Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reader, Heal Thyself

Self help books.  There are tons of self help books out there. I love self help books.  I do.  Maybe I should say I love the idea of self help books.  I think they're a great idea and whenever I read the back of the cover I always think "This author really knows what she's talking about... she's talking to ME! This book will solve EVERYTHING!!!!" and I buy the book.  And I carry the book around... to doctor's appointments for my kids... to soccer work for my lunch breaks... and I never notice any change.  I don't get help from self help books.  It's discouraging, because it merely proves that you can't learn through osmosis.  Dang.  I was so pulling for that route.

Wouldn't that be great if it did?  If just buying the book telling you how to have a flat belly in 30 days did so starting from the day you bought it?  Or the one telling you how to choose the perfect mate allowed the aura around your Forever Guy to be visible to you... a beacon of light leading you to each another.  I mean seriously... imagine buying the book helping you to get organized and then when you get home BAM!  You walk into a perfectly Martha Stewarted house.  Yeah, that would be awesome.  But... that's just not the way it works.  You have to read the books.  Did you hear that?  You have to read.  The books.  To know what they say.  Dang, I KNEW there was a catch!

It's not that I'm against reading - I love to read!  My reading level was always advanced when I was a child, and something I spent a lot of time doing.  My mom would lift both my head and my sister's head so she "could remember what our faces looked like" and not just see the top of the heads.  With my lifestyle these days I tend to buy books (the non-helpful kind... just for fun) and save them till I know I have a block of time where I can dedicate myself to being absorbed by the author's story.  There's nothing better than being totally immersed in a plot and the characters and losing yourself in the pages... now THAT I love.  The only problem is the life of a single mom doesn't really lend itself to luxuriously lying about the place, reading at will while popping bon-bons.  Maybe someone will write a self help book for my washer, dryer and dishwasher that will give me the freedom to adopt the lifestyle I so long for.  I just have to teach those suckers to read, now that I've disproven that whole "osmosis" thing.  ; )

One of the books I'd been saving for a free patch of time is the third and final book in the "Matched" series.  My kids were going to be with their dad for two weeks and with so much free time I knew I could jump on in.  I hadn't read the first two for awhile, so I reread those and then started reading the third one, "Reached."  Now, I'm a fast reader, and have a tendency to blow through books quickly and rarely take longer than a day or two to read a novel.  For some reason I went much more slowly with this last one and would read a chapter or two and then put it down.  I think deep down I didn't want to say goodbye to the series and see the end.  For whatever reason, I didn't finish the book till today.  It's a great series and a great final book and I do believe we'll see this series on the movie screen.

As it turns out, most self help books don't get made into movies... who's really going to watch a movie with Dr Phil talking about "Relationship Rescue" (got rid of that one at my last garage sale) or "Who Moved My Cheese?"  I imagine a fair number of people would buy the ticket expecting a cartoon about a cheeky mouse who just can't remember where he left that silly piece o'cheese and the ornery friends of his giggling as they watch him search for the cheese they've moved.  Yeah... no.  One exception was "He's Just Not That In To You," 1) a book I read and actually DID get a lot out of and 2) a movie that really and truly didn't have much more to do with the book than share a title.  Other than that, no other self-help-books-turned-movie come to mind, altho there's prolly at least one.  Prolly.

As I was  nearing the end of this recent book,  a couple lines really struck me.  One of the characters has lost her true love and is allowing herself to fall in love with someone else.  Her new partner is reflecting on the fact that she shut the whole world out to allow love the first time just to lose him.   He says, "The amazing thing is she's not afraid to do it again.  When we fall in love the first time, we don't know anything.  We risk a lot less than we do if we choose to love again,"  Reached, 2012  Man... do I love that.  How true is that?  I read it over a few times to fully absorb it.  It explains so much about why people are scared to allow themselves to fall in love and be vulnerable to people as they get older.   It truly captures that loving someone and allowing them to love you is a risk and one that's harder to take when the sting of lost love is not so far in the rearview mirror.

Is this the most important lesson I've learned from a book?  No, I can't say it is.  It's hitting close to home considering some of the relationships I've been through in the last few years... but it's not the biggest life lesson I can think of.  However, beyond the fact that it's relevant and timely for me is the fact that I found it in a place I wasn't even looking to find anything.  My expectations for the book were that I would be entertained.  It was fluff, a mental dessert for the end of the day when I'd gotten all my chores done.  The fact that this gem was in hidden in the depths of this fictional book is something I find really cool.  I just may have to redefine what constitutes a self help book, because this has done WAY more for me than "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus." Now that I mention it, I never did find out what the differences are between the two planets.  I better stick that one in my bag and give that osmosis theory one more shot.  Or not.