It seems that nowadays there’s a book to help with everything. My apartment is crawling with objects from every phase of my life (plus a few extra lives that I haven’t gotten around to living yet)…and there’s a book for that. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book upheld its promise. It changed my life. It helped me consciously acknowledge what I’ve always unconsciously suspected. Which is that objects are magical.
Item one: the ultra frilly pink scarf crocheted for me by a relative (who tends to knit things she would like to wear and then ceremoniously give them to other people.) This is not just a scarf—it’s guilt incarnate. Her asking me about it every time I see her is nothing but emotional manipulation. It’s purported purpose was to bring me joy, and it has done nothing but make me feel guilty and ashamed.
That scarf, I am happy to tell you, is now living a second life someplace else (wouldn’t it be lovely if we all had that luxury). Most importantly, I have freed myself from the responsibility of caring where or how that second life is lived. It is now the responsibility of the scarf.
Other self-help books I have read with public skepticism and private interest include books about how to be French, or elegant, or how to improve my chances of genius. I have read the Bible, hoping it might improve my chances of an afterlife. I have read about the nature of things, hoping to better understand how they got here and what they have to do with me personally. I have read about how to be happy, how to accept myself, how to be richer (I have yet to read a self-help book about helping other people, but you can’t really blame a chicken for its feathers.)
In all these years of helping, I have come to the belated realization that self-help books are generally great at helping you ignore whatever you most need help with. All these helpings are just fuel for the main event. For me, that event is death.
The first thing I have discovered on my newest self-help quest (the one that leads to me not dying, ever) is that avoiding your fear is the worst thing you can possibly do (like when the fight-or-flight response kicks in with YELL OR DIE, FLESH PUPPET, after which you force yourself to think about bunnies and kittens until you safely fall asleep.) Avoidance leads to OCD, which leads to excessive room-cleaning and hypochondria (which is no longer a phobia, right aha who decided that one) which leads to symptoms exacerbated by fear which leads to your brain telling your body CHRIST just go ahead and be physically ill already, stop it with all the hand washing. (Stronger than witchcraft, that brain of yours.)
In short, the avoidance of my deepest fear has led me to serious preoccupation with other things that will probably wind up killing me. But this avoidance has also led me to a cleaner house, a happier disposition, and a pair of breasts that double as machine guns (useful against assassins.) So for now, until I have found the book to free myself from the responsibility of caring about the where and when of my own demise, I will just be browsing the forums, looking for death titles, hanging out in my tidy (magical!) apartment.