Friday, January 30, 2009

Self & Elf

I need help, but am keeping these books to myself ~ no suggestions or quotes.

It's funny how self improvement books often shed a light on the flaws of others. A friend of mine was telling me about a marriage therapy book that she and her (now) ex husband both read while still married. He thought she was the one needing the exercises in the book, and began describing her as passive - aggressive. She told me the book described his behavior to a T -- "Totally passive- aggressive." Both thought the other needed to change and viewed themselves as the sane calm person "putting up with" the controlling one. It was sad, because they are both really good people who both missed the point of the book.

I've done this with self help books too. Suddenly I'm labeling my closest friend an emotional vampire and it's time to confront her while ignoring my own inner vampire. Maybe my pretty good relationship with someone I truly care about is toxic and must end now. The scary thing about self help books is the sheer number of victims they manufacture when they are supposed to empower the SELF. They also give people the freedom to bore others with stories of betrayals they've endured, all those backstabbers out there. (self reflection is hard.) When it comes to self improvement books, they should be handled with care. There is nothing more boring than someone who has memorized a Leo Buscaglia book but uses it to tell others how they should act instead of being gentler and more loving themselves.

I have found books on death/dying/grieving very helpful and have purchased them for myself and others. When my cousin suddenly became a widow I gave her three carefully selected books. I told her to please forgive me, and not be put off by my gift, she could put them aside and maybe one day she'd want them. I didn't hear a peep about them for 7 months or so, then she e mailed me to say they really helped her a lot although, yes, the gift really irked her at first. She forgave me for being presumptuous, but I don't think I would ever do that again. Buying self help books for others is a real Buttinsky thing to do, not a good deed at all, despite my possible goody good intentions. Self help books should be purchased for oneself.

The Elves and the Shoemaker: Who hasn't wished that some of their work could just be (magically) done for them?

The shoemaker never took advantage of the elves, he never completely gave up even when times were tough. He just needed some help. He was always willing to do some of the work himself.

I remember this story from childhood... why is it I never got tired of hearing it? Maybe because my dad would always describe in detail different shoes, and always make the story humorous.

*xu zek tody slype ... lum mum piu... I won't be buying a self help book for you.

The great sins of the world take place in the brain: but it is in the brain that everything takes place . . . It is in the brain that the poppy is red, that the apple is odorous, that the skylark sings, (and that we love and hate each other). —Oscar Wilde

*scrabble dictionary words


R.L. Bourges said...

re the couple you mention: maybe he was passive to her aggressive and vice-versa?

Seriously, I don't remember who said it first but judging others is a damn tricky business, because the minute you replace the other pronouns by "I" - lo and behold! - the shoe fits! aghhhhh!

(LOVE the fractured fairy tale - will visit more of them during my next tea break).

Top o' the whatever, A R.

Anonymous said...

vampire books are sooo popular now, not surpirsd selff helpers would jump on that bandwagon too

bella rum said...

This was a "nail on the head" kind of post. It's so much easier to see the other guy's problems, isn't it?

When my son was in college, a close friend of his lost his mother. Just as you did, he gave his friend a book on loss and grief. His friend responded much the way your friend did.

Catlin said...

Buttinsky... I like that word.

My Classic Fiction Book List -Partial List

  • Austen, Jane: (Complete Works)
  • Balzac: Cousin Bette/ Eugenie Grandet / Cousin Pons
  • Best Russian Short Stories
  • Boyle, TC: Short Works
  • Brennan, Maeve : Short Works, 1 Novella
  • Bronte, Emily, Ann, Jane (Complete Works)
  • Brookner, Anita ( Complete Works)
  • Cather, Willa (Complete Works)
  • Chekov: Short Works
  • David Copperfield (Dickens)
  • Dickens:A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dickens:Great Expectations
  • Dickens:Nicholas Nickelby
  • Dickens:Our Mutual Friend
  • Dickens:The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Doyle, Roddy (some novels, memoir)
  • Drabble, Margaret (4 Novels)
  • Drieser, Theodore (Complete Works)
  • Fitzgerald, F.Scott (Most Novels & short works)
  • Hardy, Thomas (Complete Works)
  • Hemingway, Short stories
  • Hemingway: The Old Man in the Sea
  • Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises
  • Hugo: Les Miserables/Hunchback Of ND
  • James, Henry: Daisy Miller
  • James, Henry: In The Cage
  • James, Henry: Portrait of a Lady
  • James, Henry: The Golden Bowl
  • James, Henry: What Maisy Knew
  • James, Henry: Wings of a Dove
  • James, Henry:The Ambassadors
  • James, Henry; The Bostonians
  • Kerouac: Dharma Bums
  • Kerouac: On The Road
  • Kerouac: The Subterraneans
  • Kerouac: Tristessa
  • Lardner,Ring:Short Works
  • Larsen: Quicksand
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Arrowsmith
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Free Air
  • Lewis, Sinclair: Main Street
  • Lewis, Sinclair: The Job
  • MacGill, Patrick (Complete works)
  • Mackin, Walter (novels)
  • Maupassant: Short Works, novels
  • McGahern, John (novels of)
  • McNulty, John (Short Works)
  • Norris, Frank: McTeague
  • O'Brien, Edna (3 Novels)
  • O'Donnell, Paeder : Novels of
  • O. Henry
  • Potok, Chaim (4 novels/1 non fiction)
  • Salinger, JD : Nine Stories
  • Salinger: Franny & Zooey
  • Salinger: Raise High the Roofbeams
  • Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Dodsworth
  • Sinclair, Lewis: Elmer Gantry
  • Sinclair, Upton: King Coal
  • Sinclair, Upton: The Jungle
  • Steinbeck, John: Sweet Thursday
  • Steinbeck: Winter of our Discontent
  • Steinbeck: Cannery Row
  • Steinbeck: East of Eden
  • Steinbeck: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Theroux, Paul (3 Novels )
  • Toibin, Colm: (Novels of)
  • Tolstoy: Anna Karenina
  • Tolstoy: Short Works
  • Turgenev (2 novels)
  • Twain: T Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi
  • Vonnegut: Early Works (1950s-60s)
  • Wharton, Edith: Novels of/Short Stories
  • Women & Fiction (Edit. Cahill)
  • Zola, Emile ( 10 novels)