I burned a book this weekend. I was halfway through and had been struggling with it the entire time. It was a book by a religious person about finding family and building love. The premise of the book was wonderful. But the main character’s faults and extreme anxiety were unnerving instead of endearing and I felt my mind slamming shut each time “god’s plan” was brought into the conversation. I sat by our camp fire and tried to convince myself the book’s message of hope in love was worth the discomfort and irritation. I sat by our fire, surrounded by mountains and stars and good friends, and realized I was wasting my time.
I complained out loud, of course, to this circle of friends and my husband. Yes, I conceded, it is terrible to be in this character’s head. No, I agreed, I would never give this book to a friend.
“Burn it.” said my husband. “Don’t carry it all the way home if you hate it.”
“Burn it.” agreed my friend. “It’ll be like a cleansing.”
What? Burn it? No I could never! And yet… I didn’t like it and didn’t need it in my life. Maybe it hit too close to home with how hard she struggled with her fears. Or maybe it was just bad writing with an annoying message of “everything always works out in the end.” Whatever the reason, I was done spending more time on it. After a lively discussion over whether or not I would go to hell, I tossed the book into the fire.
“I can’t believe you just did that!” my husband snickered.
“I just screwed my karma,” I whispered, “We’re gonna break down on the drive home tomorrow.”
I watched it engulfed in flames. I would never know how the book ended. I wouldn’t learn if she finally settled into herself. There would be no emotional resolution. Her overwhelming love and anxiety went up in smoke. It was mesmorizing and oddly satisfying.
Now, normally I would never publicly admit to such a devious act as burning a book. Books are precious in my eyes, stories to be passed along to family and friends, or left for strangers to discover. Books are a person’s heart and soul poured out onto paper. They are adventures into someone else’s imagination. Books help us empathize and change our perspective. Books are a mental refuge when we need a break from our own realities.
But I burned this book because sometimes a book is just words on paper. I realized that this permanent act of letting go was more important for me than trying to force myself to enjoy or appreciate something. The book is just a “thing.” It is just another thing I am holding on to because I can’t imagine giving it up. I do this with more things than I care to admit. Cards, mugs, clothing, stuffed animals, I let countless things hold my emotions. Paintings too. I build up an idea of how this “thing” should make me feel, how it should hold meaning, how it should be the perfect reflection for what I am experiencing. And sometimes… my painting is just paint on a canvas. I’m not saying I should set it on fire. But I’m learning to admit when I need to move on.
In the end, we didn’t break down on the side of the road. I didn’t disrupt the balance of the universe and no one was worse off for one less thing in the world. We had a wonderful weekend and enjoyed a nice, warm campfire fueled by lessons learned.