Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Monday: Living Oprah? Live Your Real Life

I think I read too many books last year.

Let me take that back. I didn’t read too many. Too many read me. I let them tell me my truth and how to accomplish it. I turned off my inner voice, my truth, as I read their words, so that they could tell me how to run my life. If a book told me that meditation could change my world view, I believed the author and felt badly about myself that I can’t seem to get beyond two seconds without thinking about the kids’ homework, or that the car has only enough gas to get to me their school, not back. If someone maintained that yoga was the answer to absolutely everything that was wrong in the world, I didn’t question that. I got out the whip and told myself that no wonder I struggled so much. I haven’t mastered my lotus pose.


Now, when I see a book title or blog post that could derail me, like “Six drug-free steps to cure absolutely all illness … you pick!,” I don’t read it. Or if I do, I repeat to myself this mantra: “This is my truth. This is my truth.” And I hang on to what I have identified as my truth: a recovery program that is as unique and individual as each person on the planet Earth, one that combines traditional and alternative strategies, one that I discovered only after years of extraordinary effort and creativity, but works for me.

That is my New Year’s resolution: to own my truth, and to protect it as best I can from all propaganda out there today challenging it.

In essence, it’s about living my Real Life. Not the Best Life that so many motivational writers and speakers try to sell me. My Real Life.


Living Oprah.jpg
I came away with this New Year’s resolution after reading Robyn Okrant’s entertaining and inspiring book, “Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk.” Robyn and I attended a three-day media boot camp in November sponsored by our publisher because our hardbacks are released at the same time. We bonded immediately, because our books are really about the same process … coming to accept ourselves and love ourselves for who we are, and about owning our truths, even though they might not make for the sexiest headlines: “After trying 23 medication combinations, 7 psychiatrists, 2 hospitalization programs, acupuncture, yoga, and every other kind of alternative medicine, and praying like a blessed mystic for close to three years, you, too, can wake up without wanting to die!”


Robyn’s experiment was even more dangerous than living inside a psych ward. She watched every episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” read every “O” magazine cover to cover, and referred regularly to for an entire year to see if her life would improve if she did everything the talk show queen told her to do.

Did it?

I won’t spoil the surprise. You’ll have to pick up a copy of her book for yourself to find out the details. Robyn’s response is so nuanced and sophisticated that I can’t do her book justice by telling you what gets a plus and what gets a minus. But let me quote one of my favorite passages:

I know that I will never truly believe I am beautiful if I allow someone else’s definition of beauty to impact my self-esteem. I know I will never have a truthful, honest relationship with Jim if I judge my own marriage against others’ unions. The same goes for my friendships and my connection with my family. It is futile and exhausting for me to shape my life to meet anyone else’s standards. And I know there is a hazardous divide between being inspired by others and being dependent on their guidance and approval….I think we can all give up hunting for the elusive path that will lead to Best Lives. I think the very idea of attaining our Best Lives is a fairy tale that keeps us from being satisfied with our Real Lives.


Amen, Robyn! Amen!

So, in 2010, I am going to try to live my Real Life, and to better own and protect my truth that no one but me can dictate.


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  • Cole Bitting

    It’s the new year, filled with aspirations and wishful thinking. How dare you talk about getting ‘real’! There’s no such thing as real, just what you imagine. I imagine sunshine, ponies and water nymphs: that will be my world!
    Thanks for the blog post and head’s up on a very interesting book :)
    It’s hard to know who you are if you too busy trying to become a better you. It’s all hard to set aside aspirations and see yourself with the distortion of wishful thinking. But as you point out, it’s so much better than the alternative.

  • Your Name

    “After trying 23 medication combinations, 7 psychiatrists, 2 hospitalization programs, acupuncture, yoga, and every other kind of alternative medicine, and praying like a blessed mystic for close to three years, you, too, can wake up without wanting to die!”
    So, okay the question is… that I’m not suicidal….what/who AM I? I’m not oprah, I’m not Theresa, though we have much in common…and I am tired of reading those self-help books. My pdoc says, “stop trying to be so reflective when you’re depressed.” so I guess I will give it another month and then come back to this one.

  • Tina

    I absolutely love this post! I feel a tad contradictory in saying that I’m going to follow you and commit to living “My real life” and to stay true to “my truth”, but that’s exactly what I’m going to strive to do.
    I found your site through the recommendation of another blogger and am looking forward to reading more of your posts.
    Thanks for sharing! Here’s to a new year, new adventures, new memories and renewed hope!

  • Holy

    Absolutely true but dear we cant deny the fact of the life that life is too bitter and to survive we need to accept everything that it comes up with. For living a happy and worry less you just need to do is take all the worried out of your mind, brain wash your mind, not to think of anything, not even for for any of your family members, not even your kids.Just be selfish and care for your self. Just do whatever you want.done bother about anybody.
    dsi r4

  • Gen

    Great post, Therese! Thanks so much for sharing it. I, too, was read by too many books last year and I ended up feeling more confused and stuck than ever. I’m now taking a well deserved break from books of the self-help variety.
    I couldn’t agree more that each of us has our own unique journey to take through our lives and that what works for one person’s depression and anxiety won’t necessarily work for mine. It’s only taken me about 10 years to figure this out! I’m really starting to trust my own experience and judgement now and I think I’ll be happier for it. Best of luck to everyone for 2010.

  • lt

    What a great reminder and wake up.
    I’ve spent my ENTIRE life searching and striving and trying to connect the disconnect I thought was a character flaw? weakness? missing link? and actually believed that when I found it, I would be magically whole and “happy”.
    after 2 psychotic breaks in the past year, I can finally accept that “its a disease”.
    At first I felt so lost, hopeless , angry, and “how dare I not be in control”… What was?, is? the meaning of my search then? Who am I?
    Thankfully, this new year, I can give up the game, and start befriending my REAL Life.

  • Katarina

    Wow, I agree 1000% I was trying so hard the last two years I felt like a loser cause I couldn’t seem to get things done the way I thought others wanted me to. I am finally satisfied with myself and how no matter what anyone else says, like a real cat, I land on my feet. Keep up the good work.

  • boy wonder

    Thank you~ Both this article and a previous one regarding optimism and the essential practice of being genuine have been very helpful!!! In a world full of people who are so concerned with what others think (which is after a certain point, truly an un-healthy neurosis in my opinion); It is such deep soul nourishment to hear the message, JUST BE YOU!
    It seems, in human progress, a conscience has arisen of contentment. I think yoga can help us see or feel that, as well as any sort of meditation. Ultimately though, it is about our own journey, and in no way shape or form about how that stacks up against anyone else’s. There is deep wisdom and liberation in this simple knowledge. I really appreciate having these ideas re-iterated. It is valuable beyond words. May everyone in this New Year go further in being more self content, less competitive, and less judgmental of those they deem “not as good as us.” Perhaps in this genuine approach to being, more progress will be made, more lives saved, and happier, more fulfilling, truly free lives lived. Cheers~

  • Lora

    Right on Sister! Why can’t we just be okay with our own real selves? I know I too have been read by everything trying to find that one little piece of magic that will make me and my life and self okay. Guess what? ….. it is not out there anywhere! Am I okay with my real self – not at all, but I am working on it. Thanks Therese

  • Giraldine

    I believe that one of the reasons many of us can’t just “be ourselves” is that we truly don’t know who we are! I grew up in a very dysfunctional home where alcoholism and abuse were prevalent. By the time I was an adult, I was trying to just be me — but I couldn’t, because I had not yet developed “the real me;” I had developed a scared little girl who was trying to defend and protect herself from the outside world. It wasn’t until my father passed away two years ago that I received therapy and read a book that literally transformed my life. I am still evolving into my being. And you know what?…I just love being “me!” The book is titled, “Trapped in the Mirror.” I can’t recall the author’s name at this time, but this book has literally changed my life! Maybe it will change yours.

  • Marko

    Also, our personal truths change as we grow, expand our awareness. It’s helpful if they are firmly fixed without being rigid.
    If we rigidly hold to our personal truths, they can’t grow, expand.
    That’s the trouble with much of the worlds rigid viewpoints. You can have firmness, confidence, but strict rigidity actually stunts growth for the most part, continues to, until we at least start to relax our self righteous rigidity and move toward fluidity, expansiveness.
    What we seek is more clarity and that changes too as we continue to grow and evolve. That is our personal truth.

  • Your Name

    Thanks for this post,you have gained my approval 100%.Like that person described in your article,i love to live my life the way i intend it to be,but it is governed by right convictions and guided by love in every endeavor i will take,so,i salute all people who are living and owning their lives,happy and no regrets.
    Thanks again.

  • tammie boisseau

    Thank you for someone finally saying this. I am so tried of trying to be what everyone wants me to be. My kids want me to be “leave it to beaver’s mom”, never saying anything wrong just doing for them, everyday after I get off work, my older kids call and ask me to do this or that for them. Babysit or whatever, my youger son who is 11yrs old thinks I am here to wait on him hand and foot. My ex-husband puts me down all the time for working and trying to go back to college, because I might be doing something for myself, tells my kids I am a bad mother for doing this. When I voice my thoughts they think I am going through the change of life and I am not. My New Years resolution is to live my life now and to be myself.Even though I love my kids with all my heart, I am putting myself first.
    Thanks again.

  • Shelley Howe, M.S., R.D.

    I applaud those who live their authentic selves. I understand much of this article and the references to the information in Robyn’s book. I do however learn much from the information I glean from reading. I read your articles regularly. I actually bring many of your words into my work as a Nutritionist. Thank you for that. I also use a lot of what I read, watch and learn from Oprah and others. I find a lot of it has much value. I am living my true self to the best of my ability for the moment… while growing all the while. That does not make the present not my true self. It just makes my future filled with opportunities. I find new information to add to my repertoire and consider it an enhancement to my growth not an impediment. I enjoy the journey of continuting to explore my best self while enjoying my current self. I am guessing that Oprah and her guests might be looking at it that way as well.
    Shelley Howe, M.S., R.D.
    author- Success was my only Option

  • Jill

    I too agree to live my real life.
    No one else should tell me how to live it!
    Thanks for this Therese. :)
    I feel that the following song
    is appropriate to post:
    Mercyful Fate-Fear
    “In the mirror…I have seen HIM
    And he scares me
    The creature…behind the mask I wear
    I know his name is FEAR
    In the mirror…He’s looking back at me
    I have to face him every day
    And I know him not so well, his name is FEAR
    So deep within, yet so far away
    I…wonder, will he always stay
    Stay so deep within, deep within my soul
    And I know him not so well, his name is FEAR
    The man…in the mirror, he scares me
    For I know him not so well
    The creature…behind the mask I wear
    I know his name is FEAR
    In the mirror…it’s not my eyes I see
    But they are always there
    I cannot let it show. NO ONE must ever know
    The horror that lies so deep within
    Tucked away beneath my skin
    And it scares me, yes it scares me
    So deep within, yet so far away
    I…wonder, will he always stay
    Stay so deep within, deep within my soul
    And I know him not so well, his name is FEAR
    No man…nor any book, will ever teach me
    What I need to know
    No man…nor any book, will ever teach me
    What I’m longing for
    Only the creature…living inside of me
    Could show me the meaning of life
    I cannot let it show. NO ONE must ever know
    The horror that lies so deep within
    Tucked away beneath my skin
    And it scares me, yes it scares me”

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