Monday, November 1, 2004

Self Help

I'm reading The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger. I realize that this is not a popular book among many; in fact, the librarian AND the library patron in line behind me BOTH gave me dirty looks when I checked it out. And the librarian turned the book on its face and sort of slammed it on the counter when she gave it to me.

Geez. I just wanted to open my mind to some ideas about how I can possibly be the wife that Dan deserves. Or if I'm a good wife (Dan swears that I am), how I could be better. And I wanted to see what types of attitudes I should keep an eye out for in the future ... after all, we're still newlyweds, so we haven't hit the snags and frustrations that married couples tend to hit down the line. And with so much divorce in the air, I just wanted to do everything in my power to remain a good wife.

So I got this book.

While a lot of it doesn't seem to apply to me, it did give way to some very good conversations with Dan. And it made me stop and think of when I might be saying things that sound insensitive ... even when I don't mean to be insensitive.

For example, yesterday, Dan and I were beating our heads against the new computer because we (1) couldn't get our data transferred from the old computer to the new one, and (2) couldn't get online. We both knew that someone more skilled in computers could probably help us. Dan kept trying to get hold of his computer-geek friend, Gary, but to no avail.

"You know who could help us?" I said. "The two guys that I dated before I fell in love with you."

Now, Dan's met one of the two, and they're on friendly terms. And I'm on friendly terms with both of them. So I didn't think anything of the comment because they're both computer people and could probably help. But later, I thought, "Oh, geez. That was a low blow, saying that we should defer to my previous boyfriends. What a way to make Dan feel inadequate."

So I apologized as soon as I realized it. As it turns out, Dan hadn't been offended or hurt because, "well, they DO know more about computers than I do."

Whew. But I'm glad I "caught myself" on that one anyway. I still think it was maybe a little bit insensitive.

The main thing I'm learning from the book is that I need to watch out for an attitude of taking Dan for granted. I certainly don't want to do that. Ever. He and I agreed that we both need to watch out for this because, truth be told, we spoil each other rotten most of the time.

Now, I'm not much of a self-help-book reader. Some of my friends think that I am, but the truth is, I've only read maybe five self-help books in my life. It's just that, of those few, several have literally changed my life for the better. So I tend to talk about them from time to time.

I'll talk about them now.

Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship With Money and Achieving Financial Independence, by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I read this book when preparing to thru-hike the AT. I desperately needed to learn how to save money. I had no money skills and no clue. This book was a real education. By the time I finished it, my CPA dad and investment salesperson mom were delighted to see that their creative-writer daughter was actually making Excel charts of income vs. expenses.

And I saved $4,000. Really.

Organizing from the Inside Out, by Julie Morganstern. This book introduces the SPACE principle for organizing things: Sort, Purge, Assign a Home, Containerize, and something starting with E. I'm still not the world's greatest when it comes to organizing things, but thanks to this book, I'm a lot better at it when I try.

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, by Martin Seligman. I do not remember a thing that I learned from this book. I don't even know if I read the whole thing. All I remember is that it includes an optimism/pessimism test that told you (1) if you were an optimist or a pessimist, and (2) if you were extreme, not-so-extreme, etc.

Well, I took the test. Scoring was something like this:

10 or more points, you're a real optimist.

8-10 points and you're kind of optimistic.

Blah blah blah for the middle scores.

Below 3 points, and your pessimism may be a serious problem.

I scored a negative 17. Yes. As in "seventeen, but with a minus in front of it." -17.

So, that book made me realize that my overarching pessimism about everything was maybe not normal. Normalcy isn't necessarily a noble goal, but in my case, I realized that it would help for me to be a bit more optimistic.

Just that knowledge helped. I'm still a pessimist at heart, but it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. And I'm only a pessimist about some things ... not everything, as I once was.

So those are my book recs for the day. If you like self-help books.

That's it. I don't remember any other self-help books that I've read. I know I've probably read more than that, but I don't remember them.

Back to work!

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