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What I learned from Oprah or how I became content with a minivan

Back when Oprah first changed the format of her afternoon talk show, she ran a series of shows on self-improvement and positive thinking.

Basically the shows touted messages like "if you think it, you can do it" and "if you build it (self-esteem) they will come (relationships, jobs, money)." At the time, all of my children were in preschool or younger and I could manipulate afternoon naptime to coincide with the Oprah Show.

Every weekday afternoon I sat glued to the television hoping to glean even a modicum of information that would enable me to transform myself into a glamorous, self-confident, successful woman by dinner time.

I've been using the positive thinking technique for years now ... and it shows. One evening at a party, a woman approached me and in our brief conversation said "I bet your glass is always half full." From the way she said it, though, I wasn't sure what she was implying. "Half full of what?" I wanted to ask, "Liquor?" In reality, however, she is right. My glass is always half full . . . of my lost marbles, the tiny Leggos I pick up to avoid vacuuming them, and the dust in my house that I can't seem to get rid of.

That aside, all the self-help gurus appearing on the Oprah Show during that time gave advice like "be your true self," "believe that the perfect relationship can be yours," "speak only in positive terms in regard to your life," and "behave like what you want to achieve." Do all these things and true wealth and happiness will follow, they asserted. I knew they must be right so I went back to my natural hair color (mousy brown), got pregnant (again), told everyone (through gritted teeth) how angelic my children are, and spent money like I had a personal benefactor.

All to no avail. I became a woman with mousy brown hair and maxed out credit cards who had unrealistic expectations of her children and was in a perfect nursing relationship with an infant. It's not exactly how I wanted to come to dinner. Is this what they meant?

Maybe I misunderstood what Oprah's guests were trying to tell me. To this very day, no matter how much I visualize myself (like a feminine Walter Mitty) leading a fast-paced life with a high paying, high prestige career in which I receive the accolades of subordinates and colleagues alike, I always snap out of it to find the only jet-setting I'm doing is down Lee Street in my minivan because I'm late to pick up my kids from school. And there is absolutely no way to be cool in a minivan.

Please don't get the wrong impression. My life isn't so bad and I've certainly come a long way since those Oprah shows. In fact, 2003 was my best year so far. I've reverted back to my original faux hair color and I'm currently taking applications for personal benefactors.

Surely, having five "jobs" (not counting those of wife and mother) equals out to the fast paced career I imagined for myself in a former life. And as for my children, they are angels. They simply have not yet earned their halos.

So it goes without saying, the most valuable lesson I learned from Oprah is this: Be happy where you are and that, in itself, will take you where you ought to be.

Web posted on Thursday, January 22, 2004

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