Lions at zoos often pace along the sides of their enclosures. They walk the same paths over and over and over again, so many times that they wear deep furrows into the ground. Sometimes they walk those routes because they are anxious. Other times they walk to keep an eye on their territories. And in other cases, they walk because they simply have the energy for it.
I am those pacing lions. But unlike them, I do my prowling with book in hand.
From a very young age, I developed a habit of moving while I read. Mind you, I enjoyed lounging in contorted positions with a book as much as the next person, but I was always happiest when combining reading with some type of motion. Unfortunately this had some unforeseen consequences.
As a child, my favorite place to pace was my bedroom. I devoured hundreds of books while walking a strange diagonal path. To my mother’s horror, my steps carved a deep rut in the carpet. Zookeepers may have been able to grow grass where the lions had worn it away, but salvaging my carpet was a longer and more expensive process.
Even though I’ve grown quite a bit older since those days, I still like to move while I read. In an attempt to save the carpet in my apartment (and to avoid too many judging eyes), I’ve developed some dos and don’ts for reading while walking.
This is a personal rule. Other people may have the grace and acuity to navigate the public realm while reading, but I do not. When I read, my entire consciousness is in that book. Reading while strolling down the sidewalk would be a very good way for me to trip on a baby stroller, get hit by a car, or step into the middle of two raccoon clans feuding over the best spot to dumpster dive. So I keep my reading and walking to more private spheres.
Is reading while pacing a little weird? Probably! Does that matter? Heck, no! Moving while reading may not be widely accepted, but it typically doesn’t hurt anyone. If you need to walk with a book in hand, feel confident in knowing that you are doing what is right for you. But that does lead to one stipulation…
I’ve lived in several small spaces with roommates, housemates, coffeemates, and probably some other mates I can’t quite remember. Seeing someone repeatedly cross the room can be distracting, anxiety provoking, or just plain obnoxious. Though I like to pace, I try and keep it to a minimum when I am around people.
Books can be heavy! And that means that not all books should be paired with a nice stroll. Walking while holding a hardcover or exceptionally large book can do terrible things to your wrists and fingers. I already torture my hands by spending too much time on the computer. I don’t need to harm them in any other ways. To deal with this weighty issue, I try to pace when reading books that are on my e-reader or are bound in paperback.
Last but not least, try and mix up how you walk and read. I may have ruined the carpet by pacing as a child, but I really can’t afford to do that these days. To avoid wanton destruction, I change where I walk while reading. Sometimes I might stroll around my living room. Other times my bedroom or kitchen are the perfect walking spots. (And if all else fails, throwing a cheap rug on the carpet makes me feel a little less guilty about my walking habits.)
All of this is how I deal with my reading while walking. I suspect I’m not alone in being a little antsy, but even if I am, who cares? At least I have something in common with lions.