Extreme Makeover: Truth Edition

I blame Bob Vila and Wonder Woman. They started this whole ball rolling. On “This Old House”, I wanted to see the down-and-out kitchen with battered cabinets turned into a room of light and gleaming surfaces. Before and after. Drab and breathtaking. I wanted to see the already attractive secretary whip off her glasses, twirl around a bit and turn into an irresistible ass kicker with an invisible plane. I fast forward through episodes of “The Biggest Loser” just to see the numbers on the souped up scales. The astounding metamorphosis, the makeover, the second chance, the suspension of reality – hope.

Reality says that Bob Vila fell into the endorsement trap, so that the $100K renovation estimates quadrupled and viewers were pummeled with product names. Wonder Woman never did develop an upper body from all that roping with the Lasso of Truth. And quite a few of the Biggest Losers could not maintain their body changes without trainers and retreats and the humiliation of shirtless public weigh-ins. It turns out that Cinderella’s glass slipper just led to a princely foot fetish and his shoe collection that would have made Imelda Marcos green with envy.

This desire to believe in transformational magic makes people, myself included, great targets for exercise equipment retailers, fashion designers, Tony Robbins, “The Secret” DVDs, and very complicated organizing systems. I know people who will go to the mat about some of these products, but for me, it’s all an elaborate consumerist ruse that has trapped me time and again. I’m a more sophisticated magical thinker now (read: buys more expensive crap), but I can’t resist books on spirituality that transcends, exercise fads that shorten my workout times, flash cards with writing exercises, and jeans with “secret” tummy flattening panels.

Even the things that don’t cost have a price. I thought if I could meditate for ten minutes in the morning, I’d feel more grounded throughout the rest of my day. It turns out ten minutes is a really, really long time. Two minutes in and I’m having a panic attack – did I mail the property tax check? When was I supposed to RSVP for that kid’s birthday party? Don’t one of my in-laws have a birthday coming up? Do I have enough eggs to make the muffins I promised for tomorrow morning? Wait. What was I doing? Oh yeah, freeing my mind.

It’s demoralizing, because I’d imagine that whatever I’m trying or using or buying was the key and I couldn’t even do that one thing right. Our local thrift store is littered with the detritus of hopefulness: Thigh Masters, clothes with price tags still attached, tools, self-improvement books, and piles of art and sewing supplies, for all those cottage industries that weren’t. Organizers and notebooks have been my latest downfall. If I could just organize my day properly, I would have time to do everything I need to do. If I tracked my food intake, I could improve my nutrition. Now those specialized planners are being used for scrap paper – grocery lists and reminders to call the vet.

It’s embarrassing because of the waste and the recognition that my magical thinking has conned me again. Even the things that are good for me fail to meet expectations. We use a juicer several times a week and instead of feeling fabulous, I feel like I must be within 10 feet of a bathroom at all times. I have spent my stay-at-home time de-cluttering and simplifying our home life, yet it’s three steps forward and two back – Amazon online is not my friend.

I am learning patience the hard way – learning the tried and true saying that what I do with my day is what I’m doing with my life. No Franklin Covey planner can help me if what I’m doing with my day is hoping, wishing and shopping for magic beans. “This Old House” in my life means that the hole in the drywall where I “misplaced” my hammer will be there for awhile. And if I took off my glasses and spun around, I’d probably need medical attention. Maybe I should see a homeopath or an acupuncturist. I wonder if they could fix…everything.

23 Comments on “Extreme Makeover: Truth Edition

  1. Our local thrift store is littered with the detritus of hopefulness: Thigh Blasters, clothes with price tags still attached, tools, self-improvement books, and piles of art and sewing supplies, for all those cottage industries that weren’t.

    You couldn’t have said it better.

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    • Someone just pointed out to me that they were called “Thigh Masters”, so I updated the post. That can be a point of pride, can’t it – that I didn’t know the actual name? Although I might have actually purchased it if it were called Thigh Blaster…

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  2. I am seeing you eye to eye on this one. My favorite is the 7 ways to make your life perfect magazine covers. If only it were that easy and yet I can’t help but fall for it every time.

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    • I know what you mean. I felt “Real Simple” after I bought that expensive, glossy magazine for its de-cluttering and organize yourself cover. What? Store stuff in jars? Who woulda thunk it?

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  3. Every once in awhile, everyone succumbs to this kind of “hope.” Sigh. To keep me on the ground, I refer to a very simple, practical blog, The Minimalist Lifestyle. Somehow, it helps.
    And posts like this one, serves as a reminder. =>
    Happy weekend!

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    • Thanks – it’s one of those running arguments that I have in my head all the time! I’ll check out the blog you mentioned. Have a great weekend as well!

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  4. I’m the one at the thrift shop buying the stuff that others gave up on. My name is Sam, and I am…a hoarder. There, I said it!

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  5. I could have written this post (although not as well as you)!
    I blame my powers of imagination: it is always all too easy to picture a new “me”: toned, organised, with perfectly painted nails, a tidy house and washboard abs. Deep down I know that what I would need to achieve any of this is just willpower, and stop wasting my time on pointless activities and do sit ups instead. I KNOW this. But I still fall for the magic beans…

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    • I’ve thought a lot about willpower, because that always seems to be the judgmental approach to why or why not we do things. Sometimes we really, really just don’t care about some of these “goals” and it’s not lack of willpower, it’s just truly a lack of interest. We just feel like we’re “supposed” to care. I like re-framing my failures as an attitude issue, not a lack of inner discipline! Rationalization can be such a gift at times!

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      • I love reading you, you just make so much sense!
        You are absolutely right, it is all about seeing things differently. From now on I will try and think more like you.
        Thank you, I feel more liberated already! 😀

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  6. Well written, and funny too, along with the comments. No more exercise equipment for me — I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not going to use it. They’re just too boring. I bought a couple “self help” books recently and practically dope-slapped myself for begin reeled in. If one more person tells me to go where it’s quiet and breathe deeply, my scream is going to be heard in Alaska. No more! I’d rather take a trip away from the house than dump so much money into it that it becomes a trap and I can’t afford to go anywhere.

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    • Exactly right. I’ve been working on my own issues with consumerism and I read someone’s essay about things versus experiences. I’m trying very hard to use “stuff” money for doing things and going places. Memories last a lot longer than any product. Thanks for reading and commenting. That’s the best part of blog writing – the dialogue afterwards.

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  7. Your words resonate with so many of us! In my business, it’s the “Learn Java in 21 Days!” type books. Meanwhile, the infamous Outliers (by Gladwell) claims it takes 10,000 hours to truly master any craft. We’ve become suckers for silver bullets, despite so much experience they don’t exist. I wonder if TV programmed us to believe solutions can be had in 30 or 60 minutes. When did we lose the understanding that dedicated hard work is what it takes? Seems like that used to be one of our core principles at one time.

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    • I suppose it all goes along with doing everything faster. I’m sure TV/Magazines/Media have a lot to do with the magical transformation mentality. Turning everything into a commodity that can be bought and sold, including people’s aspirations, misses the most important part of meeting any goal – the pride and the appreciation for the work that it took to get there. All is not lost if we can just slow ourselves down a bit and sink into the process of learning or habit changing. I’m sure someone has packaged and priced that philosophy somewhere. Luckily, we can get it for free!

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      • Well said! And that’s a great way to look at it: we live in a commodity-based world. And we all suffer from MTM syndrome!!

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        • Monster Truck Madness? Mary Tyler Moore? Much Too Much? I’m sure you’ll tell me what MTM means and then I’ll have to slap myself in the forehead for not getting it.

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        • Oh, yeah,.. you are so gonna slap your forehead for this: Magical Transformation Mentality.

          I love the phrase! It deserves to go on the books as an officially recognized malady. (Mary T. Moore will just have to share the initials.)

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  8. While married to my last & final wide my role was well defined. I was to transport, erect and maintain exercise equipment that my wife had to have. There were steppers, rowers, ski machines and every form of treadmill. She didn’t like inexpensive stuff so my house was full of Nordic Trac and other top notch stuff she saw on TV.

    I hated Bob Vila, Norm & the guy that changed wives every year. Their ideas turned into my “Honey Do List”. After my wife tired on a piece of exercise equipment it fell on me to haul it off to out 1,000 square foot out building to cover & store. I could have opened a well outfitted gym with the stuff out there. Did any of it do her any good? Ha! She even had her stomach stapled. I discovered her former husband dumped her because of her weight. Little did he know a few years later his new and improved version was bigger than the one he dumped. Being worth 50 million bucks will do that to women.

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    • You somehow have further emphasized what I was getting at with this post – our hopes, expectations and dreams of quick fixes seem to end up in secondhand shops. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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    • Thank you – patience is definitely not one of my virtues, so I have to practice and “cultivate” it. If only I could learn it by say, right now. No. Now. Maybe now? I don’t think I’ve got the hang of it yet.

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