Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Help Yourself

Hello. My name is Jessica and I'm addicted to self-help books. I admit that I am powerless over my addiction. I haven't quite gotten to the point where I give myself over to a higher power, though. I have to figure out which higher power is the appropriate higher power to take over for me. That's a pretty big decision, don't you think? The way the Buddha would handle things is far different than the way the Christian God would handle them or another (lower case) god like, say, Zeus would. What if I do pick Zeus and Hera gets jealous. Chaos, I tell you. You can't take this stuff lightly. But that's a topic for another post.

Amazon.com just makes my problem worse. I don't even have to drag my ass to a book store to feed my addiction. All I need is a computer and a credit card. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad (at least for our budget) if I just took the books out from the library. But I need the full, new book experience - the new book smell, the crisp, clean, unfolded pages, the unbroken binding. A new book holds the promise of redemption - I will conquer my clutter, get fit in 15 minutes a day and I will create my life from the inside out, Dr. Phil!

The new book experience also involves the search for the right book to fix the issue du jour, reading reviews and looking at various writings by the same author or by different authors on the same topic. Damn you Amazon.com, you make it so easy! Once the purchase is made, the anticipation begins - checking the account status and tracking the package every day. Oh, when will it get here? How could I have survived this long without the wisdom this perfect book will surely impart? My life will be so much better once I read this book! And then the book arrives. I can't wait to rip open the box and start reading. There's no doubt that this book contains the answers I need. This is the last self-help book I will ever need!

I read the book, devouring its pages without savoring them. No time to waste! This book has the answers. The quicker I read it, the quicker my problems will be fixed and I will live happily ever after. Isn't happily ever after the promise of the fairy tales I grew up on? Sometimes I learn things that I didn't already know, sometimes I make changes to my attitude or behavior in response to things I learned from the book. But more often, the changes go the way of all of my New Year's resolutions - I make a half-hearted effort at change and give up after about a month (or less). Apparently I haven't learned that change is really difficult. It actually involves work. I'm all about the "new book experience" and the reading. Not so much about the actual change part.

So there's the inevitable let down. The book didn't live up to its promise, my problem's aren't solved. The clutter continues to conquer me, I'm nowhere near fit and I haven't managed to create my life from the inside out. I swear that I'm not going to buy any more of those books. I try to convince myself that all the wisdom I need is inside of me and no book is going to give me any answers I don't already know. It's like dieting - we all know that we need to eat fewer calories than we consume and we need to exercise. There's really nothing more to it - you can try all the fad diets you want but they don't change the basic math of weight gain and loss. There's nothing that any diet book can teach us about losing weight that we don't already know. In that area at least, I'm not the only one who has trouble with the actual changing of habits part of the equation.

Despite my best arguments with myself about how no book will help me, in time, the urge to buy returns. Amazon.com, that bastion of evil, will send me an email enticing me to look at books that might interest me based on previous purchases, most of which were self-help books. And the cycle of addiction begins anew.

Now I have so-called "friends" enabling my addiction. Sitting by my feet at my desk this very moment are several self-help books given to me by one of these friends. There are a few books by Stuart Wildeand a couple by Don Miguel Ruiz. For some reason, these authors managed to escape my search for the perfect book. Even though I have several other books that are in my reading queue including the book noted in the margin on the right, as well as three books by this author (in a compilation edition),this book and this book, I'll probably go home tonight and spend at least a little time perusing the new books I got today. Even though they are slightly used books and don't give the full "new book experience," they'll do in a pinch.

I suppose at some point I'll make another effort to break the addiction. But now I have a good excuse for reading these books - I need to share what I learn with all of you. See how this works? I now have an obligation to read self-help books. So you don't have to. I do it all for you, my dear readers. Maybe I don't need to read those books about being a more thoughtful and giving person after all!

1 comment:

landismom said...

Thanks, you are too kind! I know what you mean about the Amazon addiction--although I'm not hooked on self-help books. I think, "I'll just buy one book." But those fiends with their recommendations!