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I once had a self-help addiction. I’d hide my books on the gifts of imperfection and letting go of fear and the secrets of the enneagram in shadowy corners of my bedroom. I’d set them upside-down on my nightstand so my family wouldn’t see how unfinished I was. I was jell-o that hadn’t yet set.

After all my jobs were done at the end of the day, I’d indulge in one of my books. And let me tell you, it would go down like a glass of Merlot. Words like “find your soul’s purpose” and “declutter your life” and “uncover self-compassion” slid down my throat like booze. Tingles of hope would radiate through my body. Soon I’d be calm and life would seem full of possibility.

But I was never satisfied. The self-confidence wouldn’t last, and soon I’d be discouraged and longing for another book. And because I wasn’t supposed to need all this help, I felt ashamed. I just can’t get it right, I thought. Why am I never healed, never grown-up, never done?

There is this idea in our culture that one day we will arrive. We’ll reach our ultimate goal, our dream career, or that thing we set out to do. Then we’ll be content and satisfied. There’ll be nothing else to do but enjoy the view.

"We read books to find out who we are." -Ursula K. Le Guin

There is no end. When we stop walking, we start dying. We are less like heroes and more like trees: we are meant to keep growing bigger and making more seeds. There will be cycles where parts of us die so new parts can be born. There will be times when we get sick, when we need help from a friend. But just as the universe is expanding into greater mystery, so are we.

I never got rid of my self-help addiction. I just re-saw it. Self-help books are not crutches — they are resources. Like nutrients, water, and sunlight to my psyche, they help me make sense of the world, my past, and the challenges of being human.

I will never have enough books. They are my companions. My teachers. They hold me so that when I’m tired and confused, I can lean back into the thick intertwining complexity of the universe, listen to stories and rest. Until I’m ready stand up and start walking again.

What books have accompanied you up the vine of life?

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