h. My. God. I generally try to avoid mirrors as they say, no
news is good news but I just broke down and took a peek.
What a shock. I must have gained three or four pounds over the
holidays. Maybe five. I'm obese. I look like a manatee on an all
mayonnaise diet. And then, get this, when I realized that the
pudding pop staring at me from out of the glass was Me, I started
to cry. I don't emote! What is happening to me?
It's true. The shocking physical transformation is only the half
of it. My life isn't exactly going as planned. At this point I
was supposed to be stuffed in a shirt harassing a sycophantic
secretary, or delighting hoards of reverent fans with my savoir-faire
and down-to-earth manner. Not some flaccid fish in a Portland
And I think it's starting to get to me. Lately I've been listless
and moody. Last week I sat through an entire episode of Suddenly
Susan. I (!) wasn't appalled enough by Banal Brooke to bother
changing the channel (!). I'm not myself. Even my mind
as you know, normally a steel trap has begun to falter.
Last month, I lost my car keys, my wallet, and, I'm beginning
to think, my sanity. Where's the calm, cool, slim, trim, up-and-comer
I used to know? I've got to get it together. It's not too late.
January isn't over yet. There's still time to make some resolutions.
And it's pretty clear where I need to start.
NO. 1: BEEF UP
Just as soon as I've finished the four pounds of fudge granny
sent for Christmas (it would be ungrateful not to enjoy it; it
was a gift!), I'm going on a diet. And I won't stop until
I need a belt for my jockeys and people start calling me Carlisle
Flockhart. But which one? Suzanne Somers "got
skinny on fat." That sounds good, but...well...I've seen
Three's Company. That diet where you eat all the steak
and cheese you want sounds like heaven...until you find out that
you can't have even a single scoop of mashed potatoes or slice
of Wonder Bread on the side. A friend of mine has a sister who
lost her hippo-hips eating only peanut butter. But what am I,
Maybe I'm approaching my problem from the wrong direction. Perhaps,
instead of putting a straightjacket on my intake, I should simply
increase my output. I've never been much for physical exertion,
but I understand "working out" is all the rage. If I
just start to exercise, then I'll be free to eat whatever I want.
I'll hire a personal trainer from Brazil named Raoul, or maybe
a Hans from Munich. He'll take me under his firm, authoritarian
wing and pummel me into shape. It will be like boot camp, without
the bad hair. A four-mile run at dawn before a scientifically
calibrated regimen of calisthenics, weight lifting, and rope climbing
(or something). Then a breakfast of oatmeal, skim milk, prunes,
and a vast array of suppository-sized supplements. Or, maybe I'll
subsist on nothing but powershakes. Then off to work, where my
coworkers will be spellbound as they watch my transformation from
flabby wimp to buff-daddy bookseller in only a few short weeks.
Now, I know what you're thinking. "It's a chimera, Carlisle.
A mirage. Physical beauty doesn't ensure happiness." Duh!
I wasn't born yesterday. I know what happened to Marilyn in the
end. I know all about poor Tom Cruise's love problems (and all
he has to go through to keep them out of the papers). No. Attaining
physical perfection will be just the first step toward creating
the perfect life, the life I was meant to live. My new body won't
mean squat if it's achieved at the expense of my mind. So...
NO. 2: IMPROVE MY MIND
Now there's no sense denying it. I'm doing pretty well in this
area already. But there's always room for improvement. Doesn't
Tiger Woods keep working on his golf game? George Bush still worries
about his ratings. And Jerry Springer continues to find ways to
sink even lower. Just so, I can do even more to increase my knowledge
and develop my powers of rational thought.
Yes, I'm well read, but there are still large gaps in my education.
I've never read the unexpurgated Norse sagas. I've only read the
Russians in translation. The last issue of The New Yorker
is sitting on the coffee table half read. And I still haven't
even cracked the cover of that biography
of Jacqueline Susann. I guess I've just been plain lazy. Well
that's going to stop. From now on, I'm going to seize every opportunity
that presents itself to enrich my mind. After today, I won't be
watching Regis during breakfast. I'll be reading Kierkegaard.
On the bus to work, I used to catnap. Now I'll be poring over
the latest history of the Crimean War. And here on out, lunch
will be a brown bag in the park with Anna
Karenina or David
Copperfield. I'll follow my passion for knowledge wherever
it takes me: Rome, Chichén Itzá, Peyton Place...I'll
explore the history of ideas, the latest theories of physics and
mathematics, the origins of life, and the semiotics of the Teletubbies.
Now wait a minute. I shouldn't get too carried away. I can't
spend all my time pumping iron and reading. After all, it's just
about tax time, and before I start spending my evenings with Mrs.
Karenina, I've still got to fix that leaky faucet. Therefore...
NO. 3: FIX EVERYTHING
This year, I'm not going to let the house deteriorate any further.
After I've fixed the faucet, I'll take care of that fence, and
the furnace, and those storm windows, and that broken bedstead.
If my bicycle were in working order, I'm sure I'd start to ride
it to work as I'd always planned. And it's time to admit that
the paint I chose for the bedroom was a terrible mistake. Sailor's
Sunrise sounded so peaceful. But let's be honest. It's pink. I
feel like I'm sleeping in a bottle of Pepto Bismol. It's time
Unfortunately, all this costs money. And I can't even afford
a shot of hazelnut syrup in my morning double tall skinny latté.
I need to take charge of my finances. It's painful to contemplate,
but I need a budget. I'll allow myself a few small pleasures
a CD here, a new appliance there but otherwise Mussolini
will control the purse strings. With discipline my financial shortfall
will become a windfall. I'll bet within six months I can pay for
all my home improvements and have enough saved to start investing
in Microsoft, or GE, or one of those Texas energy conglomerates.
Oh, it's going to be great. This is the year I'm going to become
Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Stephen
Hawking, Tim Allen, and Suze
Orman all rolled into one. Admittedly, it's a tall order.
I'll be juggling more than a few balls. Jeez. Can I really handle
all this? Of course I can. I think. Maybe I should get a little
help keeping it all together. I know just what I need: a new organizer.
NO. 4: GET ORGANIZED
I'm going to go out tomorrow well, I'm no zealot. I suppose
next week will do and buy the biggest organizer on the
market. No sense skimping. My new organizer will be worth its
weight in gold. And it will weigh a lot. I'll choose one called
The Effective Executive (or something), one so substantial, it
will come with a shoulder strap.
The Effective Executive will be a complete life's planner. It
will not only keep track of my appointments, tasks, and contacts
in neat little rows, it will determine my goals, budget my time,
and marshal my unruly mind. For every moment of every day, I'll
know just what to do, for how long, and why. No more downing brewskies
when I could be typing up (and spell-checking) my notes on the
uses of beer in Ancient Egypt. And I'll never miss another birthday
or anniversary. The Effective Executive won't let me.
But it's the little details that will really set the Ef. Ex.
apart. It will have zippered pockets for pens and pencils, a slot
specially designed for business cards and one for floppy disks,
a built-in calculator, and a one-by-three inch slot for my cell
phone (as soon as Mr. Mussolini allows me to buy one). My new
planner will also feature soothing reproductions of Nature and
Art and Celebrity. It will have inspirational quotes by Gandhi
Angelou in the margins. And each day will feature a visualization
Gawain or a helping of chicken soup from Jack
Canfield. And whenever you check a task completed, the Ef.
Ex. will play one of the many tune's stored in its tiny memory
chip: Beethoven's Ninth, that song from Man of La Mancha, Vogue
by Madonna, etc.
I can practically hear the Effective Executive now, playing it's
little tune in celebration of my success:
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.
(blah blah blah)
And the world will be better for this
That one man scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star.
Except my star won't be unreachable. I'm going
to be all that I can be (without the bad haircut). It's going
to be great. I don't think I'll be crying again any time soon.
I'll be too busy doing it my way. I feel energized. Ready. And,
as the saying goes, there's no time like the present. Where shall
I start? I know. Where's that fudge.