About four years ago, our local librarian showed me how to download the Overdrive app that allowed and still allows me to borrow audiobooks from the library. Like my beloved physical hold shelf, I can put books on hold and wait for months while also searching for a book that was "available now." I loved it: I could plan ahead and get instant gratification.
Pretty soon, I was never without words. And that's still the case now. I listen to books while shuttling from drop off to pick up and all the errands in between. I listen to books while I do all those mindless things around the house: cleaning up the kitchen, folding the laundry, picking up the piles of clutter, sweeping the floors. I got headphones and began listening to books while walking my pup. Every now and then, when I was at the very end of a book or listening against the hard deadline of a due date, I would put in my ear bud and listen while others were around. During our summer road trip, I listened to the end of the wonderful The Nightingale while my husband drove through Utah and my kids watched a movie in the back. But mostly it's just me and the audiobook. We were pals.
Then, last week, while listening to the extraordinary Cooked by Michael Pollan, I had a bit of a revelation. In the book, he writes (or, in my case, spoke about--I really love it when authors read their own books, by the way) how chopping onions and garlic and other vegetables as prep for a slowly-cooked meal was a great way to daydream.
Upon reflection, I realized that audiobooks shaved off my time to daydream. And I think, years ago, that was the point. At the time, my husband and I were slugging through some murky crap because and in addition to the fact that I was personally at a difficult time in my life. As I looked back and saw the point at which I started listening to audiobooks almost compulsively. I think I filled my head with words and stories from somebody else because I didn't trust my own words and thoughts. At this point in my life, the thoughts always spiraled downwards into some dangerous, negative abyss.
Interestingly, it was also at this point in my life when I stopped running long distances--mostly I did that because of an injury to my foot, but the short and intense, group (read: with friends!) Crossfit workouts were a good replacement for long, solitary, thought-filled runs.
Want the good news? I think I'm okay to daydream again. I think I'm okay to let my thoughts drift as they will. I think I'm okay to turn off the audiobook and listen to my own story again, at least some of the time.
P.S. In case you're in the market for a good audiobook, here are some of my absolute favorites:
- Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
- Yes, Please! by Amy Polhar
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan (middle grade)
- Gooney Bird Greene series by Lois Lowrey (middle grade)
- Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
- Cooked by Michael Pollan
- Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin