It’s been awhile since I’ve treated myself to a favorite Sunday-experience. So, today I ignored my to-do list and two baskets of clean laundry needing to be folded and put away. I hustled instead out into the cold and into to my car, before overthinking the decision. In a few minutes I was on the freeway and headed to one of my favorite hangouts: an actual book store. Yes, I have a Kindle. I have a Nook, also. But every now and then – it feels like more often, lately – my fingers almost itch to hold a book in my hands; to turn real pages; to close the book on one of my many bookmarks (collected during my travels), as my eyelids grow heavy and my mind feels so contented and full with a Good Read.
Book stores are amazing places, especially during the holiday season. It’s as though they know that so many of us are in ‘chill’ mode (literally, craving warmth and being able to just wallow in blankets and slipper socks and piles of good reads; and maybe a pot of tea). For someone who loves to read, books are a special kind of retreat from the world. Usually, I can’t get out of a bookstore with just one title. Today, I brought home three.
Before I left the store, I wove my way through the (deliberate) maze of magazine isles: a glistening display of colors and glossy images that brought to mind a high-end department store with chic items from all over the world. Is it just my imagination, or has there been a recent explosion of new magazine titles, in so many more niche categories ? Have I been so absorbed by news feeds and other online reading that I’ve become oblivious to this ‘stealth’ hard-copy extravaganza? ‘Print’ is obviously alive and well, despite what our social media might have us believe. I dove in, starting with the endless rows of magazines by, and for women.
Two things became instantly clear: first, magazines – many of them – have taken on the look of ‘coffee table’ books, and are often just as pricey now. Second, the magazines written by, and for women, are all strikingly similar. A quick scan of five or six of them revealed what we all seem to be thinking about (or else why would publishers be spending gobs of money trying to get us to part with ours?): Mindfulness; Getting and Staying Healthy; Happiness; Finding and Nurturing Our Inner Goddess. It struck me that, unlike the decade that I became an adult, few publications are now related to Feminism. Fashion. Beauty. Inner Peace. Not so much about the ‘politics’ of being born female. Not judging, just observing and thinking about this trend.
Women, as we know, will spend money: to enrich our minds, our bodies, and to make ourselves feel more beautiful. We’re always looking, because we’re aware and in tune – most of the time – to what we need to thrive. But it struck me, as I zoomed through multiple Tables of Contents in each magazine, that our collective hunger to know more about these topics (The Secret to Staying Sexy was – hands down – one of the most prevalent) just might be a little Over the Top. So many of us are seeking answers outside of ourselves (how else could Vogue Italia get away with charging $40 for its December issue?) I grabbed a few magazines and headed to the bookstore’s coffee bar to enjoy an espresso and make a selection (or not). It was then that I began to hear the answer to a question pin-balling around in my head.
The café tables and stools in this bookstore are cramped – as though the bistro was an afterthought. So, right behind where I sat, two women with shopping bags under their feet (and so close to being under my own) were talking. It was impossible to not hear the conversation, even as I tried forcing myself to focus on my magazines. It was clear that one woman (pink sweater) was entertaining the idea of a new love relationship. All the right elements were there (she told her companion). I had to steal a glance at them: both in their 40’s, I guessed. What’s the problem then? her friend asked. Pink sweater then said: “I don’t know; it sort of feels like I’ve forgotten how to dream.”
It doesn’t matter so much what our circumstances are; or, how far down the road of Life we are. I believe that all women have a kind of inner compass, deep in our bones. That compass guides us; through the confidence we feel in ourselves, and in our dreams for how our lives are supposed to feel, and be. But just the simple act of daily living can throw that compass out of whack, the way a magnet scrambles an actual compass’ ability to find True North.
It seems to me, that the more ‘scrambled’ we feel, the more we tend to rely on others to tell us what we instinctively or intuitively know. I’m in total support of the many women writing books and magazine articles on topics we feel shaky about. But we should also remember what we, as individual people, already know…about what feels good and true and right for us…about what makes us feel beautiful and worthy…about the power of listening to our own hearts. Knowing that we know, and acting on that knowledge, is living bravely.