Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leaping to Conclusions

Every four years, my husband and I have an anniversary.  Whether we need it or not.

This is that year.  And this is that day.

We were married on the first (or fourth) anniversary of our first official date, which had been Leap Day, 1992.  So, ever so coincidentally, our 1996 wedding day was also Leap Day.

We eloped, because at least some of our children--his, mine, and ours, ranging in age from 19 to almost 3--would almost certainly have acted out seriously, negating the thrill of a day on which we had spent too much money, and in which we had invested too much emotion.

We kept the whole thing to ourselves for a month.   

In the sixteen years since, we've weathered more than our share of storms.  Our friendship is intact, the embers of our romance can still respond to some fanning, and in this beleaguered second marriage for both of us, neither of us has contemplated divorce.  

We deserve to celebrate.

If it weren't for my NaBloPoMo pledge, I'd take the day off blogging.  Instead, I'm concluding my February challenge, 29 days of posting, and four or sixteen years of marriage with a toast to my best love.

Happy Anniversary!

I'd do it all--well, most of it--over again.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Procrastinating 101: Tomorrow--You're ALWAYS a Day Away

In Annie's rose-colored version of the song, tomorrow is a haven for hope, a raincheck, something to pin one's dreams to when today disappoints.  Dr. Timothy Pychyl, author of The Procrastinator's Digest:  A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, would have us sing it differently. 

Annie's view is that "Tomorrow is only a day away."  We don't have long to wait.  Dr. Pychyl points out that tomorrow, as a repository of new energy, better mood and motivation, never comes--it's "always a day away."

That cheery observation is the main message of Dr. Pychyl's Chapter 4, "Why We Won't Feel Like it Tomorrow." In today's Procrastinating 101 we continue digesting Pychyl's digest--kind of like a crib sheet from Cliff Notes.

Pychyl's formula should be familiar by now.  Each chapter includes a mantra.  Chapter 4's is "I won't feel more like doing it tomorrow."

His exposition of the issue presents some useful terms from the psychological literature, which were new to this reader of all things procrastinational.

The first is affective forecasting, which is basically our flawed attempt to plan actions based on how we think we're going to feel in the future.  In the case of procrastinators, this usually consists of a false expectation that the task that is so onerous today will be less so tomorrow--a tomorrow which Pychyl has warned us against waiting for.

And we go wrong in forecasting our future feelings because of 
  • focalism--"the tendency to underestimate the extent to which other events will influence our thoughts and feelings in the future" and
  • presentism--putting "too much emphasis on the present in our prediction of the future."

And here's the "catch"--"when we intend a future action, our affective state is often particularly positive."

Pychyl's strategies for dealing with this human foible?

Strategy #1--Time travel

What he apparently has in mind here is getting more specific about the future.  For example, in thinking about retirement, he recommends we chart and spreadsheet our way to a more realistic picture of how current decisions will affect our future economic wherewithal.  

Although this practice might prove useful, Pychyl is concerned that us ditherers may engage in second-order procrastination--i.e., putting off the planning exercise intended to ward off procrastination.  Ah, there's a term for this troublesome behavior of mine.

Never fear, however.  There's a back-up strategy.

Strategy #2--Expect to be wrong and deal with it

As we have gotten used to doing with iffy weather forecasts and downright unreliable economic predictions, we can learn to discount our lousy predictions.  Pychyl outlines two approaches to doing this:

Approach #1-- Accept that "My current motivational state does not need to match my intention in order to act."

As Pychyl asserts, "This is a common misconception about goal pursuit; we believe that we have to actually feel like it.  We don't."

Approach #2--Similar to #1.  Kind of the difference between sucking it up today, and sucking it up tomorrow.  Realizing that when we do arrive at tomorrow, our mood is not going to be as good as we anticipated yesterday when we made the plan to act, we can plunge in anyway.  

"[T]he thing to do it to remember that this is a transient mood."  "And to know that this [being dismal at mood prediction, and having to pay the piper] is a common problem with being human."

The hope is that motivation will follow behavior.  Once we get going, we will feel more like continuing.

As Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, tells of her father's running program, which depended on the minimal commitment to "put on his running shoes and close the door behind him," behavior can produce attitude/motivation, as well as the other, perhaps more usual, way around.

The whole thing seems to me to amount to calling our own bluff.  For those of us who have fallen prey to our own fairy tales about "the day to come" more times than we care to admit, this sort of wising up should not be rocket science.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Done for the Week: Still Climbing, Ala Winnie (Churchill, not Pooh)

The quote I put up for this week is from Winston Churchill, who said:
Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.
This, from a man who was famously hounded by "the black dog" of depression--which, in my book, lends some weight to this "sunny side" aphorism. 

Last week, as ever in the midst of my never-ending ascent, I was occupied with the following:

Done for the Week:  Feb. 20-Feb. 26, 2012

  1. Biked once; swam once with my workout partner
  2. Began physical therapy for foot injury
  3. Got my husband to the gym with me
  4. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Place of Hiding aloud with my husband
  5. Read Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister & John Tierney
  6. Continued reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past
  7. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
  8. Continued participating in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo
  9. Published 7 blog posts
  10. Continued work on current clients' projects
  11. Met with communication team
  12. Attended two yoga classes
  13. Participated in phone call about my husband's retirement plans
  14. Did laundry 
  15. Babysat for my grandchildren, for their parents' first "night out" since new baby's arrival
  16. Continued college conversations with youngest son
  17. Meditated 2 times
  18. Straightened my work room
  19. Took my dog to the dog park
  20. Gave my husband minor assistance with taxes
  21. Scheduled my Leap Day anniversary celebration
  22. Scheduled potluck with friends
Last week's most important accomplishment was successfully completing 26 days of BlogHer's February NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), which required posting a blog entry each day.  I am still relearning how much joy I glean from maintaining my blog.  And how much time I can make for writing when I make up my mind to do it.  

The week ahead will bring the end of this NaBloPoMo challenge.  I see from the BlogHer community that a lot of bloggers "re-up" at the conclusion of a NaBloPoMo month.  I am trying to decide whether to take on another month, in order to "set" my new work energy and orientation, or to move to re-focusing these assets on other writing projects.   I'll keep you "posted." [I know.  Groan.]

My focus goal for last week was intended to play to one of my strengths--reading.  I planned to finish reading Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Baumeister & Tierney.  This goal represented a kind of backing up with respect to my recently failed attempts to meet a focus goal of meditating regularly.  The idea was to retreat to an achievable rung on this apparently too challenging ladder, to experience meeting the goal.  I was anticipating some take-away from the book that would make it easier to re-establish and keep up with a meditation practice.

The good news is, I did read the book.  Though I didn't find it as "sinfully delicious" as its hype portended, and some of what the authors unveiled I had seen before, I did learn a thing or two.  I am still digesting what I read, and culling through the findings and suggestions.  I know I will write about at least one of the book's lessons in the near future.

As to meditation?  My baby-step focus goal for this week is to strategize; to figure out how to apply what I know and am learning to the problem of wanting and needing to meditate, but not making time for it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What This Procrastinator is Really Doing

Too much talking this week.  I'm out of words.  So I'm falling back on the blogging device of going pop culture.

This "What I'm Really Doing" meme has been done to death.  It's even made it to the Buddhists.  Here's my procrastinator's angle:

Click to Enlarge

Credit to, which you should visit if you want to get in your shot at this expired equine.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Brain Basics: A User's Cheat Sheet

In the category of resurrected wisdom . . .

Some months ago, I bookmarked an article I came across that was originally published in August of 2009, more than a year before I started writing Put it to Bed.  I have a whole store of such resources, kind of a personal tidbit library.  I periodically visit this cluttered virtual chamber, in search of "writing juice," something that will trigger the process of thought and invention that gives me something to say.

This particular piece caught my eye at the time, and again this morning, because its title resonated with the self-help fatigue that intermittently overcomes those of us who tend to read our way through problems.  "Why do so many self-help books sound the same?" was written by neuroscientist Dr. David Rock for his Psychology Today blog Your Brain at Work:  Using Neuroscience to Improve Daily Life.

In it he says 
It's not that authors are plagiarists, it's that there are a small set of quirks about the brain that require a lot of attention, if you want to succeed in the modern world. The reason these quirks require attention is that they are not insights we might learn automatically, like how to breathe: they require learning, like a language. And these quirks are often hard to remember because in many cases they go against what seems logical.
He identifies the following as five of the bigger quirks:
So this is why I struggle with procrastination, and why I spend so much time reading about procrastination.  Because, although I am not encountering so much that's cutting edge, uncharted, or unique, still I need to hear what I already know, at some level, again.  And again.  And yet again.  In picking up one more "handbook," "guide" or "program," I am setting my intention; giving my tiny conscious processing capacity another shot at the material; becoming more familiar with the unknown and uncertain; and learning more about what will make me happy.  

Sometimes I wonder why we ever left the cave.  We are apparently so ill-equipped for the world we inhabit.  We inherit this life-long project of training our outgrown brains for the way we want to live.  And it's a lot of work . . .

Friday, February 24, 2012

Will to [Will]power

So, I'm reading Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney--as I said I would, at the beginning of this week,  having identified some continuing difficulties of my own with this elusive capacity.

I'm clipping along, encountering one fascinating aspect of self-regulation after another.  And picking up some hints along the way, aimed at enhancing my less-than-steel will.  I've been reading about David Blaine, holding his breath for 17+ minutes;  encased in ice for 63 hours Times Square; and generally engaging in professional displays of self-torture--in between personal bouts of desuetude and self-control lapses.  

I've been reading about research subjects experiencing all sorts of tests, deprivations and stimuli designed to measure and manipulate willpower, from radishes to boredom to sexual stimulation.

And I've been reading about Drew Carey hiring productivity guru David Allen to put him through his GTD [Getting Things Done] paces.  For some unmentionable amount.  And apparently to great effect.

I have certainly been entertained thus far, as the book's dust jacket promised.  And I have learned a lot about human will, and some elements that may strengthen it.  But it remains to be seen whether or not I have the willpower to implement what I'm learning.  Or even to digest the material and translate it into some discrete steps to launch my reprogramming.

I don't have Drew Carey's money.  Or David Blaine's nerve and monomania.  And I really don't like radishes.

On the other hand, I am drawn by the vision of my life with a bit more purposeful action.  So I'll keep reading.  I have at least that much self-control.  Er, willpower.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

1000 Awesome Things for Procrastinators: The First Ten

Like many web visitors, I make frequent pilgrimages to Neil Pasricha's 1000 Awesome Things for inspiration, amusement and cheer.  

For today's post, I am channeling my inner Neil.  If Neil were a procrastinator, or if my inner Neil were awesome, we might see 1000 Awesome Things for Procrastinators.   Here are ten things I can imagine on the list, contributed by the angel and the devil of procrastination, five each:

Good Awesome (from the angel of reform)

#1  Already being in your seat/on your mat/on the dias before your meeting/yoga class/speaker's introduction begins.  (Whew!)

#2 Turning in a project before its due date.

#3 Crossing off backlogged items on your to-do list.

#4 Starting on something well ahead of time.

#5 Facing a clean desk first thing in the morning.

Guilty Pleasure Awesome (sources of joy from the devil of delay)

#1 Finally winning at solitaire (which my old British novels call Patience).  Especially if you're playing the version that celebrates with applause audio and dancing cards!  (Unless you're in public, or at work, where you'll want to mute that potentially embarrassing telltale sound effect.)

#2 Facebook Games!  What a colossal  waste of time!  And you can connect up with your friends and help them waste time too!  And publicize your non productive behavior!

#3 Killing an hour (or two, or three) surfing the web.  Sooooo much good information, and the thrill of addiction.

#4 Letting something go for so long that it becomes moot.  Like finally accepting in May that you're not going to get around to sending holiday cards this (last) year.

#5 Forgetting to write down an appointment, so you can forget to keep it. 

I have not fleshed these out ala Mr. Pasricha, because I am late getting this post done tonight.  But the reader can picture each awesome item accompanied with a charming illustration, and some written long and featuring internal rhymes.  

While I'm at it, here's an Awesome Thing for this blogger--the creative piggyback.  Awesome!

And thank you, Neil Pasricha, the back to my pig.  (Your crown is safe.)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

For Procrastinators: A Cautionary Tale of Your Own Making

Remember Mad Libs?  If you have kids, or have been one more recently than I have, you have probably spent some time with these wacky little fill-in-the-blanks stories, and hopefully some of it in shared hysterics.  Because I need a break today, and a laugh above all else, I am presenting this Procrastinator's Mad Lib (which is kind of redundant, don't you think?).  My own fill-ins appear in list form, at the end.  Enjoy!  (Don't you just hate when they say that?)

Mad:)Glibs - free online Mad Libs

Still Procrastinating, After All These Years


My fill-ins, left to right


I'd love to see your tales.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Procrastinating 101: What We Have Here is a Failure to Self-Regulate

In this week's Procrastinating 101, we continue to learn from Dr. Timothy Pychyl, author of The Procrastinator's Digest:  A Concise Guide to Solving the Procrastination Puzzle.  His third chapter asks, and answers, the question "What's the Most Important Thing We Need to Know About Procrastination?"

And the answer is . . . 

Procrastination is an issue of self-regulation, or impulse control--which we have read about before.  Pychyl says our procrastinating is directed at "short-term mood repair," and that it is self-reinforcing.  We put off a dreaded or unpleasant task; we feel better; we learn that putting off tasks feels good; we are more likely to do it again.

So what does Pychyl see as the way out of this cycle?

Step 1Get smarter emotionally.  Pychyl defines emotional intelligence--a term widely used since its academic emergence in the mid-1980s, and having trickled into popular parlance by way of talk shows, magazine articles, blogs, even elementary school curricula--as "the ability to effectively identify and utilize emotions to guide behavior."

Apparently, "[r]ecent research has shown that lower emotional intelligence is related to more procrastination" but, thankfully, "[w]e can learn to more effectively perceive, understand and regulate our emotions."

Having recognized the emotional morass that leads to procrastination (and to other "poor choices," as grade school teachers are known to point out), the challenge is to get it together and stop acting out about our feelings.  As in

Step 2Learn to deal with the negative emotions associated with the tasks we tend to procrastinate.  Here's where the mantra for this chapter comes in:  "I won't give in to feel good.  Feeling good now, comes at a cost."

Using this statement to remind ourselves of what we know, we can stay put instead of fleeing the scene of an impending task, and "suck it up."  "If you turn away in an effort to make yourself feel better, it's over," warns Pychyl. 

Pychyl sums up his approach this way:
IF I feel negative emotions when I face the task at hand,
THEN I will stay put and not stop, put off a task or run away.
He references the work of Peter Gollwitzer on implementation intentions, which take this IF/THEN form.   The stay put admonishment made me think of the Butt in Chair writer's guide developed by Jennifer Blanchard, author of the excellent, now-defunct-but-still-archived blog Procrastinating Writers

Dr. Pychyl softens the "suck it up" bromide with this suggestion.  We can overcome our discomfort with the negative emotions engendered by unappealing tasks by accessing some of the other thoughts and feelings that are also part of our "inner landscape."  For example, instead of focusing on the fear triggered by a daunting project, we can center our thoughts on the anticipation of success and reward, or on our interest in the content, or on our capable self.  

Again, a pithy treatise.  And because it's short, I still have time to get to some of the things I've been avoiding. . .  

"I won't give in to feel good.  Feeling good now, comes at a cost."

"I won't give in to feel good.  Feeling good now, comes at a cost."

"I won't give in to feel good.  Feeling good now, comes at a cost."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Done for the Week: The Frailty of My Powers

Twenty-one years ago, my middle child was born in the early hours of Valentine's Day.  And into a complicated family structure that has meant multiple celebrations.

Add to that our culture's Valentine's Day hype and promotion, which lays on a host of rituals and expectations, from personally addressed cards for the classmates of each of our children to blissful romantic rendezvous with our mates.  Stir in a little perfectionism, a pinch of über-mothering, a spouse's long-distance commute, and an abundance of sugar (what with all the cakes, and the chocolate), and . . . voila!  My February crazies.

Of course, now that he's 21, and his brother is not far behind, we are not preparing 20+ Valentines each, or sending birthday treats to school.  My son bought donuts himself for his new workmates.  But it was a special birthday, requiring a bit more than the usual fuss, and entailing a rite of passage or two that invited parental "guidance." 

In between icing cakes and hosting parties, I tried to get a few things done.  Here's the list:

Done for the Week:  Feb. 13-Feb. 19, 2012

  1. Biked twice; swam once with my workout partner
  2. Finally chased down diagnosis of foot injury (not wonderful, but not fatal)
  3. Got my husband and one son to the gym with me
  4. Watched two basketball games with various family members
  5. Continued reading Elizabeth George's A Place of Hiding aloud with my husband
  6. Read Death of an Expert Witness by P.D. James
  7. Continued reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past
  8. Continued to work my two part-time jobs
  9. Continued participating in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo
  10. Published 7 blog posts
  11. Continued work on current clients' projects
  12. Met with my adbook successor
  13. Met with new communication team's members
  14. Attended one yoga class
  15. Did laundry 
  16. Celebrated son's twenty-first birthday, at 3 separate family gatherings/outings 
  17. Continued college conversations with youngest son
  18. Meditated 2 times
  19. Straightened my work room
  20. Attended board meeting
  21. Took my dog to the dog park
  22. Gave my husband minor assistance with taxes
  23. Celebrated Valentine's Day with my husband, in the background of Valentine's Day birthday observance
As in the previous two weeks, my most important accomplishment last week was continuing to participate in BlogHer's NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), which required posting a blog entry each day.  In the relative ease with which I am managing to stay with this undertaking, I am rediscovering how much I love blogging, and how much time I can make for writing when I commit to it.  When I am truly into it, it is the kind of work that doesn't feel like work.  I am learning something here.

Last week's focus goal was to try to meditate most days first thing in the morning.  Number of mornings on which I meditated?  One.  And that's using the word "meditate" loosely, to include some nearly pre-conscious, and all too brief focus on breathing.  My grade in this area?  F-

I don't think it's that I don't want to meditate.  In fact, at times I long for it.  Just never when I could actually be doing it.  

I've decided to move the book Willpower, by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, to the top of my book pile, since 

1.  Daniel Gilbert--of Harvard, the PBS series This Emotional Life, and the book Stumbling on Happiness says it is
sinfully delicious . . . .[and a] fascinating account of the exciting new science of self-control, told by the scientist who made it happen and the journalist who made it news.

2.  Regular meditation is supposed to grow my willpower/self-control/discipline, and I can't make myself do this first thing.

Reading Willpower is my focus goal for this week.  Since reading is one of the things I do instead of meditating, this one should be a slam dunk.  And after weeks of dismal focus results, I am in desperate need of a win.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stuff I'm Probably Not Going to Do in This Lifetime

I'm planning an easy day today.  So here's an easy post.

I've been thinking of my internal stress factory lately as an overtaxed computer, with too many applications and processes running in the background.  Time to "Force Quit" some of these energy-suckers.  And to "Trash" some altogether. 

By way of mental decluttering, here's some things I'm ready to let go of, from the ridiculous to the sublime.  There are certainly more dreams and schemes to divest, but this is a start.  I'm putting the following to bed:

Stuff I'm Probably Not Going to Do in This Lifetime

Have more kids
Win a Nobel Peace Prize
Win a MacArthur genius grant
Win a Pulitzer Prize
Enter the Peace Corps
Do an Iron Man
Become a concert pianist
Backpack through Europe, or India, or anywhere
Run for office
Go bungee jumping
Get taller
Get a law degree
Become a midwife
Learn to speak French
Pilot a plane
Climb Mt. Everest
Strike it rich
Bowl a 300 game (or, for that matter, break 200)
Become a singer/songwriter
Star in a film
. . .

Although it seems silly, perhaps, I have to admit that I've carried some residue of these aspirations well into my adult life, in fact past midlife.  Really.  And these are just the tip of the iceberg.  I'll need to dig deeper to return my everyday working hard drive to a cool running, streamlined, efficient state.  Purging could become my new addiction. . .

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Time and its "Relatives"

All time is not created equal.  There are minutes and hours that draaaggggggggg by, and others that seem to be gone before they're here.  As Albert Einstein said
Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity.
So now that I've mastered the theory of relativity (and who knew it would be so simple?), here are a few time distortions I've experienced personally.  Each experience or description is associated with the rate at which time seems to pass when engaged in the associated activity.

Reading, as in Proust's amazing description--FAST
And as each hour struck, it would seem to me that a few moments only had passed since the hour before; the latest would inscribe itself close to its predecessor on the sky's surface, and I was unable to believe that sixty minutes could have been squeezed into the tiny arc of blue which was comprised between their two golden figures.  Sometimes it would even happen that this precocious hour would sound two strokes more than the last; there must then have been an hour which I had not heard strike; something that had taken place had not taken place for me; the fascination of my book, a magic as potent as the deepest slumber, had deceived my enchanted ears and had obliterated the sound of that golden bell from the azure surface of the enveloping silence.   [Remembrance of Things Past]
Reading Proust--FAST (Because it takes a LONG time)
Sitting in meditation--SLOW
Lying in an MRI machine--Way SLOWER
Sitting at a traffic light when you're late--FASTER (paradoxically)
Waiting for a table when you're starving--SLOW
Waiting for your food to arrive when you're starving--EVEN SLOWER
The end of a difficult pregnancy--SLOWER
Late for work--FAST
Ready to leave work--SLOW
Stuck in a boring meeting--SLOOOOWWWWW
After pressing the snooze button on my alarm--FAST
Working out on a stationary bike, for a set time--SLOW
Trying to finish a blog post when I need to be leaving for somewhere else--VERY FAST

What are some of your examples?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Tangled Up in Yes

A few weeks ago, my husband and I attended "the other Unitarian church" in town in order to hear a sermon entitled "Learning to Say No."  The minister is a woman we've heard before, whose sermons are generally worth listening to.  I've been cherry picking sermon topics of late, weighing inspiration against desperately needed "free" time.  That particular Sunday, I was hoping that my husband, whose usual case of overcommitment has once again reached the critical stage, would be led to surgically crop his to-do list to a more human scale.

As it happened, "yes" was at least as much a part of her talk as "no." 

At its heart was the notion that saying no acts to protect and prioritize what she termed our "deep yes"--that thing we value most, the work we are meant to do.*

Trouble is, as we discovered over our post-church lunch, both my husband and I suffer from an overdose of "deep yeses."

My own list includes my children, my grandchildren, my novel, my blog, my social justice work, recalling our governor, my business, triathlon, meditation, oh, and I almost forgot, my husband. My husband operates in a larger arena, as a university professor, researcher, community agitator, expert legal witness, writer and speaker. Oh, and a husband and father.

Neither of us is blessed with the understanding that there are only so many hours in a day, days in a week, or lives in a lifetime. And so we run faster on our little hamster wheels, and stress more, and too frequently land in the red zone, exhausted and overwhelmed.

We are pretty good and getting better, each in our own way, at saying no to things we don't really want to do. Not so good, however, at weeding our overgrown gardens of missions and projects. And so, instead of purposeful winnowing, we end up with decision by default, a natural wasting taking down some of what we care about because we lack the time, energy, and miracle power to tend to it all.

I'm at work on a method for cutting away a bit more of this forest of passions. Stay tuned.

Turns out, I discovered after posting this, that the minister in question was relying on Stephen Covey for this terminology, as I now remember she mentioned. He famously said that "It's easy to say 'no!' when there's a deeper 'yes' burning inside.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Digging Out From a Backlog of Hope

What is it with magazines?

I've had a pretty bad magazine jones for as long as I can remember.  My mother brought "women's magazines" into the house when I was a kid, those glossy, colorful, enticing compendiums of promise and escape.  Along with an addiction to soap operas, I inherited my fascination with this slickly packaged world of story, advice and products.  And even after years of battling this affliction, I still experience a twitch or two in the presence of a rack of these alluring items.

While still living at home,  I went on to have my own subscriptions/prescriptions to Seventeen and American Girl so I could read "Great Advice About School," and learn whether or not I was "Sabotaging [My] Skin."  And, of course, "What Guys Really [Thought] About [Me]."

As a grown up, I subscribed to  
  • Redbook--containing more of same, plus mother stuff and house stuff and some pretty good fiction (until I got mad when I read that Redbook no longer considered me "young" after I passed 35);  
  •  Ms., until I faltered from feminist fatigue;  
  • Woman's Day, still pretty to look at and down-to-earth practical (though even the day is gendered, apparently);  
  • Writer's Digest (if I couldn't get down to writing, at least I could read about it);  
  • Poets and Writers (ditto);  
  • Prevention, for the hypochondriacal naturalist in me;
  • the Utne Reader, because it was smart and all-encompassing, and so was I, by extension; 
  • UU World, because the subscription came with my membership in the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and it had cool articles;  
  • Real Simple, for the eye candy value as much as anything; and  
  • Vegetarian Times--again, more read about than cooked. 

(I did not, of course, receive all of these subscriptions at once.) 

In addition to my regular fixes, I relied on the following other sources:
  • Impossible-to-resist individual issues that called to me, siren-like, in my captive state in the grocery store check-out
  • Used mags from the free library exchange 
  • Mags nicked from doctors' offices, the gym, car repair shops, etc. (my only form of petty theft)
  • Used and past-date mags from Half Price Bookstore
  • Special treat purchases from bookstores and airport shops
  • Mags checked out from the library's vast stores
  • Mags tossed on the curb by more selective neighbors (I scored several months of nearly pristine Martha Stewart Living this way some years back)
  • Mags left in my house by the previous owner, who knew enough not to pack and move them
  • And recently, a brand-new left-behind copy of the latest Real Simple, found during deplaning from a nonstop flight to New Orleans. 
    After years of clinging to my treasured caches of old issues, I have lately begun to divest myself of this weight of print and images. 

    Confession:  I can no longer get through most magazines.  It seems I don't have the patience or the time.  Something is getting lost between the beguiling covers and the articles within.  They no longer deliver on the hope they extend to the enchanted buyer.  Month after month, and year after year, they are still selling organization, perfect skin and hair, inexpensive chic, marital bliss, weight loss, stress reduction, effective parenting, sumptuous and healthful meals, artistic and economic fulfillment, and community contribution. 

    Maybe I've lost the ability to suspend disbelief? 

    I've pretty much stopped being suckered in the check-out line, though my children still laugh at my familiarity with the latest celebrity gossip following my all-too-frequent trips for foodstuffs.

    But I've got a lot more chucking to do before I'm "clean."