August 24, 2010

don't sweat the small stuff...

i am taking a break from our regularly scheduled Day of Packing to regale you with a tale of my books.

when i started the task of packing up my books, i was suddenly fatigued with the blah feeling of having to do something you don't necessarily want to do. i remember packing and unpacking my books SO many times and for many years, it was a huge chore in and of itself because i had five decent sized bookshelves full of books. i don't even remember if that included the one dedicated to children's books but working at barnes and noble, even if only for eight months, really did a lot (too much) for my then two year old's collection of reading material.

when i had four to five bookshelves full of books i moved four or five times. books were my main possession, collected for various reasons. i'd keep a book if i had read it and loved it or if i thought i'd read it in the future. because it was a gift. because it was cheap. because it was free. because i thought i could impress people if they browsed my bookshelves. because i thought if i read a lot, i would eventually grow enough balls to write my own book.

i noticed a disturbing trend, moving all of those books over all those years - i had been "collecting" an unnatural number of self-help and pop-psychology books since about age eighteen and i had moved a lot of titles in the "to-be-read" category that had yet to be read. the first major, evaluative purge came five years ago before moving in with awesome papa. i decided not to move another book that i was never going to read and i periodically check my books, even now, to purge further on that premise alone. since then, i've  slowly downsized and now boast that my collection remains at a solid and manageable one-bookshelf-size.

this was accomplished by working through the above list of excuses and revisiting it from time to time. i no longer care if a book was free or a gift. if it doesn't interest me, it's out of here. i don't hang on to books for future art projects *unless it's a really cool book*. i no longer keep books around based on some perceived status they give their owners. i no longer care what people think (and what people, anyway?) about what is or what is not on my bookshelf. if i've read a novel but it wasn't life-changing, no matter how good it was, off it goes (that's my way of spreading the cheer). and as far as writing my own? i have kept some books on the topic and some books that i find motivational or otherwise helpful, but i know that no book will motivate me enough. that has to come from within and when the time is right i have no doubt that it will happen.

now, all that said, even though my collection of books is currently manageable, i have made a promise to myself that i will purge further. i have already placed about ten percent of my books aside for donation or sale. i am revisiting my list of excuses. i keep only what i love. what i cherish. what i will refer to often. what i will read again. what i want to share with my children. and what i will read some day. really read some day. these are the things that matter. the only things.

i come to my copy of the don't sweat the small stuff workbook. i've had this book for, like, twelve years and opened it maybe six times. i flippantly flip through it. i toss it aside. i smugly think, "i don't need this book. i am a guru of new age, positive-thought bullshit. i don't sweat the small stuff!" i pick it up again to make sure i never actually wrote anything in it. i play the flip and land on a page game so i can just quickly scan some of the self-inquiring questions and see if i still find the book at all relevant. i come to #39: Practice Humility. i am much more humble than i used to be and this handy dandy questionnaire confirms that. i'm proud of myself but wish my grandmother and a few of my ex-boyfriends would spend some time with this page. real humble, i know.

then #74: Do a Favor and Don't Ask for, or Expect, One in Return. now that one i've mastered and on the topic of ex-boyfriends, i tried to get one to get that concept. he didn't have to master it at all, i just wanted him to grasp, ever so slightly, the feeling of freedom that comes from doing something out of the kindness of your heart with no expectations whatsoever. incidentally, he is the ex that could benefit from spending the most time with #39. this concept is also one that i would like to instill in my oldest son so i decide to keep the book on the grounds that he and i can bond over some of these exercises. i'll disguise self-discovery and personal growth as fun!

then there are some exercises that help me come to terms with the fact that i am still a terrible listener, i am not nearly as compassionate as i'd like to be, i am still slightly competitive, i still tend to maximize what i want and minimize what i have (though less and less), i can hardly call myself patient, and i interrupt people or finish their sentences to a fault. i also look through the table of contents and identify areas in which this book could benefit just about every single person i know. or every single person i am now casting personal judgment upon. go me.

but really, i think it could help everyone and aside from the potential to greatly offend, i think it would be an awesome gift (and those that it would offend probably need it the most).

cheesy as it might be (whether this be my own perception or that of someone looking at my bookshelf) i guess there was a reason i've held on to this book all these years.

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