The other day I got an email from a popular book giant suggesting a list of titles I might be interested in. Among them: guides that would instruct me on how not to look fat–not how to keep from becoming fat, mind you, but just how not to look fat–how not to get crushed to death by too many accumulated possessions a la the Collyer Brothers, how to make decisions, how to eat mindfully (and, hopefully, negate the need for the book on how not to look fat), and how what I’ve put on the end of my fork could be contributing to the end of the world (and, presumably, how to keep that from happening).

Wow. That company must think there are some things I really need to work on. I’d be offended if I weren’t so busy worrying about what I’m eating, how I’m eating, and whether I look fat after I’ve eaten. And if I’ll be able to find a mirror to check my fatness with all the stuff I’m hoarding–which, if I ordered all the suggestions on this list, would consist mostly of self-improvement books.

I love me a project, I do, and I have to say that for most of my life, my favorite project has been Me. Or, rather, the New and Improved Me, which is a Me that doesn’t exist. I’ve spent a retirement villa in Italy on self-help books, improvement courses, lectures, therapy, guided meditation, tapes, CDs, videos, DVDs, MP3s… The list could go on, but will not. One of the qualities I want the New and Improved Me to have is brevity.

After all this work on improving myself, I’ve finally come to the root of my problem: There’s nothing wrong with me. There is, however, something wrong with wanting to be different from the way I am.

I’m not saying that self-improvement is wrong. If we didn’t strive to be the best person we could be, we would all be rather unhealthy and have Doritos on our breath, and no amount of advice from a famous stylist or Buddhist monk would help us. But if we were wedged in that La-Z-Girl from hell, we wouldn’t need to book to tell us that something was wrong.

One of the best things about being forty-something (okay, fine, 46) is a sense of knowing what works and what doesn’t. For the Actual and Just Fine Me, what works stays, and what doesn’t gets the proverbial heave-ho. Along with shoes that hurt and clothes that are out of date, no matter how not-fat they make me look, I’m also doing a personality purge. I’m getting rid of ideas, thoughts, and goals that no longer work for me, along with the silly crap, the constant effort, the striving, and the basically not living in the present that goes along with that.

Example: Instead of constantly trying to lose those last five or eight or whatever pounds, I’ve lost the aggravation of trying to lose the weight. I took up running, and I do yoga every day. Now, I don’t know what I weigh, but whatever it is, it sure looks fitter than it did before. I’ve quoted my beloved mentor Amy Gross here before when she said, “Fix it or forget it.” Sometimes, by doing the latter, you accomplish the former.

My super-beloved Nana didn’t dwell on things she couldn’t change. She either changed them or she moved on. She had no time or tolerance for things that took her energy away from her family and her work; heck, she was just in survival mode for most of her life, so she learned how to cut pointless fretting out of her life like a chef with a fresh set of as-seen-on-TV Ginsu knives. I’m not going to aspire to do the same. I’m just going to do it.

So, thank you, book giant, for the suggestions of all the self-improvement books. But I think I’ll just stop dreaming of the way I want to be in some ten-pounds-less, who-knows-when future and enjoy my life the way it is, right this very moment.

Advertisements