Saturday, October 23, 2010

Time to Stop Reading

I read a lot.

Since Julian was born I've read 2 books, mostly while nursing.

First I read A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich. (It was a New York times Bestseller when it came out in 2005.) At almost 300 pages, it was not little. It covered all recorded history up to WWI and included all regions of the world during every era. So I read about what was happening in China while the Egyptians were building pyramids. And I read about what the Germanic people were doing while the British were colonizing. And I read about what the Mayans and Incas were doing while the Colosseum was built in Greece. It was very interesting. Although I took Canadian History and European History in university, I had never learned about any history from any other part of the world.

That lack of knowledge, I'm afraid, is pretty typical of a public school education. Even now, the curriculum in Ontario schools requires that Pioneers is taught in Grade 3, Medieval Times is taught in Grade 4 and Ancient Civilizations are taught in Grade 5. Explorers are taught in Grade 6 and then the meat of Canadian History is taught in Grades 7 and 8. None of these time periods are taught in such as way as to connect them to each other, and most kids have absolutely no interest in history. In fact, when I worked at a school where most of the students were immigrants or the children of immigrants I found that they were not even very interested in their own history. I think that there is no context established in which to teach history in public schools. It's approached as a subject with facts to be memorized. It should be approached as a fabulous story to be enjoyed and savoured. And it should help us to better understand the nature of being human.

The next book I read after Julian's birth is The Birth House by Ami McKay. It is a fabulous historical fiction about midwifery in Nova Scotia around the time of WWI. It was about 100 years ago that the medical establishment began to take over birth and women's bodies and to brainwash women into believing that all health-related decisions should be made by a doctor. This attitude continues to prevail, unfortunately. Just a few weeks ago Macleans magazine had an article on how people are starting to not trust doctors and it featured a woman who had gone to see a doctor because she couldn't get pregnant and he told her she would never conceive and needed to have a hysterectomy to prevent other complications. She followed his advice and had the surgery and later learned that there was nothing wrong with her uterus and that she probably could have had a successful pregnancy.

Anyway, that book was right up my alley. A perfect reinforcement of my belief in trusting ourselves and our bodies and using alternative therapies whenever possible. And of course, my strong support of natural birth certainly kept me turning page after page.

I started another book just last week that I can hardly put down. It's The Tiger by John Valliant. I read the review in Macleans magazine and I knew it would be perfect for me, so I ordered it from Amazon right away. It's the true story of a tiger hunt in South East Russia in 1997. You have to read it to understand why it so compelling. It includes a lot of history of Russia (no wonder people are trying to get out). But it's the vivid insight into human behaviour that has me trying to nurse Julian 20 times a day, just so I can enjoy another page or two.

In addition to usually having a book on the go, I also read Macleans magazine, cover to cover, every week. And I usually read The Toronto Star every day, focusing mostly on local events and cover stories.

But last week I read too much.

It wasn't the volume of words I read that was the problem. It was the content.

For 4 days in a row I read article after article in both Macleans and The Star about the sadistic monster who killed those women in Tweed. I wanted to stop but I couldn't. And then I'd lay awake all night thinking someone was breaking into the house. I couldn't even go into the basement unless Partner-Guy was home. I was so irrational that I once took the girls downstairs with me to get something out of the freezer.

By Saturday I knew I had to get a grip. I told Partner-Guy how freaked out I was and I asked him to bar all the basement windows so that they can't be opened from the outside. I also insisted that the doors to the deck have a second lock put on them, since they are in my bedroom. I expected him to laugh at my fears but he took me completely seriously and went directly to Home Depot to buy the supplies. (Note to self: you know you've got a good guy when he takes your completely irrational fears seriously.)

I guess I'm easily freaked out. It makes me wonder what other women think when they read such gruesome details of criminal behaviour. Does it not affect them? Do they just assume that random acts of violence could never happen to them? If I lived alone, I would have installed an alarm system this week, and it is only because I have a man who comes home to sleep every night that I don't have one. When I lived alone in condominiums, I used to put a piece of furniture in front of my door every night. And when my parents owned their house outside of Moorefield, I was terrified of being there at night alone. In fact, I would go out of my way to avoid ever being alone there after dark. When I was a teenager one of my girlfriends wanted to watch the movie Psycho. Even though I spent most of the movie in another room (I was too scared to watch it) I was totally jumpy and nervous about taking a shower for more than a year. I even went so far as to check inside the vanity in the bathroom every time I entered the room (as if there'd be someone hiding inside it).

What I read or see on TV stays with me in way that I don't think other people experience. So I think I'll stick to reading about birth and tigers. At least I already know I can handle natural child birth. And I'm not scared of tigers.

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