I have spent the greater part of my adult life perusing and purchasing here and there along the way, self-help books. My collection is not really vast or all encompassing but it is somewhat, OK it is extremely, telling:
· Adult Children (of a variety of ills and ailments)
· Co-Dependency No More
· The ADHD Manual-(numerous editions and viewpoints)
· Prayer Book for Women
· How to get to Yes
· Emotional Abuse: The Silent Victim
· The Other Side of the Closet
· Walking on Eggshells
· Ignore Everybody and 30 other ways to unleash your creativity (or something to that effect)
I have joined a few support groups, but never liked the cult-like group speak or the rigid adherence that only seemed to protect those that were abusing and abusive. Sure, I wasn’t able to change whether or not someone else sobered up, stopped gambling, got out of bed or not, but did I really need to stifle the pain it was causing me? Joining a group to help me feel that I was not alone seemed to perpetuate the sense that I should shut up and count my blessings, or look on the bright side. Trouble is, or was, being “pathologically hopeful*” I have a real problem with being hopeful, but I haven’t read about how to stop or minimize that trait. I am so hopeful that I have this tendency toward attempting to rally the misery out of others as I see the silver lining, bright skies, rainbows and moonbeams all around, them, me, us. I can practically tap dance and sing joy into just about any of the above mentioned areas in need of help and I’m sure I can make a musical out of situations Mel Brooks never dreamed of. Springtime for Hitler, would pale in comparison.
The last self-help book was purchased just shy of two years ago and it coincided with the ending of my second marriage. (Sure I know, I have failed at 2 marriages, but maybe not really. Maybe I succeeded at life for the time being) I haven’t joined or attended any more groups. I haven’t succumbed to suffering or perished in pain. I have adhered to self-directed reflection and some self re-discovery. I have been slightly in limbo, however. In not wanting to be stuck in anger and sadness and regret and a whole lot of flashing neon-lighted hindsight, I haven’t fully confronted the reality that my strength and stamina served me poorly and sustained some serious blows. I’m working on it, it’s an independent study type project, a work in progress. Which turns out is also a strength of mine, occasionally. I am the “A” Numero Uno Project Manager of self-directed works in progress.
Staying clear of blame and bitterness, avoiding anger or certainly attempting to, was gleaned from a gazillion or so self-help journals and manuals. I didn’t want to get stuck in feelings of loss and regret. I didn’t want to rally or support or conjure some form of self-imagined hopefulness of another at my own expense. Actually, I would have truly liked a respectful handshake. A little bit of, “Y’know, it would be easy to make this horrible and dastardly, but truth is, we gave it a go. We have shared some good times along with some very troubling times, but let’s go onward with grace and tenderness.” Good luck. Cheerio. Don’t let the screen door hit you in the…..See ya, Bye, Don’t forget to take out the trash, this once or mow the …!! #@!!…L-A-W-N. Oooops. I mean, Thanks for the memories......I wonder if I may have enjoyed some sense of explosive, bright, loud closure. I’m not exactly sure what that may have looked like, and the reality is, at this point, I’m just not feeling it anymore. Today. Finally. I think.
The self-help books served a purpose and they did help sometimes. At least they helped me to realize that I did in fact try to improve my situation(s) or at least gain an understanding of them. The books helped me to gain a sense of my struggles and they helped me to improve some of my not so mastered coping strategies. Sometimes.
Footnote: In all honesty, aging has been the greatest help and that can’t be packaged or produced or published under “self-help”. Aging brings an understanding that so little is under our control. It forces forgiveness and encourages acceptance. It frees the soul. And just for the record? My soul is full of tap-dancing, musical songs of hope and who-gives-a-darn-tooting-itty-bitty-morsel-of-a-hoot-about-whether-or-not I, or someone I once loved drank too much, ate too much, spent too much, was straight, gay or still uncertain, played too hard, gambled away the money, used too many prescription drugs, crashed the car, parked between the lines, danced on tables, screamed too loud, dared to love, spent too much time with the kids, tried too hard, lost a ring, or two, or three, worked too hard, lusted for another, laughed too loud, licked a few walls, or left the cake out in the rain? For heaven’s sake, LIFE IS SHORT, have a little fun but wear your seatbelt and try not to hurt yourself, or those around you and keep your lawn at least "managed".
*pathologically hopeful- hopeful to the point of delirium may be actual denial of true hopelessness of a situation- a term used by a dear friend