Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Self Help

I’m boxing up all of my self-help books, and it’s going to be a heavy one. What can I say? I’ve needed a lot of help over the years. It’s not like I don’t need any more, but it’s time for me to get on with living. There would be times where I would be exhausted from working on myself, thinking about what I should be thinking, how I should be changing, and all the while feeling like I just wasn’t doing enough. I would look at fiction longingly and think, no, this is the perfect time for me to read and figure myself out. The faster I fix this, the sooner I can get on with being happy. I thought if I could just figure out what’s wrong, if I could just put my finger on it, then I could flip the switch and make it all better. That has been my dream. But enough reading, enough dreaming, they’re all going away--every last one of them.

Like looking through photographs, I can’t help but reflect on each title before packing them away, one book on top of the other. Conversations with God: book 2—I didn’t even read that one. Don’t sweat the small stuff in love: as I read through the table of contents to pick out one thing to capture the essence of the book—I decide I can’t put it away. I haven’t learned what I can from it yet. I’m like a person who can’t put the chocolate down, can’t walk away with my change from the VLT--it’s a sickness. Life strategies: one of the tasks in that one was to write down the reasons you’re not going to change after reading the book. Whatever I wrote, I must have been right because I never even finished it. I guess I have my excuses written down somewhere. Soul mates: that one I did finish and it wasn’t bad. It’s basically about how your soul does whatever it needs to, regardless of logic. If you have an affair, it must be because your soul needed something. Maybe it wasn’t that good after all.

Enchanted love: using prayer to change your love life. For months I tried that, but I don’t think it worked. There were moments when praying about it seemed to make a difference, but overall it’s been my behavior modifications that have made the most difference. That leads me right into the next one, the divorce remedy: I can’t say enough about this one. A step-by-step book for saving your marriage, Divorce remedy teaches you when you modify your behavior towards your partner even in slight ways, they are bound to respond and you can begin a positive cycle of change. Through this one I have changed the most. I’ve been able to measure tangible results and when I’ve felt things getting me down, there are concepts from the book that have kept me going. If I had the money, I’d buy this one for every couple I know. The basics from this book apply to any relationship, failing or not, romantic or not. Hands down the best relationship book I’ve ever read.

Following on the heels of that one, I went straight into the dance of anger. Just this weekend I put the principles from this book into practice when I confronted my dad about how he manages(or mismanages) his anger. He was jumping to conclusions and swearing so loudly downstairs, I could hear him as I came in through the front door of their house. I almost lost it on him, but I calmed myself down enough to tell him that we needed to talk. Heart racing, and trying to keep my voice down and even, I told him the effect his losing his temper had on me. As an adult, my temper is something I really struggle to control, and I told him it’s not enough for him to lose it over and over on people and throw out a token apology without ever changing the behavior.

When he tried to brush it off and quickly apologize, I told him I wasn’t done and we needed to finish discussing the issue. He was defensive and asked me what he should do. I told him, “Set an example. I need you to set an emotional example.” I was crying, and he got tears in his eyes. For the first time, I think I actually got through to him. And I never yelled once. Although I felt really emotional, I feel like I have the strength to deal with him better now, and maybe even face other confrontations in my life. It was a big moment.

I know I’ve learned valuable things from all of these books, and I haven’t even mentioned half of them, but I just want to go out and live now. I can’t stay inside this black and white print bubble forever. For now, I really know everything I need to know—care to know, whatever you want to call it. As much as I will always wonder how I can be the perfect person, have the perfect reaction, do the perfect thing--I’m never going to be perfect. This really comes as a shock to me, and my mind denies it, but it’s the most truthful cliché. It’s a shame to boil all this down to one trite cliché, but what do you expect from reading self-help books?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Letters tumble into place from the keyboard, tap tap tapping; pen and pencil frantically scratch, lazily scrawl. Tumbling letters into tumbling words form setting, characters rising, story and plot unfolding. White pages become mottled with fact and fiction. The author brings life to the page.

Seven years as an observer have not harmed me. Recording daily events of murders, accidents, and elders celebrating their hundredth birthday--I've learned to live life from the outside in. Wide shot, medium shot, close up--lingo of a television news photographer. Every scene is reduced in linear fashion regardless of blood, happiness or hysteria.

Funny, considering how emotional I am as an individual and how deeply I feel things. At the funeral of Owen Hart, a local Calgarian wrestler, I could hardly concentrate on the crowd shots I was supposed to be getting as Martha, Owen's wife, eulogized in my earpiece.

"What can I say? I love you, I love you, I love you." Tearful pauses, quiet sniffling, as she talked of the love notes he often left her, the house they'd recently built--Owen not living the year out in it.

I don't recall the drive back to the station, but I remember calling my love and crying into the receiver, demanding reassurance he would always be with me and never leave. And yet he has. There is no more reassurance, no love notes, no eulogy in my ear--save my own haunting thoughts. Black and white on a page, outside instead of in. Forever the author.