Friday, June 23, 2017

I Think I’ll Write A Self-Help Book

I Think I’ll Write A Self-Help Book
            Well, why not? Back in the day, I devoured self-help books.

Back in the early 1980’s when my life was shattered like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces, in an attempt to put myself back together, I read a raft of self-help, pop-psychology, pull-yourself-up-by-bootstraps, think-your-way-to-success type fluff-and-stuff. I’d finish one, find another, thinking each would have the solution for me.

I soon had accumulated an entire bookcase filled with sugar pills, innocuous comfort, in book form. In those days self-help books were popular. It seemed everybody wanted to get slimmer, richer, beautiful, buff, smarter, mentally, physically, financially and spiritually fit; all from a book. There were plenty of people to tell us how.

It took a well-aimed jab from a friend to open my eyes to what I was doing. “Most of these books are about changing who you are. What if who you are is okay? Is your concern about who you are or is it about mistakes you’ve made? We’ve all made mistakes.”

Ouch. I didn’t like being called out but it got me thinking. I figured I’d made just about every mistake possible. And I never considered that I was a bad person. But how could somebody as smart as me be so stupid?

Along the way I’d noticed that I would read a book, put it down, read another, and in this manner, I’d filled a bookshelf. Hey, they were kind of fun. Each book suggested things to do. I ignored those chapters. When I thought about it, I realized I had been looking for some magic anodyne, an instant inner-makeover.

I quit reading the books and got outside help. Smart move for me. 

So why write a book? Why not? I’ve noticed that self-help authors are rich and famous. They travel. They are invited to give seminars all over the world. I like to travel. Seminars are fun. Money would be nice.

Problem is, I don’t have the answers for you. But, hey, these authors from the ‘70’s and ‘80’s didn’t have answers for me either. Those two little words, “for me”, are very important.

What got me chugging along this bizarre train of thought was talking with a woman who rented one of the casas on the rancho for a couple weeks. She came to explore Etzatlan, to see if she’d like to join our community. The house she rented, fortuitously, is for sale.

A budding friendship emerged. I answered her questions the best I could or pointed her toward people who could better give her information. During this short time she decided to buy the house, decided not to buy the house, decided to buy a house in town, or maybe not, or maybe buy this house after all.

When she left, her decision was still hanging. One thing we agreed on from our accumulated life experiences, is that there is no such thing as a good or bad decision. (I’m not talking about letting your children play on the Freeway, silly.) Each decision I make has consequences, some, “good”, some, “questionable”. Decision A will point my life northwest. Decision B might shuttle me southeast. Neither is “right” nor “wrong”. Just different.

Living here in Mexico happens to be Paradise “for me”. When I talk with friends I try to remember to use those little words, “for me”. My life in my Mexican home is good, not perfect, but good, as is obvious when you visit. I would never try to talk you into following in my footsteps. Paradise for me might be hell for you. I don’t know.

My friend will make her decision. She’s still gathering information, an important function, one I managed to ignore for years. She plans to return for six months in the fall, either as renter or owner.  

So see, I have life skills I can pass along. In my self-help book I might start with a chapter on decision making. Another on gathering information. One on minding my own business. Shucks, I could be my own guru.

Actually I have gotten better (for me) life-changing information from fiction books than from those long-ago abandoned self-help books. So maybe the title of my new book should be The Ultimate Self-Help Fiction Book.

I’m rather fond of magical thinking too. So how about The Ultimate Self-Help Book of Fantasy and Fiction.

Or, The Barely Adequate Self-Help Book With No Answers.  

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

June 22, 2017

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