Thursday, September 18, 2008

Self Help Help

by Jenny Gardiner

These days it isn’t hard to find a self-help book for just about anything. As I was dusting recently--something that I need a self-help book to motivate me to do--a quick perusal of my book collection revealed that I am obviously in need of some kind of self-help.

Whether wrestling with co-dependency problems, battling food as an emotional crutch, yearning to tame the strong-willed child, or living with a neurotic dog, I’m clearly searching. At least when I’m in a bookstore.

Maybe I’m just drawn in by the clever covers, with their all-encompassing cure-whatever-ails-you titles. Or maybe the notion that simply reading a 200-page book will solve all of life’s problems appeals to me.

So I end up buying these books. When I get home, I optimistically set them next to the bed, assuming I’ll pick one up before drifting off to sleep. But then when bedtime rolls around, the last thing I want to do is:

a) Confront my problems when I’m too tired to even think about them, and
b) Read anything that involves thinking.

So eventually, when I get around to cleaning (see “Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean” by Linda Cobb), I shift these motivational tomes onto the shelves of the nearest empty bookcase. And there they sit, safe in the knowledge that they will be left untouched--not to mention undusted--indefinitely.

If only I could glean information through osmosis, then I would have solved my problems with denial, PMS, disorganization, and the latest one, ADD. I would know exactly how to approach handling my teenaged kids so that they don’t hate me and end up in therapy one day (see “GET OUT OF MY LIFE…But First Can You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?” by Anthony E. Wolf). I would know how to take charge of my life and make something of myself (as per “If Not Now, When?” by Stephanie Marston).
But instead, I feel a knot tighten in my stomach as I realize that I have failed in the first step to self-help: getting help. Well, maybe it’s the second step at which I’ve failed, because, after all, I did purchase the books. And that step is learning about the problem and how to find solutions to it. So far the only thing I have mastered is how to dust around them. And truthfully, I hardly ever even do that.

I think what I need is a self-help book on using my self-help books. Something that will motivate me to pick up one of these useful ditties and read it, say, when I’m otherwise disposed in the loo. Or in line for pick up at the kids’ school. Or while brushing my teeth at night. Maybe I just need Dr. Phil to whip me into shape. Or maybe I should just drop the self-help books altogether and pick up a copy of People Magazine to read at bedtime; then I’ll feel better learning about everyone else’s problems instead of worrying about fixing my own.


Kalynne Pudner said...

Jenny, surely you've heard this piece of authorial advice: WRITE THE BOOK YOU WANT TO READ. Your agent will fairly dance in excitement at the proposal, I'm sure. Me, I'll be waiting for the release party...

Sleeping with Ward Cleaver said...

Ha! It's on my to-do list, then!

Barb McKone said...

Jenny- I really don't have time to respond- I have to go out and buy "If Not Now, When"- it's the only self-help book I don't have on my shelf. I'm sitting next to Tony Robbins right now. Yes, I am also trying to "Awaken The Giant Within." Aren't we all? The receipt is still sticking out of the top of it. I wonder if I can still take it back. I can SOOOO relate to your thoughts! Your post made my day. And, I agree with Kalynne. Write the book! Of course you'll invite us all to the release party...

Suzanne Macpherson said...

I've been considering writing an "Eckhart Toller for Dummies" book but I'm sure its already in the works. Oh wait, that's it Jenny, you need Self Help Books for Dummies. Okay okay I always hated those book because I felt demeaned by being called a dummy because why--oh that's right, my stepfather used to call me that. LOLOL

PS I think self help without reading is called "therapy" :~)

Daisy said...

Put the books up on Someone will want them, and they'll no longer stare that "Read me, fix your life!" glare from the shelf.