Have You Self-Improved So Much that Now You Suck?

All the psychologists and marriage counselors know to flock to my garage sales because every few months my living-room shelves sag with the extreme weight of hundreds of self-help books (ranging from having better relationships to communicating more effectively to figuring out if you’re addicted to self-help books!) and so I put every single paperback and hardbound copy on the front lawn with a sign, “Take All My “Fix Yourself” Books For $500.”  Oh! I’m not selling them for that price, I’m actually willing to pay someone that amount to haul them the heck off my property.

In addition to reading scads of these books, I participate in dozens of self-improvement courses, programs, classes, groups, meetings, and listen to Ted-Talks and podcasts. And this is where all of this SELF studying has gotten me today.  Have a listen!

SUPPORT GROUP SOCIALIZATION

ME: Wow, that was a great discussion you facilitated today. I got a lot out of it.

LEADER: People-Pleasing!

ME: No, I just meant it was perfect for me.

LEADER: Perfectionism!

ME: Oh gosh, sorry.  I appreciate you pointing this stuff out. I don’t think I’ll ever stop saying those kind of things!

LEADER: Catastrophization!

ME: Oops, you’re right. I just really want you to like me.

LEADER: Not everybody is always going to like you, you just have to accept that.

ME: Yes, how does that go again? Let’s see…”What other people think of me is none of my business?” Is that right?

LEADER: Approval-Seeking!

ME: Oh now this is getting kinda silly, don’t you think? Just tell me if I said it correctly.

LEADER: Controlling!

ME: Oops, I guess that kinda was. So how are you? You mentioned last week you were getting over a cold.

LEADERS: Boundaries!

ME: Oh gosh, sorry. I didn’t mean to overstep, I was truly concerned. I’ll just keep my big, fat mouth shut from here on in and then maybe you’ll be happy.

LEADER: Self-Deprecating AND Passive Aggressive!

ME: I am soooooo sorry.

Leader: Overly apologetic!

As I leaned in to give her an “I’m not upset” hug goodbye, she whispered “Co-Dependent!” into my ear.

While I went about the rest of my day, I decided that two can play at the psychobabble game! And this time it would be to my advantage.

PRINCIPAL’S OFFICE AT SON’S MIDDLE SCHOOL

PRINCIPAL: We’d like to discuss with you what we foresee after graduation when your son starts high school.

ME: Oh!  I’m sorry but I only live in the present moment.

PRINCIPAL: Really?!  Well, don’t you think you should think about the fact that he’s not passing several classes at this point and he should have a tutor.

ME: Watch those “should” statements. Always substitute “Could” for “Should.”

PRINCIPAL: Alright. Could you conceive of your son failing biology, history, and math? Because every single one of his teachers Could.

ME: Magnification!

PRINCIPAL: Well, what’s your plan as a mother to cope with your son not graduating?

ME: I’ll just “ACT AS IF” he’s graduating. Haven’t you read The Secret? You really should.

PRINCIPAL: I suppose I Could.

I flounced out of his office and went straight to the bank to secure a loan. When the teller went to shake my hand, I pointed out that he might want to deal with his attachment issues.

FIRST AMERICAN NATIONAL UNIVERSAL WORLDLY BANK

ME: Let me start out by clearly setting my intentions. I am here to borrow money. Dollar signs have also been placed on my vision board.

TELLER: Your what board? Never mind. So you say you’d like some extra cash for Home Improvement? Can you be more specific?

ME: Boundaries, please!  Let’s just say I’ve given up on Self-Improvement.

TELLER: (odd look) I see. Gosh, Miss Menopause, I’m afraid there’s not much I can do for you today.

ME: You’re in denial!

TELLER: That’s a river in Egypt.

ME: Humor Defense Mechanism! Let’s unpack what’s making you so uncomfortable about this issue, shall we?

TELLER:  I am required to ask you certain questions and I’m also accountable for deciding if you’re a good risk. It’s a lot of responsibility for me.

ME: Narcissism! It’s not always about you.

TELLER: You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been at such a total loss before, like I am right this very moment.

ME: Reclaim your power!

TELLER: Ok. You’ll either need to respond directly to my questions or immediately leave the premises.

ME: Black & White Thinking!

And with that I raced home to practice my relaxation and meditation. My kids were in for a treat because I challenged myself to see how many times I could (NOT should!) use the word “Mindful,” which was how my yoga instructor told us we should approach life.

FAMILY TIME

SON: What’s for dinner?

ME: Do you think you can go one morning without asking that idiotic question? It’s enough to make me lose my ever-loving Mind-ful!

DAUGHTER: What do you think of my new dance routine? Do you like the music?

ME: please! Do you Mind-ful?? I’m trying to relax right now and that godawful song is blasting!

DAUGHTER: Can you at least tell me what you think of my new outfit?

ME: It’s wintertime. I have a good Mind-ful to let you freeze to death in those skimpy shorts.

SON: Gosh, whadya think is up with Mom today??

ME: Will you both just Mind-ful your own darn business?!!

At that point I gave up completely and wisely switched from meditation to medication. Forget Self-Help. What a difference in my life just a single letter can make!

READERS:  Are you, or do you know someone else who is overdosing on Self-Help Stuff? Leave me a comment if this strikes a chord and then God help us all! 

 

 

 

 

 

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Help Yourself! (Don’t Mind if I do!)

photo 1-18 1st Ex-husband:  I read the back of a self-help book the other day and it was all about you.

Me:  Really?  Was it “The Guide to Reinventing Yourself?”

1st Ex-husband:  Uh, No. It was “Stop Walking on Eggshells:  How to deal with a Borderline.”

Me:  You mean like people who still listen to that 80’s Madonna hit song with the same title?

1st Ex-Husband: Not quite. People who have an Emotional Intensity Disorder, to put it nicely.

Me:  Ugh. You just don’t “get me.” You’ve never “gotten me.”

1st Ex-Husband: Why do you always make quotation marks with your fingers when you say that?

Naturally I went out to the closest bookstore and bought a new copy.  The first symptom listed was:

  • Frequently saying to others, “You just don’t get me.”

Followed by:

  • All or Nothing thinking (well, CAN you be halfway pregnant?)
  • Anxiety & Depression
  • Impulsivity (I like to call it spontaneity)
  • Marked sensitivity to rejection (that covered every writer in America)
  • Control Issues (that covered every female in America)
  • An unwillingness to take responsibility and a tendency to blame others. (not me!)
  • Unstable Interpersonal Relationships (what do they expect when nobody “gets” you?)

As I finished up the last chapter, nodding and reluctantly agreeing, I received a phone call.

2nd Ex-Husband: Hey, just came across a book today that reminded me of you — The Bi-Polar and Her Environment.”

Me:  I’m guessing it’s not about a big white bear who prefers arctic weather, but she’s bi so she likes the sunshine too?

2nd Ex-Husband:  Nope. And did you just make air quotation marks with your fingers?  Hello? Are you there?

The neighborhood bookstore owner was politely holding the door wide open for me when I arrived, greeting me with the hardcover in his outstretched hand.  I read the entire 300 pages right then and there and sheesh — this book could not have been any more about me. Except when it wasn’t. Yes, I had mood swings and extreme behaviors but “a decreased need for sleep?” Not according to my snooze button. When I returned home, my phone was ringing determinedly.

Me:  Hello Mom.

My Mother:  My book club met tonight and . . .

Me:  Title and Author please?

My Mother:  “Should You Avoid the Avoidant Personality in Your Life?”  by Hadley Nuff.

If I drove fast enough, I could just about make it back to the bookstore before they closed.

The bookstore manager was locking up as I arrived, but had the decency to have the appropriate pages highlighted and bookmarked as he read the symptoms aloud to me. “People with Avoidant Personality Disorder experience long-standing feelings of inadequacy and are extremely sensitive to what others think about them. These feelings of inadequacy leads the person to be extremely inhibited and socially inept. They usually turn to blogging as a last resort.”

Me:  You made that last part up!

He winked at me as I grabbed the book and slipped him a twenty.

When I backed out of the lot, a parking attendant approached my car and generously handed me a stack of paperbacks. “I saw these and couldn’t help but think of you.” I glanced at the titles:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Adaptation Syndrome Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Histrionic Personality Disorder
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Chronic Depressive Disorder

photo 3-9By morning, blurry eyed from the small print, I had already googled three psychiatrist’s names.  But which one would be lucky enough to hit the Jackpot and treat me?

If I couldn’t make up my mind, it probably meant I also had “Decision Disorder.” All three doctors would surely have a field day! It was obvious I had over 10 syndromes. But how had I kept all of these symptoms concealed from myself all these years, I wondered?  That was easy.  I also had “Defiance Denial Disorder.”

I was extremely nervous when I realized the doctor (whose name I chose from a hat) strongly resembled Jack Nicholson from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” That must be a symptom of  “Concoct a Celebrity” disorder, I reminded myself in a calm, affirming manner. “Nothing they can’t prescribe a book for,” I reassured myself. “Relax.”

Me:  I don’t understand how I can fit the descriptions of everything.  Am I just very versatile?

Dr. McMurphy:  Yes and No. You see, Little Miss Menopause… And by the way, changing your name to one of your maladies is very clever indeed.

Me: Thank you.

Dr. McMurphy:  You see, many people (especially ex-husbands who develop a sudden interest in literacy) don’t realize how many of these diagnostic terms share a huge overlap of characteristics with one another.

Me:  So the authors of the books are all friends who studied about Me in medical school?

Dr. McMurphy:  It’s perfectly normal to think it’s always all about you, Miss Menopause. We call that Grandiosity and Narciss….

Me:  Never mind!

Dr. McMurphy:  The point is, all of these disorders fall under one larger umbrella.

Me:  So I have Rainy Day Syndrome as well?

Dr. McMurphy:  It does appear that a dark cloud follows you around, yes. But we have another name for you. It’s not any of these fancy sounding syndromes or disorders.

Me: I was afraid of that. Does it start with a C?

Dr. McMurphy:  Why yes.

Me:  Oh no!  And is the second letter an R?

Dr. McMurphy:  As a matter of fact.

Me:  But Dr…  I thought professionals didn’t use that word these days.

Dr. McMurphy:  If it’s too much for you, I’ll write it down on my prescription pad and you can look at it later. But there is hope.

As I walked downstairs to the pharmacy, I summoned up all my courage.  I could handle being called the “CR” Word. And so what if it happened to rhyme with Lazy.  I’d been called worse things.  I took a quick peek —

photo-62 This was more depressing than I thought.  I don’t think they’ll ever come up with a cure. I better call both my Ex-husbands and warn them it could get handed down to our kids!

photo 5-2

UNUSUAL BOOKS FOR THE NOOKS (And Crannies in Your Life)

Bonus if you know why this image correlates with the title of this post!

Bonus if you know why this image correlates with the title of this post!

Disclaimer: This topic has no author turning over in his grave. It’s all in fun.

Let’s turn “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” into “If You Give Your Spouse Some Nookie.” I think books should grow with us as we age. I don’t want to keep packing up my beloved classic children’s literature into cardboard boxes to be rummaged through by sticky hands at garage sales for a quarter. Any writer expecting to have their children’s book become a Classic AND sustain a permanent place on our bookshelves needs to offer an intriguing 2nd Half-Of-Life version. We are no longer wearing footie pajamas and reading in our bean-bag chairs. Now we’re donning housecoats (what IS that type of apparel for, anyhow?) and reclining in our Barcalounger chairs.

In that spirit, here are some new “Grown-Up” Title modifications and a few of my recommendation notes to the Author.

SELF-HELP SECTION

Goodnight Prune (Good Night Moon)

Are You My Udder? (Are You My Mother?) This one should be carefully illustrated so as not to offend certain body types.

Withering Nights (Wuthering Heights)

Les Menopausals – Hey Vic – – You were so close with the whining women, the depressing outlook, and the frumpy dresses.…just kill off that pretty little Cozette.

Are You There Bod? It’s Me, Menopause (Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret) – – Self-explanatory content but I suggest the Dust Jacket have a fun-house mirror on it.

Poky Little Progesterone (Poky Little Puppy) – – Hurry back home, sex drive!

Mopey Chick (Moby Dick) – – On Depression

The Legend of Weepy Wallow – – On Grief and Sadness

Scratch Her In The Eye! (Catcher In the Rye) – – Yup. When the Depression Fades, There’s Rage!

STILL MORE  SELF-HELP SECTION! (And we need it…Oy!)

Shred Bag to Discourage (Red Badge of Courage) New Tips For old Shopaholics

Calm Lawyer (Tom Sawyer) A list of Divorce Attorneys who don’t yell.

Struck Thin (Huck Finn) The latest “Lose 10 pounds overnight” diet book.

All of Her Lists (Oliver Twist) Household Organization book

All of Her Cysts (Oliver Twist) Medical Diagnostic Manual

PURE FICTION

Kvetcher and the Rye – – An older Jewish woman visits a Deli

The Middle Spouse I’ll Remarry Series (The Little House on the Prairie Series) – – Includes Titles:  The Middle Spouse on the Contrary, Middle Spouse is Scary & Middle Spouse is on Dairy – – about a Lactose Intolerant Hubby who falls off the wagon with ice-cream.

Games the Defiant Teach (James and the Giant Peach)  – – Spy/Espionage novel about rebellious grown children who give aging parents wrong directions on how to play Words With Friends and Candy Crush.

Sale of Two Pretties (Tale of Two Cities) – – A couple of well-preserved, middle aged women become Call Girls

Pat The Money! (Pat The Bunny) – -Latest Wall Street Thriller…comes with a velveteen dollar bill.

Nancy Drew a Most Wanted Photo, to Help Police Find Her Deadbeat Ex-Husband – Enough said? Mystery solved!

Bi-Curious Georgia Series – – Includes Titles:  Injurious Georgia, Spurious Georgia and Luxurious Georgia (after the divorce settlement)

Court or Oy! (Corduroy) Yes, Lots of lawsuit books coming out.

Ramona the Best Chest is Never A Pest!

Henry Huggins & Henrietta Kissings – A match made in Beverly Cleary heaven.

Wilma Wantsa (Dark) Chocolate (Satis)factory (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory)

PURELY ADULT SECTION

(For those of us who haven’t thrown in the sheets just yet.)

Where the Wild Flings Are! (Where? Where??)

Charlotte’s Web of Sexual Deceit!

Pat the (Playboy) Bunny!

Rebecca Of Little Blackbook Charm

The Sketcher and the Thigh (That J.D. Salinger, gosh he sure is prolific!) – – Here I’m envisioning a coffee table artistic book of classy nudes.

Hop On Cop – – Dr. Seuss meets strippers in uniform!

Lean Legs & Gam (Green Eggs & Ham) – – yeah, I could have gone for an exercise book here, but Fetish seems more fun.

Challenge: In a comment below, Think of your own fave child/teen book and try to “Adultersize” a new title. Or leave one for me (to try!) to do.