There is some sage advice that’s survived through the ages like saving for a rainy day and the observation that time has the capacity to heal. These idioms have become part of our everyday vernacular, yet there is other old advice that’s hidden away in dusty self-help books that only an enthusiast would discover.
I came across such a gem recently when reading the seventy year old self help book “Live Alone and Like It: A Guide for the Extra Woman” by Marjorie Hillis.
In “Live Alone and Like it,” Hillis urges single women to have two passions. “There must be at least a million to choose from,” wrote Hillis. “You should have at least one that keeps you busy at home and another that takes you out. Just dabbling in them isn’t enough, either. They will not be really efficacious until you’re the kind of enthusiast who will stay home to follow the first type in spite of a grand invitation, or go out and follow the second in spite of wind, sleet, or rain.”
I found this to be a great recommendation and one I’ve never heard before. As I often find with old and new self help books, even readers who aren’t necessarily the target audience can benefit. Good advice is timeless and universal.
The main purpose of Hillis’ book was to help single women feel a sense of personal fulfillment. What we learned from Geneen Roth’s “Appetites: On the Search for True Nourishment,” which was published in 1996, is that anyone—even those who are happily married with thriving careers and a spiritual life—can feel incomplete.
Unfortunately many of the internal problems we face today are the same as our grandparents and great, great grandparents, only we’re facing them in a more technologically advanced society. So after seventy years, the “have two passions” advice hasn’t expired. I believe that having productive things we love to do can lead to lasting happiness.
As I read more and more self help, I find that over the years, I’ve puzzled some things out for myself. While no one has ever suggested I have two interests, I've developed them. When I’m at home I can spend hours searching the internet for great self help books and other kinds of literature. Also I spend a great deal of my free-time reading and writing.
Window shopping on foot in New York City is something I do outside of my home. However, I rarely carve out time specifically for this. While doing errands, I breeze through a clothing store in five minutes taking note of my favorite pieces. Later in my journal I’ll write down the combinations and keep a running list of dream outfits for each season. I’m up to 50 for this winter.
This list serves several purposes. One it’s just plain fun, it’s free and when I need to acquire an outfit fast, I already know what I want and won’t have to spend too much time looking.
Here are some other useful recommendations from Hillis’ work:
*Planning is necessary in order to live successfully. Planning involves food, books, leisure time etc. “Get into the habit of planning your week ahead,” advised Hillis. “Instead of drifting along, thinking something pleasant will turn up. Often it doesn’t…Besides, nice engagements are fun to look forward to…”
*Having a good attitude is a central theme of Hillis’ book. She wrote: “You have to decide what kind of a life you want and then make it for yourself.