Embracing small life and big books

Despite the rational voices in my head telling me to suspend all expectations for the year and just focus on keeping two small people alive while remaining sane, I haven’t quite been able to help myself. This unexpected ability to make non-baby related plans, even if a little nuts, hopefully tells you that we’re in a happier psychological state than I would have predicted!

At the end of 2015 I spotted (blogger) Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2016 reading challenge and I got excited. I love to read but it tends to happen in fits and starts. So what better than a big year-long reading list in manageable monthly instalments to guide me through?! Here it is:


Yes it’s true that this might be wildly over ambitious, but here I am at the start line anyway. And I’ll be kind to myself and probably make a few concessions along the way. In fact I already made one. Knowing that I would be having a baby in January I decided to swap the first two categories so that I began with a book I can read in a day; then I gave myself another break and decreed that as long as I could have read it in a day were I not having a baby and looking after a toddler, it was fine that I took a bit longer over it in January 2016. Ha! (And I made it).

So here is as much as I have planned out, and then I’ll tell you about my January read…

JANUARY: a book you can read in a day: Simply Tuesday by Emily P Freeman

FEBRUARY: a book published this year: In a Land of Paper Gods by Rebecca Mackenzie

MARCH: a book you’ve been meaning to read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (borrowing this one back from my brother who I bought it for last year).

APRIL: a book recommended by your local librarian (I’m off to join our local library TODAY!)

MAY: a book you should have read in school: (this is tough as I basically read the things we were meant to, geek that I am, but then I remembered one I never read in its entirety): The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

JUNE: a book chosen for you by your spouse (still waiting for Andy to decided, and feeling a little nervous as he is unlikely to pick a novel…)

JULY: a book published before you were born: Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery (yay for fun summer reading!) – currently 49p in the kindle store…

AUGUST: a book that was banned at some point: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway (always meant to read some Hemingway…)

SEPTEMBER: a book you previously abandoned: (still thinking…)

OCTOBER: a book you own but have never read: (so many options…!)

NOVEMBER: a book that intimidates you (Help! there are TOO MANY to choose from! Moby Dick? Anything by James Joyce? Cloud Atlas? Catch 22? Brave New World?)

DECEMBER:  a book you have already read at least once: and here I shall reward myself with something by Charlotte Bronte or Jane Austen.

Just to throw in another complication, I have tentatively joined a local book club. And their book for February is May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes. Which is not a small or light tome. So yes, I am attempting to read two substantial novels in February whilst working out how to look after two small children without my husband around every day (farewell paternity leave, you were a delight). Perhaps I will have developed a more realistic plan by the end of the month. Or maybe I will be feeling victorious and well-read.

Finally, I wanted to share some thoughts about my first read of the year, Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman. Its subtitle is ‘Small moment living in a fast-moving world’ which sounded like just the thing to embrace at the start of this year. And I really enjoyed it.

If I’m honest, I really related to Emily’s struggles with feeling like she needed to achieve something big and significant with her life, and how this often robbed her of being able to embrace and enjoy smallness. I don’t especially like this about myself (and heaven only knows what big significant thing I’m ever going to accomplish); I couldn’t tell you exactly where it comes from, but I feel kind of haunted by this sense that I have to do something big and impressive with my life. Which hovers unhelpfully over days spent changing nappies and playing trains and burping babies. Emily’s writing definitely moved me further towards being at peace with things that look and feel small.

The book also reminded me how Jesus taught his disciples to pray each day for their ‘daily bread’, echoing the experience of the Israelites during the Exodus when God provided manna each and every day, but forbade them from gathering more than they needed for that one day. I realised in the last week how I have plunged once more into a season of taking each day at a time. The luxury of making long-range plans has gone – all I can hold in my head is the next feed, the next meal, the next nap. And actually, each day is great right now. But there is a fear and anxiety in me that wants assurance that I will be able to cope not just with today but with next week, or next month, that I’ll be able to handle this whole year despite all its challenges. And there is no assurance of that. All I have is each day, and amazingly there is enough grace and help and joy (so far anyway) that I know today will be fine. But I know no more than that. And to be ok with that takes faith and trust.

Near the end of the book Emily suggests an exercise of reflecting on each season of life and creating a list.  “These are the days of…” it begins. I love this as a way of rooting me in today and embracing its colours and flavours, knowing they won’t last forever. I remember when Jesse was tiny and I was trying to savour each day rather than counting them down, I would walk in the park and repeat to myself ‘Today is Tuesday 2nd February 2016 (or whatever the date was), and it’s a good day’. It was a way of trying to tie myself down into the here and now, and opening my eyes to what was wonderful about it. So in the spirit of Simply Tuesday…

These are the days of…

  • tiny people needing a lot of me
  • night feeds and broken sleep
  • long snoozy baby cuddles
  • endless toy chaos strewn across the house
  • embracing the amazing flood of practical help from local friends
  • evenings in
  • living life in a small geographical radius

What are these the days of for you?

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3 thoughts on “Embracing small life and big books

  1. Rach

    If you read a James Joyce in November I will read it with you. I just said this week that I’d like to tackle something of his.

  2. Fiona Lynne

    I feel like you may be living my life, just one month ahead of me 😉
    I so identify with that desire to live bigger, make plans, do more. This line – “I feel kind of haunted by this sense that I have to do something big and impressive with my life” YES. It’s maybe one of the biggest obstacles for me to be able to actually embrace this unique season of tinies and a one mile radius existence.
    I wonder whether some of it comes from the evangelical Christian youth culture I grew up in, the one where we sang songs about being a history maker, and the speakers were always encouraging us to give up everything (which is not a lot when you’re 17) and go to Africa/Asia/Manchester for the Lord, with full assurance we’d see massive transformation because of our individual actions. Egh. I’m sure (I hope?) the message must have been more nuanced, but that’s what I took away.
    Anyway, all that to say – Yes. Me too. And you’re doing a great job. xxx

  3. Pingback: What I have tried to read and how cricket won me over | Jenny from the Block

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