Beth Lisick enlisted aid in keeping a few New Year's vows
By February of any given year most of us are lucky to have kept at least one of those pesky New Year's resolutions.
So hats off to author Beth Lisick, who made a vow Jan. 1, 2006, 'to pick twelve things I wanted to improve in my life, find an established guru in each field, and devote one month to each of them.'
The result is 'Helping Me Help Myself,' an amusing and unique look at the self-help industry. By the end of the year Lisick had read, exercised, studied and affirmed her way through the work of 10 experts in the field of life coaching. (She took one month off to 'reassess' and devoted the month of July to having more sex with her husband.)
After some initial procrastinating Lisick kicks off her quest by reading 'The Success Principles,' by Jack Canfield of the 'Chicken Soup for the Soul' dynasty.
Fighting her way through references to God ('I am such a knee-jerk Godophobe') and the game of golf, Lisick eventually attempts some of the self-talk and written affirmations that are the cornerstone of Canfield's coaching.
The dishwasher she desires never materializes but she presses on, moving into February with Stephen Covey's 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.'
If Lisick did nothing but read a different self-help book each month and comment on it, her book would be formulaic and dull. Luckily, she mixes it up in April with a high-seas jaunt - a Richard Simmons 'Cruise to Lose.'
The result of this weeklong expedition to the Caribbean on a Carnival ship is one of the more hilarious chapters, beginning with this observation in Florida before Lisick sets sail:
'Donatella Versace is not the complete freak of nature I assumed she was. Her signature look is actually … shared by an alarmingly large number of women in the South Beach area between the ages of twenty and seventy.'
The chapter on getting organized, in which Lisick confronts her inner slob with the help of 'organization expert' Julie Morgenstern, is enough to make even the most lackadaisical slob cringe.
The author struggles to sort out her clothing, noting: 'Guess who happens to have thirteen socks with no matches? The same no-longer-lactating individual with three ugly nursing bras in her underwear drawer.'
Later there's an attempt to achieve financial solvency with Suze Orman and a glimpse into the type of spirituality touted by Deepak Chopra. While Lisick obviously seeks to entertain her audience, she does make some valid points about the world of self-help coaching: namely, that it's a million-dollar industry with legions of fans.
It's not giving anything away to note that by the end of 2006, Lisick's life has not changed in any crucial, 'aha moment' way.
But her book doesn't come off as a literary gimmick, pitched to her publisher as an attempt to make a quick buck.
Instead it serves as a humorous primer for the majority of us, who would love to find the magic formula that transforms a hasty resolution into a golden egg.
Also reading this week
If one of your New Year's resolutions is to de-stress your life, breathe deeply and head over to the Beaverton Borders.
Dr. Claire Michaels Wheeler will talk about her book, '10 Simple Solutions to Stress,' which contains 10 medically based exercises to help you confront stress before it tackles you.
Wheeler will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Beaverton Borders (2605 S.W. Cedars Hills Blvd., 503-644-6164).
'Gentrification' is a term familiar to a number of us living in Portland. The debut novel by Nathan McCall, 'Them,' is a fictional account of how one inner-city neighborhood deals with the challenges and misunderstandings that occur when two cultures clash.
McCall will read at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Powell's City of Books (1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651).
Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus is coming to Portland to discuss his book, 'Creating a World Without Poverty.'
Yunus will describe his vision of a business world that combines free markets with more humane treatment.
Yunus will speak at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Bagdad Theater (3702 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd., 503-236-9234).
Tickets, which are $26 and include a copy of the book, may be obtained at the Bagdad ticket office or at www.ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster outlets.
'Helping Me Help Myself'
by Beth Lisick
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16
Where: Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St., 503-228-4651