I’m a list maker. “Remember to pack.” “Places to visit.” “Books read.” That last one, I admit, is my pride and joy. I like watching it grow each year and kind of pat myself on the back as it does. I even put the nonfiction titles in bold font. That’s right – an extra sense of accomplishment. The last couple of years I’ve taken to rating the books, too. Embarrassingly, people would always ask, “Read anything good lately?” and I honestly couldn’t remember.
(My favorites read in 2015 were: The Boston Girl, The Boys in the Boat, Eleanor & Park, The Martian, Mosquitoland, Notorious RBG, Someone Knows My Name, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Unbroken. Just in case you’re wondering.)
So, as I “call it a wrap” on this year’s list, the grand total is 34 titles. Some might say that’s a lot. I know many among you have read significantly more. But here’s what I’m most proud of: This year, not everything I read made the list. This year, I finally learned to put down a book I wasn’t enjoying and say, “All done.”
“All done.” They were the first words the boy learned to sign, and they were empowering. Not just that he could communicate, but what he could communicate. Without pushing a bottle away, simply by waving two hands, he could say, “I know it doesn’t come out to an even 4 or 6 ounces, but I’m done, thank you.” He could look at a partially eaten plate of food and basically say, “Perhaps there are scientific formulas behind the partitions on this jungle-inspired plastic plate, but, even though it’s not clean, I’m full. Thank you very much.” (I don’t recall him ever doing that with a plate of cake or cookies, though. That’s our boy.)
In time, the gesture carried over from the highchair to other activities. “All done” in the bathtub. “All done” at the grocery store. “All done” at the Oneg. (#rabbiskid) Whether signed or spoken, it is an empowering thing to be able to bring something to a close.
So why does it become so difficult to put down a book that’s just not working for us? Is it because we actually do hope it will get better? (Rarely.) Is it because we’ve invested too much time and energy to just stop now? (Maybe, but is a week of page flipping really such a lamentable loss?) Is it because we’re afraid that being the only person not to rave about All the Light We Cannot See bespeaks a defect in our soul? (OK, yes… I kind of feel you judging me right now.)
But this year I did it – I did it multiple times in fact. Do I wish every book I dove into lived up to all I hoped it would be? Of course. But not everything does, does it? And if we can learn to say “All done” to the small things – like a book – maybe we can eventually do it with the bigger things, as well.