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.