When I am so frustrated I can barely speak, when I am so angry I want to kick someone, when I am so sad I want to curl up and pull the hole in after me, there’s one place I almost always end up. I go to the library for solace, for other people who have been through the same thing, for distraction, for laughter, for one place where I have never found discord.
I’ve loved libraries for a very long time. I was home schooled, and every few days I would walk to the library and get more books. I’ve always gotten along well with librarians. If I’m looking for something new, something I need right then, I can talk to them. I can ask for help, not necessarily with the problem I’m facing but with the information I need surrounding the problem or just something to read to get my mind off of the whole thing. The ones I have talked to seem to enjoy being presented with challenges and they like getting to dig up interesting bits of things.
In junior high, I barely talked to anyone other than the librarian. I was dealing with massive culture shock and I was painfully shy on top of it. The librarian was kind to me and let me disappear into the library whenever I felt the need. I eventually got over the worst of the shyness, but libraries remained a sanctuary for me.
Earlier this week I was frustrated and angry. I had a linch break but didn’t feel like eating. I wanted to find a punching bag or run or swim, but those were not options at that particular moment. I had an hour, and none of those things fit. I went to the library instead.
I wandered through the stacks. I play a game in the science fiction section – I look for an author I’ve never heard of and pick up a book by them. I’ve read a lot of science fiction, so sometimes that doesn’t work. This time I needed more than that. I needed several new books. I needed something that would make me feel like there was wonder in the world again and that people in general aren’t awful, patronizing, and frustrating.
I spent 45 minutes walking the stacks. I read dust jackets. I pulled out old friends, books I’d read many times, and I remembered the pleasure they brought. I found books I hadn’t read by authors I like, which is always very nice. I lost myself in the words of other people. I let myself sink into snippets of other worlds. I read bits of murder mysteries, fiction, interesting cookbooks, and wahtever looked interesting in certain nonfiction categories. I let the words open my mind again.
When I’m angry, I tighten up. I feel like there is a huge amount of energy building inside of me and I have to hold on tightly to make sure none of it leaks out inappropriately. I am a pacifist, and I know that words can hurt as badly as fists, so I am very careful when I am angry to not lash out. I feel on edge, jittery, like I’m holding a furious wolverine in a bag with a drawstring top. I keep tightening that drawstring, hoping it will hold. I used to have a very bad temper; now I have an image in my head of holding tightly so I don’t let out the anger until I can do ti safely. Swimming, running, lifting weights, even walking the dog for a couple of hours will all bleed off the energy so I can be balanced again. If I don’t have those as options, though, I have to find another way to relax, and enough time in a library lets me do that. The wolverine goes back to sleep, to carry a metaphor a little too far. I can let the energy bleed off.
I am often very grateful that libraries exist. This week, I spent lunch finding four books to take home with me. By the time I left, I was still a little angry, but I did not feel jittery anymore. I was relaxed enough to get through the rest of the day relatively reasonably. I need words sometimes, and my words aren’t enough.
Libraries are important for a lot of reasons. For me, right now, libraries are a sanctuary. I need a place that is uncomplicated, peaceful, quiet, and safe.