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If I Could Turn Back Time...

...I would re-read Anna Karenina again for the first time.

Of all the stories that are, Anna Karenina may be one of the most heart-wrenching ever written. The reader can actually FEEL the emotions along with Anna as she experiences them and feels them - at least I do. The first time I read it, I remember holding my breath during sections and then realizing that I had to exhale... And then inhale. And exhale. The feelings and Anna and all the people were so, so real to me.

I read Anna for the first time when I was a young college student. I'm pretty sure I was eager to wear the mantle of adulthood and do so by reading something substantial just to read something substantial; Tolstoy was recommended. I didn't *not* enjoy it, but I didn't love it like I do now. I think I was too young; while I'd certainly experienced shame and disgrace at that point in my young life, I hadn't experienced it to a degree where I could fully grapple with the fallout that suffocated Anna and sent her spiraling.

I read Anna the second time during my divorce and, well - I just got it. Not because of a similar, scandalous story line, but because the emotions that were rampant in those pages were reflective of those in my own chaotic life at the time. I found myself understanding her in a myriad of complex ways that took my breath away as it did the first time, but this was more like getting the wind knocked out of me than a romantic, "What will happen next?" page-turning motivator. I saw ALL the characters for the first time. I focused in on their roles in society and specifically in Anna's life. I pulled them out of the pages and rebranded them as people in my life. It was a beautiful exercise (mostly) and remarkably therapeutic (completely).

I read Anna the last time about 5 years ago. I took it off my bookshelf very deliberately given some trying times I was going through w/ my family and read it hoping it would give me great gifts. I wasn't sure what they'd be or how I'd discover them, but I was pretty sure I would... And I did. While I felt a closeness to Anna the last time I read her story, I felt more of a separation this time... But in a good and purposeful way. Of course I knew how the story ended, but that's what drew me to it again. I wanted to feel empowered and strong. I wanted to see Anna's life in a separate, manageable box of sorts - and in turn, to see myself as someone completely different than she was - a victor. And as in times past, she gave me what I needed the most.

After writing this, I'm wondering if I really would want to read it again for the first time or if I'm just thankful I've read it (and most other books) several times at just the right times. I think that's probably more accurate. I have rarely read a book just once; or if I have, I generally intend to read it at least one or two more times. Because while books don't change, I do.

I'm not going to change the title of this post because I'm reminded of two things:

  1. Never title an article, post, song, etc. until after you write it, and

  2. I change. I evolve. Even within a few paragraphs. That's cool.

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