The doors to the bookstore open and I am greeted with relaxing chairs, a comfortable murmur of patrons and thousands and thousands of books. An entire Sunday afternoon is before me with no responsibilities except for one. Nothing will stand in my way.
Mayhem at the café catches my attention. A dozen individuals are standing in line and I feel the irritation crawl over my skin, my hair on my arms standing on end, as I watch them slouch and pick at their fingernails or trying discreetly to yank at their underwear and talking too loudly on their cell phones. I watch as they are herded through the line waiting for their coffee or salivating over a chocolate chip cookie as big as a dinner plate. What gluttons. At least my behavior won’t make me fat.
As repulsed as I am with their bad habits, I won’t be deterred from my main objective. My mind is aching to sink into a thick comfortable self-help book. What a relief that moment will bring. I will read myself thinner, prettier, wiser and wealthier. I will fix my PMS, stop procrastinating, think only positive thoughts, have more and better sex, and find the career…no, the life I always wanted and deserve. How can I be happy if I have not indentified the vital tasks that will make me a great person?
Gripping my purse my hands begin to sweat. I don’t want to appear out of control so I walk casually to the bargain books. Flipping through the books with intriguing titles, my gaze wonders to the other patrons. We are all addicts in a sense, addicted to the smell and the feel of a new book. The freshly typed words we find so hard to resist. Sometimes I find a discounted self-help book. I have read outdated information but only in times of extreme desperation.
Finding nothing I meander to the best sellers. Halfway there I stop to peruse the books they so boldly display in the middle aisle. I can get my fix here with the authors who have written about new ways of life guaranteed to ensure happiness. My hand glides over the collection of books. Electricity shoots through my fingertips and I can almost taste satisfaction. But it is too dangerous out in the open. Someone might spot me. I shove my hand in my coat pocket.
The best seller aisle contains rows and rows of books, written by authors who produce for the masses. In the past Stephen King and Nora Roberts all provided me with a sense of normalcy. Itchy spots attack my arm. I have stayed too long.
But these attempts at ordinary are just a façade. They are only a diversion before I reach my true destination. Stumbling into my domain I see the people who are facing the same addiction.
“Oh look.” I say to the addict next to me. “The self-help section, how did I get here?”
She nods in affirmation. I sigh as I see the young fresh faces who wander into this corner of the world. I fight back the urge to warn them. The new blood wants to investigate the wild affirmations and promises. People who crave a sense of control, tired of their feelings of inadequacy or lack of perfection, they turn to the experts for relief. I want to scream at them. I want to plead with them to run away before it is too late.
My eyes dart back and forth at the collection of books lined up before me. I am delighted with what I see. I look for something new. Developing a tolerance for the previous paradigms, my mind is searching for a new belief system. The more I read the more I need this drug. I hone in on a new book. My hand shakes with anticipation as I reach out and seize the prize. I place the open book to my face, smelling the pages. My eyes digest the words. Oh what sweet relief. My body slowly releases the tension of the last three days. I have waited to long for a fix.
My lips move at a sharp and accurate pace as I read. Self-help books are part of what we now call soft addictions. I like this new discovery. Self-help books drain us of valuable time. What? I try to wrap my mind around this accusation. This book is making some nasty allegations. I feel my pulse quicken and sweat beading up on my hair line. I ignore these distress signals. The desire to pursue this newfound terminology is just too powerful. If you follow the easy plan in this book you too can break your soft addiction.
I slam the book shut. What is this? I fling my head side to side certain someone has noticed my anguish. I have picked up a bad book. The floor sways beneath me and I fight to maintain control. Why would someone want to break their addiction to self-help books? How would I be thinner, happier, the person I was destined to be? It doesn’t make sense. I refuse to believe.
The book falls from my hand. Accusing eyes follow me as I run toward the doors. I race past the best-sellers and bargain books and out into the afternoon sun. I breathe in the fresh air. My mind begins to clear. What foolishness, I think. I will have to be more careful next time.