I’ve been trying to a write a post for the past week about my need to buy fewer books in 2017, but my brain hasn’t wanted to think about it. Anyway, at the end of 2016 I was sorting out my Filofax, and as I removed the old pages and inserted new ones, I came across all the book lists I’d compiled. The lists got me wondering about how many books I’d actually bought throughout the year, so I consulted Booxter, the trusty old database app I’ve been using for years, and was rather surprised at the number it turned up. I became curious about how much money I’d spent on acquiring those books, and was pretty shocked to find myself staring at a not inconsequential figure. Multiplying that by 5 – because I’ve been on a book buying bender for at least that many years – made me sit back in my chair and draw in my breath rather sharply. Really!? It wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d actually read the books I’d bought, but most of them are languishing in piles, unread and mostly forgotten.
After that unwelcome revelation, I decided I needed to get serious about my ongoing battle with my unread book mountain. I’ve written here so many times about reading projects and plans that were supposed to motivate me to reduce the piles, and I even started a new website in an effort to force myself to read my own damn books, but nothing has worked. I decided to give it another try, so I set myself a perfectly reasonable monthly amount to spend on books and vowed to stick to the budget. However, on New Year’s Day I was feeling a tad stressed and I ended up going on a bit of a binge and spent three times my monthly allocation in one day. Yup. Since then I’ve been feeling quite disappointed with myself. I know I often use online book buying as a displacement activity when I’m feeling stressed – it’s a distraction from what’s bothering me and a way to escape my thoughts for a while. And, although book shopping isn’t exactly a self-destructive and dangerous addiction, I do feel that I need to quit indulging the part of me that still wants to find a way out of dealing with what is.
As regular readers know, I have an OCD/depression/anxiety thing going on. I’ve been off meds for over three years now and am doing ok. I no longer see doctors, psychiatrists and psychologists, because quite frankly, they made me feel worse about myself; they made me feel as if everything about me was very wrong and totally broken and that the best I could hope for was to find a combination of medications that would correct the chemical imbalance in my brain. I got tired of the ‘suck it and see’ approach of psychotropic medication, the way that prescribing is more of a black art than a science, and the way that doctors discount the horrible side-effects of some drugs. I got tired of all the waiting rooms and being asked questions and being labelled by people who had only met me half an hour previously. I got tired of the whole thing, really, and decided to quit the system and see what happened. Sure, it can be a bit tough sometimes to be with my crazy brain, but I seem to have developed some coping strategies and so far I’m doing alright. I don’t discount the idea of taking medication again at some point, if I think I need to, but at the moment I feel as though I’m dealing ok with my thoughts and impulses, except for the excessive book buying thing, and it’s time for me to deal with that, too.
After my shopping binge on New Year’s Day, I’ve not felt inclined to buy any more books. I’m feeling alright about trying to stick to a monthly book buying allowance. Instead of making lists of books I need to buy, I’m writing about the things I could do with the money I save. I could do something about the travel plans that have been brewing in the back of my mind for a while, or I could buy the top-of-the-range motorcycle I’ve been hankering after. I could spend money on the house, or buy furniture, or just leave the money in the bank and watch it grow. I know that I need to avoid reading book reviews and trawling websites looking for out of print editions. I’ll have to try to get over my fear of missing out: on a bargain, on a great read, on learning something new. I need to turn away from the internet as a source of distraction, and instead invest more of my spare time and energy in real life activities – such as reading, making art, and writing.
Yesterday, I went to the metropolis and wandered into a book shop and looked around, and I didn’t feel in the least bit tempted to buy anything. Instead, I felt a kind of revulsion at the idea of acquiring more books, and I felt very tired all of a sudden. I just didn’t want to be there, so I left empty-handed, which has to be a first for me! I didn’t have any sense of prohibition; I just didn’t want to break my promise to myself.
It’s not as though I’m going cold turkey with a book buying ban, because that never works for me in the long-term. Gradual reduction and resetting the want-o-meter is the way to go. Setting reasonable goals instead of setting myself up for failure. Stepping off the conspicuous consumption roller-coaster. In the end, I’m accountable to myself. I need to stick to the plan, stick to the promise, defer action, and let it go, whatever it is. I’ve been here a time or two in the past. I know how this goes. If I can stay clean and sober and vegan and sane(ish), hopefully I can apply the same principles and stick to my book buying budget.
I’m determined to do it. It’s time.0