I love this song by my friend and Canadian singing/songwriting treasure Michael “Earnie” Taylor. It is from his album Folk ‘n’ Western which is in my Corner Store, right next to the leather belts and gossip magazines. No littering please.
Some wise guy once said something to the effect that what we mock, we shall become.
I think I’ve proved the truth of his statement because after years of laughing hysterically, in print, at the writers of self-help books, I became such an animal myself a few years ago. Asked to “ghost” write a book for a man who has a lot of good ideas about successful living but who readily admits to not being a writer, I took up the challenge. By doing so, I became the first self-help-book writer I had ever actually met face to face. Somehow, I thought I’d be taller. And sexier.
The biggest impression I held about the kind of guy who sits down to tell the rest of the world how to live in 10 easy steps was that he would definitely have all his ducks in a row, so to speak. If he didn’t, what business would he have laying out a pattern for others to follow? And having read a few of these books over the years (for research purposes only, of course) it struck me that the authors of these words of wisdom really do seem to have it all together. Whether they’re offering suggestions on conquering clutter, losing weight, disciplining kids, thinking positively or finding romance, the self-help writers of the world seem to be in a together class all of their own.
The very fact that a person steps forward to provide solutions to the thorniest problems of day-to-day life is conclusive proof of his togetherness. How much confidence would you have to possess to think that what you have to throw into the mix will in any way improve anything for anyone, other than, perhaps, your own bank account? My guess is, you’d be a solid rock on a shore of shifting sand.
So, whatever my suitability for the task, I sat down to write this latest contribution to the health and welfare of humanity with all the bravado I could muster. And within a few months, I had a rough draft completed and neatly bound up in a green binder, awaiting approval of it from the man who had commissioned it.
One fine spring day, around this time, I found myself in my car, cruising a back road and doing far too much thinking about things. In short, I was in a muddle of tangled thoughts and emotions regarding a couple of decisions that needed to be made and I was having, I’ll admit it, a rather rough time of it. A mental tornado was ripping and tearing through my brain, leaving uprooted trees and overturned houses in his wake. Or, to put it more simply, I was having a really bad day.
What to do, what to do?
I pulled my car into a quiet, country cemetery driveway and turned it off. Glancing down at the seat beside me, I spied the green binder with the self-help book I’d written contained within its covers. I had no other reading matter in my vehicle.
Now, here was my dilemma. Would there not be something really perverse about looking for answers to your problems in a self-help book you had written to help others with their problems? Would it be like a psychologist counselling himself in the mirror? Or a doctor performing surgery on himself? Or even worse, would it be like dating your own sister?
Whatever it would be like, it wasn’t long before I was leafing through the very familiar pages for an answer. And soon I found it, in a chapter I had entitled Underlying Our Anxiety. Then I went to three others: The Puzzle of Passivity; The Opportunity In Risk; Getting Beyond Perfectionism.
And finally, there it was. It jumped off the page at me: “Anxiety is caused by avoidance.”
Within a few moments, my distress began to dissipate and I saw what I needed to do. I simply had to make a decision, right or wrong, and live with the consequences knowing I could always make another decision later if the first one turned out wrong.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
In fact, I did say it myself.
I returned to my office that day, now calm, now together again, and the irony of a self-help writer helping himself through his self-help writing struck me. And I wondered whether or not Wayne Dyer or Norman Vincent Peale ever delved through any of their own many volumes when they were having a bad day.
Or did those guys ever have a bad day? If they did, and they didn’t read their own stuff, whose stuff did they read for help?
These are questions I am going to need help to find answers for.
I go to funerals and stand there like the statue of Liberty, if the Statue of Liberty was dressed in an ill-fitting suit, that is.
Generally, I cry twice a year.
I cry when I send in my annual tax return and realize, yet again, that I don’t owe the government any more money. Just once I would like to mail off a big cheque.
The other time I start bawling is when I read stories about how my favourite TV shows have been cancelled. I am not a revolutionary at heart, but at times such as these I feel like burning something to the ground.
I watch a show all year, get to love the characters, and then poof. Somebody in a suit in an office somewhere far away, who could do with a good strangling, pulls the plug.
I have a good life, but it is littered with the remnants of shows I once loved.
Pardon me, but I need to be alone for a while just now.
It is no secret that Canadians have a slight inferiority complex. I don’t see that as a bad thing; it keeps us from thinking we own the world.
But we like to be recognized by the outside world, especially the United States. We get a kick out of any recognition we can get from the U.S. It is usually positive.
Canada is a bit of a hotbed for humour and we have produced a lot of funny people in our time. Especially funny writers who for decades have found steady employment writing for TV shows and movies made in the U.S.
I am a big lover of sitcoms and a lot of these shows coming from south of the border have at least one Canadian writer on staff. Lorne Michaels, for example, creator and head poobah on Saturday Night Live, is Canadian.
Because of the Canadian influence, perhaps, there are sporadic references to Canada in sitcoms, especially, and I love it when they sneak them in.
Last week, on the popular show, New Girl, Jessie was preparing a little grab bag of gifts for her girlfriend who is getting married. She started rifling through the crazy gifts she had bought her, goofy things she though Cece would like. One of the items she pulled out was a picture of our new prime minister, Justin Trudeau.
“Yay for us,” I thought.
Back home in Canada, poor Trudeau is being roasted these days for supposedly being too much of a glory hog. But the brief shout out didn’t hurt my feelings one bit.
There are worse things our leader could be noted for than being handsome, fun-loving, smart and caring.
Just like we all are up here in the Great White North, white, by the way, referring to our close relationship with snow.
I think, in fact, that it was a Canadian who invented snow.
It’s a shame we didn’t patent it because it seems to have really caught on.