Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Pick up on one and leave the other behind?
It’s not often easy, and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?
— The Lovin’ Spoonful, 1965
I would no more consider reading two books at the same time than I would being romantically involved with two women at the same time. The guilt is overwhelming.
I know from experience. No, not with women. Heaven forbid. But on more than one occasion with books.
Whenever I have attempted this, it has not gone well. Once I set the first book aside and pick up the second, I feel every bit a two-timer. I can barely look at that first one again. Or at myself in the mirror.
I’ve tried to pull it off by making sure the first book is in a different room, and face down mind you, but it doesn’t work. The first book may not know what I am up to, but I know.
Before long, I forge ahead with the one I like best, hoping the other will take me back after I’ve had my fling. It typically works out, but we’re all left scarred.
Which brings me to a confession. For the past two weeks I have been reading not two, but five books, all at the same time. I know what you’re thinking: you little floozy. I can’t say I disagree.
Like most cheaters, I can’t help myself. And like most, I blame others for my infidelity, the authors of these books, of course, but also the friends who introduced them to me.
It’s always a friend, isn’t it?
I suppose I might as well name them, the books and the friends.
This mess started with my walking buddy Joe DeLucca. We’ve been known to cover seven miles or more and a host of topics. In December I asked Joe to recommend a book for the new year to contribute to my spiritual growth. A few weeks later he handed me “Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender” by David Hawkins.
“Letting go” turned out to be a theme in four of the five books.
To be honest, five is a fib. There are actually six.
I tend to not think of “The Texanist,” sent by my daughter, as a book because it’s really a collection of columns. Billed as “Fine Advice on Living in Texas,” it’s a compilation of David Courtney’s answers to questions in Texas Monthly magazine.
Greta’s been living in Austin for about five years, which means she’s still considered, I’m sure, a “fast talkin’ Yankee,” but her husband is a born Texan and, more significantly, so are my two grandsons. So she senses a need to “Texas me up,” and that David Courtney is just the hombre to do it.
She’s right. I’ve already learned from him “the guidelines for male friends helping each other apply sunscreen,” and whether “hiring a lawn service to do my mowing will make me soft.”
Back to the five.
I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller “Eat, Pray, Love” in a gift bag on my front porch left by Joyce Strubeck, with whom I developed a friendship a good 10 years ago when I was a regular at the Pittston Area gym to watch her daughter Emilee and son David play basketball. Their dad is my cousin Lee Strubeck. I read the words “let go” nine times on page 185.
My nephew Joe Gromala gets the blame for the remaining three.
The title of Part One of Jay Shetty’s “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day,” is — can you guess? — “Let Go.” The universe seems to be telling me something.
And it’s even the message, in a more roundabout way, in “Outwitting the Devil,” a book written in 1938 by Napoleon Hill, but never published because it was too controversial. It finally was released in 2011 and is enjoying tremendous success.
In an “interview” with the Devil, Hill learns the Devil’s best weapon in ruining our lives is “fear.” Once we know this, you know what we should do with fear? Sure you do. Let it go.
I applied this “let it go” philosophy to the one book I have yet to mention. “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is the true story of “Chick” Donahue, an ex-Marine, who in 1968, took a job on a freighter bound for Vietnam with a backpack filled with cans of “local” beer and a mission: to find his buddies, give them a beer and tell them the folks back home were behind them.
With all the others watching, I let go of my guilt and blew through this book in one day.
It was an easy, fun, wild ride, and in the moment, I loved it better than all the others.
But do me a favor. Don’t tell them.
Ed Ackerman writes The Optimist every week for Greater Pittston Progress. Look for his blogs online during the week at pittstonprogress.com.