Self-Help Books

smalllastlecturecoverIt never fails: When I’m unsteady in life I buy a self-help book. It comes over me, this desire to read the words of someone else, hopefully someone wise, hopefully someone whose words get me thinking about my life in a new way, or at least optimistically.

So, the other day I bought a little book called The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I haven’t started it yet. In fact, it’s sitting on the dining table. It looks inviting. Knowing it’s there soothes me.

A strange coping mechanism, I guess. But then, I don’t have religion to fall back on. I don’t have a therapist (though my friends are wonderful stand-ins for that) either.

I do have the writing. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that sinking into the writing wipes everything else out of my mind. I’ve been working hard, in fact. Could writing be my religion?

Hmm…Was that a sacrilegious thought? Or  blasphemous? And what’s the difference between those two words?

If, as I believe, there are as many ways to find faith or succour or simply steadiness as there are people on Earth, then why not fall back on writing? Now that I’m thinking about this, I realize that I stopped looking for a system of belief when I got serious about my writing. Whatever it was I’d been looking for my whole life, I’d found.

Comforting, that.

Still, like I was saying, in times of excess turmoil, I like a self-help book too. And I’ve got some doozies on my shelves, I’ll tell you that much! It’s kind of funny, actually. And, it may be weird, but then, context is everything. I hail from lapsed Catholic stock, and my parents’ stock was VERY Catholic. My parents moved from the Midwest and eventually settled in one of the most liberal, swinging areas of the United States. This was the 1960s. Dad wore Berkenstocks instead of ties. Mom took ceramics classes and baked her cookies with wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and brown sugar. She was a health-food nut before it became the rage. I detested her healthy pancakes and always tried to finagle a sleepover at my friend Kathy’s house so that I could indulge in Bisquick pancakes.

I remember the big leather-bound Bible on the bookshelves. It was red with gold leaf and a section of pretty pictures. (I still remember the burning bush, but I couldn’t tell you the story behind it.)  It was just another book, squeezed in between Jung’s Man and his Symbols and Dad’s Arquitectural Digest magazines. I guess that says it all about our heathen ways.

Anyhow, what I going to say is that my parents were amongst the original New Agers, before New Agers became a thing and got a bad rap for rubbing crystals. (My parents weren’t of that ilk.) My parents like a good self-help book, so I suppose this is where my predilection for them comes from. It’s my brand of comfort the way Sunday service is for others.

To each his own, right? What are your comfort coping mechanisms in hard times?