Help Yourself

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How many self-help books do you own? Need a minute to go count the collection you’ve created over the years? Or, have you passed your books along to others?

Lately, I seem drawn to book after book, promising me a better life. Please, don’t misunderstand me, I love my life. Still, with so many books within reach touting a better life – well, color me interested.

I think I am still coming off the “Eat, Pray, Love” thing. I never read the book. (Why does admitting to not having read the book take me back to my high school days and Cliff Notes?) I did – you knew this was coming – see the movie. And, though the movie wasn’t great, I find myself thinking about the messages portrayed in the movie. I have been accessing my library’s website daily, to see if a copy of the book is available. Hang on, I’ll check now . . . ARGH! Still unavailable.

Self-help books are destroying me. My over-analytical ways are only encouraged by the countless books out there claiming to help me. Who says I need help, anyway? Hush. I heard that.

“I’ll have to try that.” I hear myself say that statement time and time again, during conversations with friends and family. We are always offering our advice about this or that; assuming how we were helped will fit nicely and neatly in another person’s life. Though really, we’re all different.

Though written words and another person’s experience may inspire, I find more insight and inspiration by doing the most simple tasks. For example, when I am making and packing my son’s lunch for school, I find a peace making his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sometimes, I get lost in the spreading of jelly across the peanut butter, attempting to cover the peanut butter perfectly, while creating an artful spread of jelly.

I find self-help in the calming (and yummy) scent of freshly made cinnamon toast. I find self-help in looking out my living room window and catching a glimpse of a deer running through the yard. I find self-help in sitting down with Joe, mesmerized while he reads to me from the books he brings home from school. To me, self-help is easily attainable when you grab hold of the good moments in life. And, when the bad moments hit, well – perhaps that is when the books are helpful. The books give us something to read through, escaping our momentary feeling of madness, until the dust settles and we see the good again. Perhaps we’re not looking for answers in the book, as much as we are looking for a diversion.

I’m not in a state of madness at the moment. Although, if you know me, you know this could change at any second. Still, as I continue to wait for a copy of “Eat, Pray, Love”, I find myself becoming obsessed with the countless self-help books being released daily. With so much help available, I may need to find a self-help book on how to learn to need more help. And, to make non-significant matters worse, next week begins the last season of Oprah. ACK! Oprah’s last season!

I wonder how many books will be released helping folks deal with Oprah’s final show: “Oprah: How to Live After the Show Ends”. Hmm . . .  Anyway, I’ll continue to check the status of “Eat, Pray, Love’ at my the library; and, in the meantime, I’m willing to bet I could find a self-help book to help me deal with my obsession of self-help books.

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Quitting a 40-day Journey

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Call me a quitter; call me weak. Regardless of what you think, I am ending my 40-day journey today, weeks before day 40. This is not to say I won’t read the rest of the books; I will continue reading, but I am no longer going to blog about my take on the readings, etc. [I can hear the applause and cheers. I’m applauding, too. I wont miss my overly dramatic (and boring) take on the messages of Warren and Tolle.]

Due to several moments last week, my viewpoints changed. Which, really, my viewpoints are in a constant state of change. I am a woman, after all.

Beatrice Potter said, “There is something delicious about writing those first few words of a story. You can never quite tell where they will take you. Mine took me here. Where I belong.”

I am here; where I belong. I don’t need to continue traveling down my self-proclaimed 40-day journey. The following thought may seem trivial, if not obvious: I was consumed with myself during this journey. And, while consumed with myself, I had friends and family suffering greater challenges in life than whether or not one eats too much ice cream. My self-centeredness seemed inappropriate and rude. (Hmmm…is it ever appropriate to be self-centered?)

I remember when my Dad died, I wanted the world to stop and acknowledge the pain and sorrow felt by my family. The reality is – death and suffering is all around us all the time. It isn’t until we feel the sting directly that we ‘get’ the grief. And, we get the triviality of self-made problems.

Am I saying we should spend each day thinking of the sorrow being felt by nameless, faceless people in the world? No. Although, I do think putting things into perspective on a daily basis is helpful. And, if that means, realizing pain and suffering surround you, so be it.

I do not like the spotlight. As much as I babble about myself and my life, you may find the previous statement hard to believe, but it is true. Instead, I want to be there for my family and friends. And, I don’t need books to find my purpose in life. My purpose in life is to help others. I thrive when I believe I am helping. Granted, times exist when I thought I was helping, but I was merely sticking my nose where it did not belong. Plus, there is a fine line between helping and nagging.

Before someone suggests that I find it easier to worry about others because I do not want to worry about or deal with my own issues, I say I do not have issues when I stop and compare my gripes to the meatier things in life. Unless I am facing a life or death situation, losing my home or loved one, going without food for an extended amount of time or some other true tragedy, well – I think I am OK. More than OK.

Do I battle depression? Yes, and I take a pill for that battle. Am I cranky sometimes? Yep, and I get happy again. Do I get overly emotional? Obviously. Do I think PMS sucks? You betchum; then, my period starts. Does my family think PMS sucks more? Yeah, and the two weeks of normalcy is never long enough. But, I am alive, and my family is healthy. I’d rather spend my time and energy allowing myself to help those who need it most. Who knows, one day it may be my family.

While it may be important to focus inward from time to time, sometimes enlightenment comes from a place outside of yourself and has nothing to do with yourself. Someone recently posted the following quote, from the Dalai Lama, on her Facebook page: “Once you shift your focus from yourself to others and extend your concern to others, this will have the immediate effect of opening up your life and helping you reach out. The practice of cultivating altruism has a beneficial effect not only from a religious point of view but also from a mundane point of view; not only for long-term spiritual development but even in terms of immediate rewards.

Amen.