Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Have a Problem

 
It's nothing new. This particular problem has been my "friend" for many years - and, perhaps in some ways, has become more demanding and more unkind than at the first, when one would think the opposite to be true.

You see, I'm addicted to books. I wish it was simply the harmless and even enlightening pleasure of reading more than I ought. But it's become more...so much more...than that.

Because I collect books.

The fact that I began winning online book giveaways years back only increased the urge.
The fact that I started book reviewing and receiving books for free only increased the urge.
The fact that ebooks are cheaper and deals are more prevalent has only increased the urge.
The fact that I now work for a publisher and have access to books day in and day out has only increased the urge.

And it's time I accept the fact that the urge isn't going to go away with just one more book.

It never has, and it never will.

 This creepy guy visited me one day during lunch at work. No, I'm not a fan of snakes. But the "sneakiness" and "slipperiness" associated with him fits the subversive attitudes I've been buying into, so here you go.

When I was in elementary school and got to choose books from our little library to read for class credit, I was happy. Yes, I had some books that I owned, but I didn't have a problem with not owning all of the books I read. So how on earth did I go from that sort of thinking to this compulsive desire to fill my living space and my Kindle with an endless supply of books that never get read?

I think it started with this wish to have just one or two books more than the one I was currently reading, so they could grace my desk and I would know I'd have more to look forward to after I finished. The collecting began in earnest in high school, and it's gotten progressively worse, to the point where I neglect all the nice unread books in boxes and have to have "just a few" truly new ones at hand. I browse Amazon like a gambler visits all the flashy slot machines.

I take my limited and valuable time, insert it into the Internet, and lose. Repeatedly.

And I never quite seem to learn my lesson.

These thoughts, as specifically pertaining to books, might not be meant for you. There's obviously a world of difference between someone who views books in a positive way and balances their time, money, and attention wisely - and someone who obsessively collects books like an end-times conspiracy theorist collects emergency materials for an event they can never predict.

I think I just needed to take this moment to step back and recognize my downward spiral, and the fact that it isn't changing despite all the other life changes I've gone through with moving, becoming independent, and navigating a new job. I have to realize several things.

1. Like with any other addiction, I need to acknowledge that it's unhealthy. I don't have as much time as I used to now that I'm working an 8-5 job - and even if I did, do I really want to spend SO much of the limited time I've been given trying to decide on another book I really shouldn't buy, when I've gone over the same options over and over again?

2. Like with any other addiction, I need help. I can't change this habit without God's strength and grace. And maybe just posting this publicly and knowing that you all are aware of my problem will help me to have a greater sense of accountability. Perhaps I even need to take that accountability thing a step further...

3. Like with any other addiction, I need to get to the root of the problem. I'm not sure I can completely diagnose myself, but the way I see it, I'm being ungrateful. Insecure. Untrusting. I spend more time looking at the books that I don't yet have than reading the books I actually do have. I worry that I'll run out of reading material, that I'll come to a point where nothing that I own sounds good to me. And I don't trust God to meet that need.

It's not a "need" like other needs, but God knows this desire of my heart, to always have stories to immerse myself in. To lose myself in the gorgeous artwork of a cover, the feel of a collection of words in my hands, the engagement and inspiration that comes from being a part of another story.

Does that mean there won't come a day when I'll lose all my books and have nothing to read? No, there are no guarantees. In fact, I know someday that will happen, because I'm not taking my books with me to heaven.

But that yearning in me for beauty, for story, for purpose - God can more than fulfill those needs, and He has blessed me tremendously already with more books to enjoy than any one girl could ever hope to own. And I misuse those gifts by having an improper attitude about it all.

I still have a problem.

I know writing this post isn't going to magically erase these tendencies in me. I'm not saying I have all the answers, or that suddenly I'm going to approach reading and book-buying in the right and healthy way from this moment on. But by writing my thoughts down...gaining some perspective and facing the truth...it's a step. One I think I needed to take.

More thoughts to come...

16 comments:

Julie said...

Oh wow Amber! You are so good at putting your thoughts down and I think I can relate 100% with everything you said! I do exactly the same thing. I have even thought to myself "what books would I grab if a fire broke out (or tornado comes) and I had to get out of the house?" I've had to tell myself that there is not a book in this world that is more important than a life. I know this, but that doesn't mean the thought hasn't come into my head! I seem to have always had this obsession with owning books. I have this shrine room in my house that I call a library. Filled with books yet I continue to browse for more...so if you find a solution please do share :)

Boos Mum said...

I could have wrote this post. Word for word it sounds like me. I don't have a full time job outside of the house but I do homeschool my children. I also lay awake at night feeling suffocated by all the books. Is that sad or what. But like you said, I need to find the root of the problem, I know it comes from discontent, but somehow I think there is more. I do admit there is a problem, I am an addict. Thanks for sharing, it is comforting to know I am not alone.

Grace M said...

Wow, this post is so true for me. I actually snort-laughed when you wrote "...someone who obsessively collects books like an end-times conspiracy theorist collects emergency materials for an event they can never predict." I've mentioned to my mom that I buy books just in case there comes a day I can't go to the library, so that was just (sadly) way too funny for me.
But you are right that there is a spirit of discontent with book hoarding. As I've been going through a time where no job means no income, I find myself somewhat upset that I cannot afford to buy lots of books. Never mind that there's a library less than 10 minutes down the road and that there are lots of unread books on my Nook and on my book shelf. *sigh* It is a problem that I've struggled with, and though I doubt I'll stop buying. review requesting books altogether, I know I can be wiser in my choices (especially with review books, because that got way out of hand, lol). Wishing you the best in trying to overcome this issue, Amber! :-D

Ganise C. said...

Bless you. I truly believe honesty will be/is rewarded and your sincerity shines through you words, Amber, and you are definitely not alone. Many of us book lovers have been or are in a similar situation. May God give you an unforgettable breakthrough.

I had a problem with fiction. I read too much fiction, in general, and had to go through a burnout in order for me to realize that I needed balance and diversity not only in my reading choices but in the time I spent reading and ''being present'' in reality - wrote about it in this post :

http://revesbleus.blogspot.ca/2014/07/why-ive-decided-to-change-my-christian.html

Ashlee Willis said...

Oh, wow. These are words I needed to hear. Your struggle is one I'm sure a lot of people can understand - I know I can. And it's books for me as well. No matter what the addiction or insecurity, though, God is always the answer. Thanks so much for being vulnerable enough to talk about this, Amber :)

Kara said...

Well said, Amber. I know exactly how you feel. Whatever the thing is (and we all have one), too much of it is never a good thing. Even books! Will be praying for you and hope you'll return the favor? :)

Rissi said...

Nicely put, Amber. You know I have recently had some of the same epiphanies in the sense that I realized I need to read the books I have before buying new titles - or at least get better at reading those I own before overbuying. I don't think there is anything wrong with buying new books so long as we don't go "over-the-top" because it's a simple pleasure in life that I don't believe is "wrong."

As always, thanks for the sincerity of your thoughts. It's always wonderful. Best of luck. :)

Anonymous said...

You think you're addicted? I was given a Kindle HD this past Christmas. I have outgrown it and purchased an HDX with 64GB a month ago. Since mid-January I have amassed over 7,000 e-books. Most of them were free ones... but still over 7,000?!? I have always loved books and have about 1,000 physical books. I even worked as a librarian to feed my reading addiction. In real life I am an artist. Mostly inactive due to my health now. Like you, I am attracted to the wonderful artwork and the crafted blurbs that makes me think it would be an interesting book to read. There is also that instant gratification and "high" like you get when on a shopping spree. I don't have an answer to the problem. I wish I had one that I could share with you. Just know, you are not alone.

Amber Stokes said...

Aw, Julie!

First of all, thank you so much for the sweet compliment! I'm touched to know that you can relate to the words I use to explain myself.

Second, I totally know what you mean about the fire thing! I've thought about it, too... Which of my possessions would I grab if there was a fire? And I've dwelt on my book collection so much - which ones are my absolute favorites? Which ones in my TBR stack(s) should I read next? What will I read after that? And after that? Arranging, rearranging... Thinking so much about books!

They truly are wonderful things, but I'm needing to find a better balance, because I just obsess so much. Like, "I need to grab this book now before someone else does!" Or "I've got to figure out which books I should read next" (then spend too much time thinking about it and not enough time actually reading the books, LOL).

I haven't found a balance yet. Even after writing these posts, I've still gotten all anxious about books I want to look into (and I even bought one tonight - but supporting an author whose concert you just attended is a good thing, right...?).

So...I'm still learning, obviously. But I'm hoping writing these posts will help me to be quicker to catch myself in my obsessive moments and more prone to making good, balanced choices.

Thank you for the comment!

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Boos Mum,

It is indeed comforting to know you're not alone - thank you for taking the time to remind me of that, as well. *Hugs* I think what we've described is when book collecting takes a turn for the worst - when it creates anxiety instead of simple joy. That's really what I want to let go of: the anxiety, the constant dwelling on what I'm getting or reading next. I mean, I work with books and I write books, so it's natural to think a lot about something you're passionate about. But yes, it is sad to feel suffocated by an obsession. :(

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this, and (again) for letting me know I'm not alone!

~Amber

P.S. Homeschooling is a full-time job! I can only imagine all the effort and commitment that takes.

Amber Stokes said...

Grace,

I'm happy to know that even though this is a more somber post, it still made you giggle. ;) Yeah, that comparison just rang so true for me, the hoarding of books to make sure I never run out... In so doing, I've pushed aside so many great reads, and I keep looking ahead. I don't like that attitude of discontent and restlessness that I recognize in myself. :\

I also completely understand what you mean about the frustration. I have a good job now, but I also have a lot more bills to pay since I'm living on my own, and more responsibilities to consider. So it's not like I can just spend my money will-nilly, but I sometimes act and think like I can, and that brings guilt, especially knowing I have SO much already. I don't know why I always have to feel like I "own" something, since I know not every book I read is going to be a "forever and ever keeper," you know?

Anyway, thank you for sharing your heart, and I wish you the best with this, as well! Here's to wise choices and contentment! :)

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Ganise,

Thank you so much for your encouraging and supportive words, my friend. And thank you for sharing that link! I remember that post, but I just read through it all and agree with Jamie that it's very thoughtful. You worded your thoughts very well and definitely remind readers to keep things in perspective and not lost sight of reality - both the harder struggles and the greater blessings.

Hope all is going well for you - reading-wise and otherwise!

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Ashlee,

I'm touched by your comment - thank you! I'm glad the post was timely/relevant for you, and I so appreciate the kind words. And yes, so true about God being the answer for all our needs! ♥

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Kara,

Yes - succinctly put, my friend! It's the "too much" that gets us into trouble, isn't it? I appreciate those prayers, and I'll pray for you, as well. :)

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Rissi,

And your thoughts area always so positive and well-put! There is a sweet pleasure in buying books - in supporting authors, purchasing an adventure package, and enjoying the possibilities. :) But yes, your epiphany rings so true for me, as well (as you probably saw on my next post) - I need to start reading the MANY books I already own! Why have them if I never plan on reading them? So many gifts and purchases there that ought to be enjoyed. :)

Thank you for stopping by and always sharing a smile wherever you go!

~Amber

Amber Stokes said...

Anonymous,

Thank you so much for your honest and heartfelt comment. I can definitely relate to your words about getting a sort of "high" from obtaining new books - and it wears off so quickly. Yet the books remain, and I have so many I own that are just waiting to be enjoyed. I'm in desperate need of balance!

I'm really glad you visited and took the time to share your thoughts and let me know that I'm not alone in this struggle. It sounds like there are a lot of us - and there is hope! Baby steps, right? We'll take baby steps toward pursuing a better attitude, heading in the right direction of contentment and balance and gratitude. :)

~Amber