Thanks to Shelley for stepping in last week during my time of need! By popular (canine) demand, she will be receiving a steak dinner for her troubles.
After all I’ve done for you, it’s about friggin’ time.
I have to tell you: this has been one tough week. This virus hangs on and hangs on and hangs on. But it’s deceptive, you know? After the first couple of days of nightmarish eruptions—the volume of which, by the way, seemed downright improbable (We aren’t really that large, are we? How much can be in there at one time?)—the illness isn’t completely debilitating, so you get bored at home, you go out somewhere, and then after an hour or so you realize, “Oh crap. I have to go home right now or I’m going to run utterly and completely out of energy and have to lie down in the street in front of oncoming traffic.”
It’s not a good feeling.
This bug is so clearly the flu, too. Both Alex and I have had horrible aches and exhaustion to go along with the exciting gastrointestinal symptoms. I was so achy, in fact, that even knitting was not appealing to me.
Can you imagine the horror?
So I have decided to distract you from the fact that I have done almost no knitting with some photos of flowers from my neighborhood. Which just goes to show you that we have lovely flowers in New England, too.
And if you look closely on one of the four days in late April and early May that constitute our “blooming season,” you too may spot them!
So, yes…back to our story: thanks to our buddy Mr. N. Flewinza, the weekend’s activities were a tad paltry. But yesterday we were feeling just well enough to have coffee in the late afternoon with the Incomparable Kate, who was in town for the weekend. (In the spirit of full disclosure: yes, we did inform her that she might be risking her health, but she seemed to want to see us anyway. She has the heart of a lion, this woman!)
It was well worth saving up our energies to see the Incomparable Kate, of course, and afterwards—due to the unconscionably infrequent buses on Sundays…ahem, MBTA are you listening?—we had about fifty minutes to kill, so we naturally went to the bookstore.
Somehow I ended up in the self-help section and, as I do every time I wind up in the self-help section, I marvelled at the sheer number of these kinds of books that have been produced in the past ten or fifteen years. Whether it was the last vestiges of the virus or just the thought of how much money must be
wasted spent every year on these tomes, I started to feel just a bit woozy.
A restorative tree. That is not, alas, in my yard.
My family knows already that I am not a big fan of the self-help genre and that I largely think that any time spent reading these books is reading time that you sacrificed when you could have been reading, say, Proust. Or Joyce. Or Elmore Leonard.
And it’s a zero-sum game, people! We only have so many minutes, hours, days given to us to live on this earth, and in my view, life is always too short to read self-help books.
At the same time, life is terribly complex and often difficult, full of ill-timed hailstorms, truculent relatives, colonoscopies, the bridal-industrial complex, obstreperous children and dogs, oral exams, beef byproducts, intestinal parasites, recalcitrant paving stones, sanctimonious neighbors, the poetry of Robert Frost, and the IRS. We must, in fact, help ourselves. We need guidance.
Given this grim set of facts, I have worked out a set of “take-home” messages that I think should be the central tenets of the self-help genre. Not that I’d know since I never read these books. But when did that ever stop me?
The whole point of going to graduate school is to learn to speak with authority about books one has never read! Even whole genres of books one has never read!
So, without further ado, and in an effort to save everyone a lot of time and money, I give you “The E. Bales Seven Pillars of Self-Help” (also known in some quarters as “The Seven Pillows of Strength,” although this phraseology was almost certainly based on a mishearing):
1. Drink plenty of liquids.
2. Get plenty of rest.
3. Get some exercise every day. If possible, go outdoors.
You might see something uplifting, like this.
4. Eat nutritious foods.
5. Have some laughs.
6. Spend time around people you enjoy. Inasmuch as possible, avoid those you find wearisome, odious, or draining.
7. If you do not already have a dog, get a dog.
See how simple? I’m sure someone will point out that all problems in life cannot be solved by these seven measures. I’d be the first to agree. But I think if we all did these things (not that I find them all particularly easy to achieve on a daily basis, Lord knows), we’d have a better shot at handling with aplomb the basic “challenges” that life tends to throw our way. Like, say, an exploding toilet or an unexpected tax audit or a lying, scheming, craphound landlord. I’m just talking about foundational matters here.
Everything else? Well, that requires thinking on your feet.
I don’t know about you, but I’m a lot quicker on my toes when I’m hydrated and I’ve had a few laughs.