Apparently, I have $8.75 in library fees.
During the obligatory-vacay-inbox-check, I was greeted by a friendly email reminder from the Multnomah County Library — I need to renew a book I checked out over a year and a half ago, for the 25th time.
Yes. The 25th time.
I’ve already read the book, twice. I just haven’t gotten around to returning it. And, with modern conveniences, like online renewal, I’ve put it off. It’s not wait listed. There are plenty of copies. Why not keep it? No one suffers and I save myself a trip.
But, for some reason, amidst the joys of vacation, I decided to over think the general concept of renewal — and the art of putting it off. While I lay in the luscious, summer sun of upstate New York, big green leaves fanning me with the East Coast breeze, I got the distinct feeling that you probably shouldn’t set your own renewal on autopilot. Renewal is something special. Invigorating. You can’t just go somewhere to return and reset — it’s a process of internalizing and letting go. It’s something intricate. A little thought. A micro-decision. Lilliputian, really. Something so miniscule that we don’t realize it’s happened until we are renewed. And, while the action of renewal is undetectable, its aftermath — sheer glory.
It’s sort of like vacation — I knew I needed one, but, I didn’t know how badly until I got back home. I lay in my own bed, jet lagged, took a few deep breaths, and for the first time in months I finally felt the oxygen in my lungs. Even in a state of total exhaustion there was a sense of relief. There is a certain pleasure in returning home, to my adult life, after being transported back to a strange version of my childhood for a week and a half.
My first day back to work, I woke up with the alarm at 4:45AM. My body didn’t complain or resist. The dark of morning cast a sweet spell over the streets of Southeast Portland, and the world felt easy and comfortable. As I jogged down the hill on Steele street, the wakening sky hung behind the West Hills like a new canvas. All one color. A clean slate. And, there, I felt it — my renewal. I smiled, alone in the dark.
It’s a worthy practice to appreciate old things seeming new, even if they aren’t. To take yourself away from your default condition is a spiritual experience — an opportunity to return to center with different eyes. And, while we may not be better or worse for our time away, we are undeniably changed. Renewal is just a synonym for gratitude.
This week, my renewal was advanced to me without having to visit the Multnomah County Library website. So, with appreciation, I dig out my library book, a year and a half later. Sigh. It’s time. This book cries out for a new place on a different shelf. I walk to my local library branch and I drop the dusty tome into the big-metal-slot for some other book worm. Yes, please, check this out — it’s an old book, but, after moving from shelf to shelf, there’s something new and special with the turn of each page — a secret every library card holder knows.
The book sounds a heavy thud as it hits the bottom of the return bin. We had a good run. But, we are not meant to hold on to things forever. And, by letting go, we are reunited with the genuine delight of returning to things that are truly our own.