if you’ve made a good enough effort with something? And aren’t there varying points – you could acquire the skill of sewing in a week but learning pottery takes years (or whatever).

I see both sides of this argument. It’s important to finish what you start. To be committed and not give up too easily. But it’s also important to spend your time doing what brings you joy. The tough part is that some things that will eventually bring you joy are very difficult in the beginning.

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20 Vicki Cocchiarella-Link June 17, 2010 at 9:41 pm

A Fraction of the Whole. That was the name of the book. Unfortunately I only got through A Fraction of the Book.

I’m a project-oriented person. A Finisher, even of the most monumental projects. Abandoning that book — a book I knew to be well-written, and even amusing — felt like a failure.

When my mother-in-law, a seasoned gardener, was giving me advice for our new backyard, she passed on some words of wisdom someone gave her when she was a gardening novice herself. She told me that if you plant something and it does not thrive, do not spend all your time and energy trying a million different things to make it grow. Just plant something else there. There you have it: the key to a successful garden.

A simple idea. But one that blew me away, knowing as I did that I would be the gardener insisting that the plant grow.

On the other hand, I’ve stuck it out at jobs that I didn’t think I’d be at for more than a few months, only to be happy there — 10 years later.

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21 Zengirl @ Heart and Mind June 17, 2010 at 11:10 pm

Belinda,

Wow, your opening was no short of best seller drama book! 🙂

I have read in past boring books, as I always thought never to leave book half finished. But once I read such a boring book that I had to leave it in middle and I was so glad to do it.

In other hand, I like re-reading my favorites books by Jane austen or P G wodehouse. I can do it again and again and no problem. Thanks for sharing.

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22 John Sherry June 24, 2010 at 1:03 am

Belinda, For book also read the book that is life. We intend to make it a masterpiece. A classic. But we get stifled or lose our way. We open and close chapters. And often lose the plot. But there is always a story, a message to learn and a wisdom in waiting.

For a real book put it down and put it away but for a real life keep moving on turning new pages as you go. With a book you may not like the author’s style, but for your life you are the author and the style is all yours. Everyone has a book in them – it’s called My Life.

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