Help for self-help book addicts
By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, August 4, 2010 8:01 pm
I need a 12-step program. I’m addicted to self-help books. A glutton for punishment. In my estimation, there’s nothing like a good book which shows me how utterly incapable I’ve been at managing my life up to this point. Just this week, I’ve read two books. One was about money management and the other was about raising children. Go ahead. Ask me anything. I’m a bastion of knowledge on these two subjects now. Yes, that’s correct. You should spend less money than you make. I know. Rocket science. Oh, you have a question about raising children? Sure, fire away. I’m on my game. Wait a second. “Would you boys STOP YELLING and throwing things and making my life a living soap opera for just ONE MINUTE while I get this column written about PARENTING and self-help books?!” OK. Now, what were you saying? What subject were we discussing? Tomato gardening?
If you want to know a person’s weaknesses, just look at their bookshelf. My bookshelves are clouded with multiple volumes on organizing, fitness, money management and how to raise children without losing brain cells. So, after all that intense study, it would only make sense that I’m a physically fit, financially savvy, organized gal with well-behaved children. Yeah. Here’s the shockeroo. I still crave chocolate. I still have a “junk” drawer. I’m still not exactly sure how much is in my checking account. And believe it or not, my children don’t always behave like little gentlemen. I know. Hard to believe. I’ve tried to determine why it is that self-help books hold such appeal. I’ve finally figured it out. Hope.
Self-help books convince me that the first 46 years of my life have only been the “warm up” for my “real life” which will begin the minute I figure out the answers to the following pivotal “life questions”: Why do I eat chocolate? Why do strong-willed children hide clean laundry under their beds? Why can’t I find the Scotch™ tape? What should I do when I lose my “to do” list? I keep thinking the answer is out there. So, I begin each book with great hope. As I crack the cover, I hear the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing the theme from “Rocky” in the background. This is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m ready for change. Self-help books always begin with some surreal promise, too, like, “Buying this book was one of the best decisions of your life. Your life is getting ready to change in a dramatic and positive way.” That’s when I always hear a loud crashing sound. The sound of me falling for it.
All these experiences with self-help books have led me to write a book of my own. It’s going to be called, “10 Reasons Moms of Strong-Willed Kids Should Eat More Chocolate.” Another possibility is, “We Couldn’t Find the Scotch Tape So We Went Out for Chinese Food.” How about, “When the Kids Go to College, I’m Cleaning out the Closets.”
I’m starting to think that getting my act together may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Think about it. Let’s say I really was a person who had it all together. Perfectly organized closets. No struggles with food or fitness. No experience with financial mistakes. Children who never had to be corrected. If I had no struggles in life, I couldn’t relate to other people’s struggles. If I never erred as a parent, I couldn’t be compassionate when my children err. If I never ate chocolate, I couldn’t be a writer. (It’s an unwritten code of conduct.) And if life were perfect, I’d never have the joy of opening a book filled with hope.
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 8.4.10