Reviews of Self Help Books I’ve Owned For Several Years But Have Still Never Read

Meditation for Dummies, 2nd Edition by Stephan Bodian

There you were at a Borders going out of business sale. You hadn’t been ripped to shreds. You still had your bonus audio CD included. I bought you with Acrylic Painting for Dummies and got a $10 rebate. Someday I will read you and listen to your CD and find true balance and renewed sense of peace. Or you’ll go out into next year’s garage sale. Good job, Lauren!

 

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here by Paula Begoun

I think I already have all the tools to have the Best Skin of My Life: mild depression and a vitamin D deficiency that makes me really sleepy all the time! But I suppose that someday I’ll crack the cover of your book and probably find out I’ve been doing skin care all wrong. I’ll wake up looking like a forgotten block of cheese in the bottom of a fridge drawer. But I’ll never know I’m wrong if I never open the book! Good job, Lauren!

 

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

First I joined your email list in hopes that I could become motivated with my writing. You talked, much like Stephen King does in On Writing, about just committing to it. Like a job. Like your life depends on it. But here your book sits, untouched and unread. Like 90% of your emails from your mailing list, left to languish in my inbox like a friend you just can’t seem to make lunch plans with. “Ugh, gosh, shoot… Sorry, I just found out I’m working remotely… from Guam. Forever. And they banned lunch there. And reading.” I do like the semi-crumpled paper airplane on the front. I can identify with it. Good job, Lauren?

 

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

A successful artist friend recommended this book to me and I rushed out to buy it, insisting to myself I would read it! I would be motivated! Anything was possible!

Yup. Good job, Lauren.

 

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky

My therapist recommended you. You have zebras on the cover, pictures inside too… one picture has a monkey on it. A monkey! Who can say no to a cute little monkey and a book that discusses the management of stress related diseases THAT YOU KNOW YOU SUFFER FROM in an updated and revised edition of this self help classic?!

I can, apparently. GOOD JOB, LAUREN.

So I uh. I won a writing thing.

Last month, I was named one of the winners of a creative writing contest at my college. They selected five pieces and I was the fifth. It was awesome. It was unexpected.

I don’t usually put myself out there. Well, okay, yes, you are reading this blog which is expressly my inside thoughts being put out there. But this is different. This a conversation. It’s not a story I invented and crafted and refined. I made a world and told its tale. A good enough story to be held up along with four other very, very well crafted works.

They asked me to read from it, which I had forgotten about until I got the email letting me know I was one of the winners. For some reason, reading something I wrote in front of people is way scary. And I say this having had many years of improv experience! I’d take pretending to be a lizard that is also a lawyer over reading a short essay I wrote any day. One thing is playing in public. The other is sharing a secret conversation you had with yourself.

The reading went fine and I chatted with folks after the ceremony. One of the committee members approached me and said how much he enjoyed some choices I had made and I thanked him. I confessed that part of me was still detached from the whole experience. “I’m still getting over that adult people read this and liked it.” I said, blushing furiously. Somewhere I had gotten the idea that it was a student committee. That idea was really comforting. But the committee was all faculty. The teacher sort of laughed at me and said something like, “Yes, adult people read these.” Embarrassing. But hey. That’s on brand for me.

There was another experience with a writing contest I had when I was much younger. I’m talking like 5 or 6. I knew I liked to tell stories and had learned about a small writing conference at a college near by where we lived. I boasted to my teacher that I was planning on going to it. She asked me to report back.

Things went awry. That was many years ago, so the details are fuzzy. But there was family conflict and at the end of it I wasn’t going anywhere. The feeling of disappointment and shame are still attached to the memory, though probably mostly because of my actions afterwards.

The teacher asked me about how the conference went. There was a writing contest for the young age bracket that I had planned to enter. The true story of what happened wasn’t what I wanted to share. So instead I informed my teacher that I had won third place, if my memory serves me, “of pretty much the whole thing”.

Oh, little Lauren.

My teacher was excited and we informed the class. But when I struggled to explain what I had written, she was on to me. My mother was called and came up to the school and I burst into tears when the truth was revealed. The phrase “very disappointed” was tossed about. I sobbed about not wanting to share about the family fight and not knowing what to do and the situation revealed itself to be more complicated, much to my mother’s chagrin.

A sad experience, true. But it didn’t stop me from writing. I continued to invent worlds to adventure in. Places to spend my time. While the root of all this may lie in childhood escapism in its purest form, the stories I create now are like little vacations in my brain. This story that was selected for the contest is a pretty shining example of that. It’s a girl with an ordinary life that takes a turn for the dramatic and unusual. A common tale, though laid out on an uncommon path.

The story selected for the contest was actually based on a dream I had. It was so vibrant and real. I tried my best to document it. I tried to take the reader there into my dream. I’ve gone on some really terrific adventures in my dreams! I’ve joked that my subconscious is the greatest author I’ve ever known.

I have so many other stories I could tell. Stories from my waking mind. There’s no one stopping me from telling them, now. No one other than myself. If this win meant anything, it’s that my secret conversations need to end up on paper. I should tell them if for no other reason than to give someone else the chance to come along with me to some other place. A place that no one can bar them from.

Off I go.

2015 is MY YEAR. Unless it isn’t. It might not be. Oh god.

This is my last post for 2014 and I’ve been deliberating over what it should include. Dancing girls? Cats? A thinly veiled metaphor about the coming year and how I shouldn’t think about how it’s been thirteen years since I graduated high school and that I probably really should have done something worth being proud of at this point like produced one of the two unfinished movie scripts I’ve plotted out I mean you could at least get them finished as short stories everyone’s releasing writing stuff through amazon not that you’d have anything worth getting on amazon except that two star review of that under eye cream that did not reduce your dramatic case of raccoon eye but ENHANCED IT

This is my problem. I have these little defeatist conversations in my head that start out as, “You know, you should cut your hair short.” and end with, “You know, the guinea pigs only like you because you’re feeding them. OH GOD. WHAT IF THAT’S TRUE FOR MY HUSBAND.” It’s not a great headspace to be in.

It’s all about self esteem. I don’t really have any. I mean, I’m not depressed. And I know things I’m factually good at. Things I’ve seen the stats on. But anything outside of that? I just talk myself into circles and then I’m just sort of hiding alone in my basement, drinking wine, and wondering if there’s a way to tell if guinea pigs like their owners. (This may or may not have happened.) (It did.)

So YES. 2015. New Years is when people set resolutions, yes? I think 2015 is the year I learn to have self esteem. I think it’s a skill, just like anything else, that can be learned. It’s not like people can give it to you. I wish I could just say I was fishing for compliments or pandering or something else… but the reality is that when you have low self esteem, you don’t believe a damn word of it even if compliments DO come. All of the awards and accolades and kind words just sort of wash over you because YOU don’t believe a word of it. It’s like eating food you’re allergic to. You like food, you know you’ve enjoyed it in the past, but you don’t feel so great and, lets face it, an allergy is your body telling you it hates you and it wishes you didn’t suck so much and that’s why we can’t have nice things like pistachios, Lauren.

It’s sort of amazing when people have self esteem. I’m not talking about egotistical, self aggrandizing folks. I mean like. Management. Sales people. Amy Poehler. It’s just such a foreign concept to me to rah-rah yourself and be your own cheerleader. But for my friends? Oh man, you’re all fantastic. Everyone should know you and how amazing you are.

For some reason my brain is kind of broken. It’s all for them, not for me. Maybe I can learn how this works. I should at least give it a try. The handful of times I’ve been brave and said “yes” things have worked out okay. No one’s lost a limb yet and I still seems to have a fairly good reputation. I need to be more brave and really trust in myself and my skillset. 2015 I think I’ll give this a solid shake. The worst that happens is that I’m alone in my basement, eating pistachios, and asking my guinea pigs about my rash. Hell, I could be asking you.