The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Digging Up the Past

The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be. — Marcel Pagnol

This week, the Self-Improvers decided to evaluate our pasts. But since we didn’t want to discover that our lives to this point had been a disaster (especially a few weeks before Christmas), we decided to go with something small: a book, a song, or a movie.

Here are the reports:

Colette: I turned the time machine waaay back to middle school and reread the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.  I admit, when I read it in middle school, it blew my little brain out ‘o the box.  It just seemed, so…well, deep.  Reading about that bird (who, whoa…served as an extended metaphor for people) changed me.  Jonathan was self actualized and flew to his own drummer, and he was the freeing permission I needed to care a little less about what other people thought of me.  I loved that book, and even learned to play the music from the soundtrack.

Flash forward to this past weekend.  I read it again, which took about 12.5 seconds.  It certainly didn’t have the same effect on me.   I knew the theme wouldn’t blow my mind; it’s a book, after all, intended for a younger demographic,  but I was hoping to find it still beautifully written.  No luck.  I found it rather annoying.  Repetitive.  Didactic.  Pale.  I’m sorry, frankly, I’ve sullied its memory.  I  no longer have a turntable, so I couldn’t revisit the soundtrack, but I bet it’s still fabulous, don’t you think?  Let’s just say it is.

Emily: As a rule, I don’t typically rewatch/reread many books or movies. There’s too much new stuff out there to waste time revisiting. In fact, the only books I’ve read more than once were either assigned to me more than once or The Great Gatsby (though it was also assigned to me multiple times). As far as movies go, most of the movies I’ve seen more than once fall into the narrow category of cheesy Christmas flicks, and since most Christmas movies are unbearably bad, this category really just consists of four movies: Christmas Vacation and Elf (because I like them), A Christmas Story (because when you play a movie back-to-back-to-back-to-back-you-get-the-point, you’re bound to see it multiple times) and It’s a Wonderful Life (because I want to like it, but probably really only like the last 45 minutes).

So to get into the holiday spirit I checked out a different Christmasy movie, Love Actually, out of the library. I saw this movie in theater back in 2003 and remember enjoying it, so I figured it’d hold up.

A couple of things occurred to me while watching this film — movies are always better in the theater and I *truly* can’t name a good movie with an ensemble cast.  Anyhow, the movie didn’t hold up, in fact I considered taking it out about twenty minutes in.

Pam: I enjoyed this project. This week I revisited Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Jeanie C. Riley. I tell you what, this has just been heartwarming. I’ve been singing “You Ain’t Woman Enough to Take My Man”, “Your Good Girl’s a Gonna Go Bad”, “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind”, and “Harper Valley PTA” all week. Let me just say, I wish I had pretty legs so I could slap on a mini-skirt and sock it to ’em over in the valley off White’s Creek Pike where I am now sitting in with the boys and singing regularly on Thursday nights (6-8) at the Fontanel Cafe. What a stroll down memory lane. Next week…I return to the Nordic Trak to prepare for the Swiss Alps…(I made up that last part)…

Jolly Librarian: I approached this assignment with some trepidation. Every time I go back to something I loved in the past, I am disappointed. When I was in 7th grade, the series Batman and Robin came on in the afternoon. I was so excited about this, remembering loving it as a ‘child.’ I prepared a snack and sat down to watch. But my junior high sophisticated self just couldn’t believe that I had once loved these characters. (And, in the case of Robin, literally. I wanted to marry him.)

Last year, when I was feeling stressed, someone suggested I watch some Andy Griffith because everyone loves Mayberry. Luckily, Andy appears twice a night on my stations. So I settled in to watch small town happiness. Instead, Aunt Bea’s feelings were always getting hurt, and I felt so sorry for her that I just felt more stressed and decided to avoid Mayberry.

So I decided to take the middle road on this assignment. I re-visited Billy Joel. Now I was once a fan, but in the past few years, if I thought of him at all, it was when his ever-increasing car wrecks and marriages to younger women came on the news. So I was not going to be devastated if his music had lost some of its appeal.  I made a Billy Joel station on Pandora and listened away.

I didn’t go out and buy the entire Billy Joel catalog, and some of it does sound a little cheesy.  But I found myself belting out “My Life” and “Only the Good Die Young” as I got ready the other morning and feeling quite happy for the next hour or two. So those two were added to my iPod.

Our grades:

Collete: A

Emily: A

Pam: A

Jolly Librarian: A


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