Tuesday, October 13, 2009

OK, so I have a thing for Steve Buscemi

As someone who never met a self-help book she didn't like, I was expecting great things from Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick. Over the course of a year, Lisick reads a book by one self-help guru per month and tries to follow that plan. She is hoping that after a year, she will suddenly have a clean house, a clear direction in life and a magically obedient child. Things don't turn out as planned, though . . .

It was somewhat refreshing to read about someone who needs the self-help more than I do, but it did get tiring after a while. Lisick and her husband live in an apparently not-very-good neighborhood in San Francisco, in a disorganized, disintegrating house. They both apparently decided to give up the security of full-time jobs to "live their dreams" -- in his case, operating a recording studio, in hers, freelance writing (neither of which is very successful in monetary terms). They also have an out of control 4 year old son who refuses to comply with any orders/requests/suggestions that his parents might issue. It doesn't take long for the reader to agree that, yes, this is a woman who needs the help of some help.

For someone with chronic money troubles, Lisick is able to get funds to attend several functions featuring the self-help biggies -- Steven Covey in Chicago, a Richard Simmons "Cruise to Lose," a retreat in San Diego at the "Chopra Center," etc. The problem is that although she can summarize what each person is trying to teach her, she approaches nearly every new book with a sense of skepticism and snarkiness that shows she really has no intention of following through. In other words, most of the efforts are a waste of time.

She felt that Richard Simmons was truly warm, approachable and somewhat mesmerizing, but was less than impressed with the rest of the celebrities. Naturally, during the weight loss cruise, she "didn't really need to lose any weight" but luckily, she had an overweight friend who went on the cruise with her (and slept-in during most of the morning workout sessions). She also seemed to half-heartedly follow through with the organizational suggestions offered by Julie Morgenstern's coach -- buying a few totes and clearing out some broken junk out of drawers and closets. In the end, even that attempt was not really successful. Lisick has the unfortunate solution to junk of "I'll just put it down in the basement," so rather than dealing with problems, she just moves them to another area of the house.

It was interesting to learn, however, that Sylvia Browne says the world only has 95 years left before it self-destructs. Maybe Lisick feels it just won't be worth the effort to straighten out her life if the world is winding down. Still, her overviews of the programs discussed are interesting and the fact that she is a fellow Steve Buscemi fan is also a point in her favor!

Final Verdict for Helping Me Help Myself: Two Gherkins for some interesting overviews of popular self-help books, but a general lack of effort on the part of the author to implement them in her own life

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