Oh, Satti, we must be twins!
There’s no other possible explanation for how you seem to always get what’s in my head and heart, and this is such a joy and a comfort to me, you’ve no idea.
I’ve always read and written, from when I was a little kid. When I was a baby and a toddler, my mom read to me all the time. A lot. And then I was obsessed with learning the alphabet so she taught me. (As an aside, she still sends me books in French whenever I ask, which is very regularly. In France, books are cheap plus our postal system has a special book/magazines/newsprint rate which means that the price of postage is negligible (a couple of euros to ship them to the U.S.). This is because our government is all about spreading French culture and language around the world, so they try and keep shipping accessible to all. It’s pretty useful and amazing and a point of pride both for France and for me. Culture is in our DNA — we value it, we cherish it, we share it, and we have very engaged and strong opinions on it, be it literature, art, music, philosophy, etc…)
To get back to the topic at hand, storytelling is the thread that runs through my whole life.
How can a depressed person read and write, you ask. Well, here’s the thing: I lost my writing voice for five years so I literally could NOT write. I typed sometimes, sure, but what came out was fragmented and editorially void. I was incapable of constructing a narrative, write an opinion piece…
However, I still read voraciously, even more so than usual. I inhaled books even when I struggled to keep my focus. I often had to stare at the page for as long as it took for the contents to sink in before I could move on. I forced myself to do it because I sensed my survival was predicated upon keeping my mind active. Plus the rest of my life was entirely devoid of intellectual stimulation.
Because I couldn’t write, I filled notebooks and yellow legal pads with notes… It was so bizarre, I had bits of scribbles everywhere. I threw them all out in the end because they were disjointed and unusable. I think they were a sign that the urge to write was still very much present even when I couldn’t exercise my craft.
Books kept me alive even though I could seldom afford them, and when I could, they were second-hand, rarely new. (I adore used books, and the bookshops that sell them. The smell is heavenly!) But I had — still have and use — a library card (in fact I have two now!), and that was enough to keep my mind very well fed.
In short, I owe my life to the Seattle Public Library and to my husband who generously picked up and returned all my holds (and still does) for years even when my books completely filled his backpack — I call him my book sherpa!
Shukran & salam, Satti.