Like so many of us, work and family commitments during the week leave little time to relax with a good book or podcast. Or rather, the time eventually does come, but I fall asleep about 10 minutes into the endeavor.
At this point in my life with young kids, gone are the hours to unwind in a coffee shop and get lost in a novel or the web. I’m okay with that, I know that time will come again and when it does, I will welcome it while also no doubt missing what has just passed.
So to reconcile this, I have started using the week as a kind of reconnaissance mission where I discover and gather — maybe sample a little — what I want to dive into when the weekend arrives. It’s not like a vault of time magically opens up come Saturday morning. The weekend days are just as, if not more, busy than the weekdays, but the evenings feel a little more relaxed and that is where some treasured quiet might arise.
I have been trying to decrease my screen time since the twins were born to be more “present” and all that. While I would not call them futile, my attempts are not wholly successful either. I love to consume information. I need it. I don’t care the medium — online articles, books, magazines, and my latest love, podcasts (because FREE!).
So I thought I would share some of my selections as we head into the weekend. It takes me a while to get through things these days so I won’t always have a new batch every week, but I hope some recommendations might be of interest to you!
I am #basic in that I jumped on the podcast bandwagon after getting hooked into NPR’s Serial. I love podcasts because I can actually listen to them during the week while driving to and from work. My commute is only 10 minutes (though I may or may not circle the parking lot or my neighborhood a few times to
avoid work avoid parenting finish an episode), but it’s a start.
Since Serial, I have mainly listened to true crime-related podcasts, such as Criminal and the Serial spinoff, Undisclosed. But just this week I have made the dangerous addition of two others: Magic Lessons from author Elizabeth Gilbert and Dear Sugar from authors Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond.
Magic Lessons is a companion to Gilbert’s latest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, about the creative process. It seems all the cool creative types are reading this book, but I haven’t done so yet. Still working on being cool and creative, apparently. But I have enjoyed the first few podcasts (of 12) where Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, calls a struggling artist of some sort who is stuck in his/her creative pursuits. She offers him/her advice and in the following episode Gilbert calls an accomplished artist (all writers so far, including Cheryl Strayed and Ann Patchett) to offer additional guidance to the listener. I believe she checks in with all of the artists at the end of the series, so I am looking forward to that payoff.
Gilbert delivers her advice in a witty, eloquent style, digging deep into the individual creative process of the listener. I’m constantly surprised by how much I can relate to some of the concerns expressed by the listener being helped, despite being new to the writing journey. And since these aired over the summer, it’s like watching a TV series on Netflix and getting to binge listen instead of wait for a new episode each week.
It was through Gilbert’s episode consulting with Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, that I learned Strayed had an advice column-turned-podcast with writer Steve Almond called Dear Sugar. Dear Sugar started as an advice column, first with Almond and then with Strayed as the author, for The Rumpus website. It turned into a podcast about one year ago with both writers weighing in on the advice, and I am HOOKED. I’m giddy about having so many to get through.
I get the feeling that this Dear Sugar thing has been a cult classic for a while now, so again, not really hip enough to be an early or even mid-level adopter. But so glad I have found it. The advice is thoughtful, introspective, funny, honest, compassionate and raw. Both Strayed and Almond rely on and relay their own personal experiences as they answer the question. It is no Dear Abby.
While the print Dear Sugar version no longer exists, I highly encourage you to read this post of Strayed’s 10 best columns. I could read her writing all day. And what a good segue to articles…
I will usually try to get through an article or two I’ve stumbled upon every evening throughout the week (and of course however more I discover while scrolling Facebook). This weekend I’m looking forward to reading this one from the Wall Street Journal about millennials and how they are affecting the wine industry.
Though I’ve mentioned that my blog name is not about the pursuit of wine, it doesn’t mean I don’t still love it. And my work in higher education requires me to be interested in the behaviors of millennials. A perfect match about which I look forward to reading.
Hovering over my head as I enjoy any of the above is the “assignment” I have to read The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. I was asked to choose (see what I did there?) this month’s selection for the student book club at my university, and at the end of the month, I lead a discussion about the book. I chose (there really is no way around this) this book because I wanted something that the students could apply to both their personal and professional development. From deciding on a major, where to intern, or what professor to take for what class, choices are a major indicator of stress for many college students.
My hope is this book will provide some insights as to what goes into the decision-making process so they can better understand their own motivations as well as those of potential colleagues and clients. The problem is I can’t get past page 40. Gulp. While the book isn’t technical, it is written by a psychologist and it references one study after another. I understand the necessity of this, but it does get a little tedious.
All that to say, I am on page 40 of 340. I do find the topic and her research fascinating and hope I can focus on it the next two weekends to be prepared for the meeting.
So those are my picks for the weekend! What are you listening to or reading? Does anyone have the SparkNotes version of The Art of Choosing?