May 23, 2012

I finished Les Miserables last Sunday night and bawled my eyes out. I’ve known that Jean Valjean dies at the end for, um, my whole conscious life. But I still didn’t want him to go. And I hadn’t known that he dies from grief, as he is cut off from visiting Cosette for a couple of weeks. He’s elevated her—his adopted daughter—to his reason for living and his salvation, second only to God. I wasn’t really prepared for this, in such a great piece of literature, a story I’ve known about since I was ten: an empty nester driven to desperation.

So I put on extra eye makeup the next day, to help mask my swollen eyelids. It was a bit jarring, to be done with this story that would take me back to a world that lived and breathed 200 years ago. I started the book in November—read the first four volumes exclusively during my pumping breaks at work. Once I stopped pumping, it took a few months to get around to starting and finishing the fifth and final volume. My evening hours are oh so limited, and I get oh so tired so quickly.

But my youngest, my dark-eyed baby who was born on the eve of June last year, is sleeping better and my zombie days are fewer. I’m trying to get some exercise right after work, which (in addition to other reasons) I’ve been putting off because I’ve felt too guilty to do that instead of going right home, but hooray, my older sister was right—the evenings feel just as special with them, as moments, not minutes, are what count with small children. This phe-ing helps my energy level at night, which leads to more time to read and more time to do what I want to do.  (Then again, it is only the middle of the week—I often feel a magnetic pull to my bed at 7:30 on Friday nights. We’ll see if that changes, as I attempt to interrupt my desk-job-induced resting metabolic rate more often.)

I’m proud that I tackled this beast, especially during the first year of one of my baby’s lives, when often all I want to do is to lie on the couch and close my eyes. I even doggy-eared pages and underlined great prose. I marked words I’d never read before, to look up their meanings. I used to do this all the time: write down the best morsels of a book; look up new definitions and feel the pleasure of learning something new. I’m happy that this part of me still gets excited. Now, the problem will be focusing on the electronic dictionary only, and not distract myself with Facebook. I sold my Webster’s to Half Price last year.


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