Originally posted on Facebook on January 17th, 2012. A friend of mine then questioned why I would be so interested in the self-help books. My response followed.
I have my resolutions in place for 2012.
Be a better father
Be a better friend
Be a better boss
Get up when I wake up – I hear this is good for you.
Eat better & cook more
Travel out of the country
Try something completely new, in this case I’ll be trying posing naked for a local artist
Read every book on this list and try to learn a few new things: http://liveboldandbloom.com/01/self-improvement/the-20-most-life-altering-concepts-ive-ever-embraced
No, I’m not so messed up that I need to read each of those self-help books. As I mentioned in a comment a few days ago (said comment: Yes, I am much more spontaneous since my divorce. Such a large change invited the opportunity to examine everything in my life and I’m trying to capitalize on that.), my divorce provided a catalyst to examine everything in my life.
More accurately, dealing with my father’s dementia, decline, and death started the derailment of my train off the neatly laid tracks that it had glided along all its life and the divorce was the thing that finished the job.
Looking back now, I can see that my initial response was to deny anything was going wrong, to do everything I could to keep the train on the track, especially when it came to my marriage. Once the divorce became inevitable, I then spent a lot of time looking to replace what I had lost.
I thought I could easily switch to a new set of tracks and continue on my mostly unmolested way. I assumed that everything in my life would continue to run smoothly. After a few years I realized that trying to replicate something that didn’t end up working, that failed for reasons I didn’t entirely understand, and that maybe wasn’t what I actually wanted might not be the best idea.
Even more humbling – I might not be able to do it. There might be no getting the engine out of the ditch. With that insight came the idea that maybe walking is better, or driving, or sailing, or whatever preferred travel metaphor the reader would like to substitute here.
And so I find myself exploring how I think about things, how I think about thinking about things, about how important the illusion of having control over the things around me is to the way I move through my life, and how I want to live and love and exist and parent as I move through my forties.
I don’t view those books as self-help as much as I view them as offering a toolkit for how to view the world differently. I’m not trying to lift the engine back onto the tracks now. I’m sitting down on the furrow it has gouged in the earth and I’m observing. I’m looking back at where I came from at the breakneck pace that derailed me in the first place. I’m looking ahead at where I want to go. I’m looking at the tracks and wondering if I want my path through life so precisely defined and regulated.
I’m looking at where I am and working to enjoy and accept that for what it is. Some of the concepts on that list are new ideas for me and I sense there is something to them that will allow me to move through the world in a different way, different being what I sense I need right now.
So, messed up? No. In *need* of those books? No. But I’m definitely re-examining everything and I feel like those books will offer perspectives I hadn’t considered. We’ll see how far I actually make it through that list.
Insights 2+ years later. I did okay with those resolutions, though I ended up reading only one book on the list – Simplify Your Life. It had a lot of good ideas that I’m still following up on. That year I also read Stephen Batchelor’s Living with the Devil, which dramatically changed the way I look at and move through the world.