Photo illustration by Lisa Horstman©

 

 

"I am already perfect," begins Day 310’s "Thought for the Day." Yes!!!!!!! And ahead of schedule no less!

Believe me, attaining this flawless state hasn’t been an easy task. About a month ago, I was just like you–vaguely unhappy, unhealthy, and unsatisfied. But a single book has completely changed my life.

It is called 365 Ways to Change Your Life ($17.95 Crown Publishers). Its author is Suzanne Somers.

Nietzche was right. God has been dead for some time. Famous people now offer our only hope for divine direction in the modern world. Brad, Jennifer, Leo, Julia, Oprah, and Matt and Ben are the pantheon we must look to for truth, guidance, and unconditional love. Their altars–those boxed black or beige screens–are everywhere. And unlike some other deities, these actually speak, and often. But it is the stars like Suzanne Somers, who go beyond mere performance to use their awesome powers and knowledge for the good of all humankind, who are the true Olympians of the new millennium.

The fact that I am not a celebrity is one of my life’s biggest disappointments and, I’m sure, the source of that hole in my soul. Because I’ve never been hounded at every turn by paparazzi and autograph-seekers, rabid for even a glimpse of me and to whom I would promise to be ever-so kind, generous, and gracious because I could never have "made it" without their love and support, I often question whether I am truly valued and wanted. I frequently wonder whether or not I’m really real, since I’ve never seen evidence of the fact on film or in glossy magazine photographs. The old adage about trees in the forest is rendered moot without the addition of a camera crew. Celebrities are the only people worth listening to because they’re really the only people there are. The rest of us are simply pale imitations crafted in their image, blundering through a dull fog some call "life."

Suzanne Somers in particular is a shining example of the kind of celebrity that makes America great. Only in our fine, free country could a voluptuous blonde who had 15 minutes of sitcom-related fame back in the early ’80s transform herself from goofy TV bimbo to self-help guru. As I learned from 365 Ways’ breathless dust jacket, in addition to being a best-selling author and beloved TV personality, Suzanne is also a "sought-after lecturer and favorite commencement speaker." Obviously, her portrayal of Chrissy, Jack and Janet’s daft, pig-tailed roomie on Three's Company, was one of television’s finest acting performances.

I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen the E! True Hollywood Story that portrays Suzanne as a heartless, money-grubbing egomaniac, but it’s simply not so. Yes, Suzanne did have her faults. The once-hidden trauma of an abusive relationship, a secret struggle with controlled substances, or a career-squelching bout of self-doubt are what make celebrities so touchingly human, even if it is only an illusion. Superficiality, domination by strong-willed men, growing up in the shadow of an alcoholic father–Suzanne has seen more than her share of trial and tribulation, and each is spilled out here for our edification. Like us, Suzanne was sometimes less than perfect. Unlike us, though, she has risen above imperfection and can now share her hard-won insights with mere mortals.

365 Ways to Change Your Life is composed as a series of daily devotions and affirmations. Suzanne begins it on a brilliant, but deceptively simple, note. "The test of knowing whether you have a happy life is this: Are you happy?" she asks in the introduction. Well, actually, the book begins with a heart-warming quote from another mellow modern sage, Barry Manilow. But, getting back to Suzanne, she promises that this yearlong journey will lead to being a "better, happier, satisfied, content, and spiritually awakened" person. How could such a promising invitation be resisted?

Technically, I suppose I should’ve read the book one day at a time, but with a veritable modern-day Dead Sea Scrolls in my trembling hands, I swallowed it whole in one week. I had to become happier and "better"–i.e. more perfect, like Suzanne–as soon as possible. An entire year was simply too long to wait for total metamorphosis to take effect.

To help me understand how she became the divine creature she is today, Suzanne opens windows deep into her soul. For instance, on Day 67, she wisely advises, "One of the most important qualities a person can have is to be someone others can count on." Suzanne knows this because, although she is shamed to say it, she was not always a reliable person. "In my younger years, I would agree to ‘show up,’ even though I might not be sure I would be able to follow through. Because of my ignorance, immaturity, and low self-worth, I would create a scenario where the other person thought of me as a flake, someone who could not be trusted." Suzanne then outlines the steps she used to correct the problem. Oh, the triumph of an obstacle overcome! That kind of success is what gives me the courage and fortitude to go on.

But changing your life does require a lot of effort, and I admit that there were times when I became angry with Suzanne. She refers again and again to the "work" change requires. Sometimes, in admittedly weak moments, I would cry, "But I don’t want to work; I embarked on this journey only to emulate." By the time I hit the late 100s, I was getting tired and cranky. The tough-love solutions for changing an attitude toward life that is not serving you well or overcoming the dangers of jealousy were almost more than I could bear. But Suzanne is hardly a cruel taskmistress; as reward for all this hard "work," she had lessened the load by leaving me with simple weekend reflections, like "All you need is love," to ponder.

Then I thought about Suzanne’s career, which spans more than three decades. The perfection of celebrity doesn’t come easy. It takes will power to maintain that kind of status. Just look at that poor girl who played Janet–if you can find her. Suzanne’s toothy Aphrodite smile may look effortlessly glamorous and wholesomely happy when she guest co-hosts Candid Camera specials, but beneath its bubbly, pearlescent sheen lies a deep, philosophical, Lama-like tranquility supported by a bedrock of endurance.

Day 135 was a particularly tough one. "Thinking is an important component in all our lives," it begins. "It [thinking, that is] is when new ideas come or answers to questions have time to develop." Why, yes! Maybe because I’d failed to realize the importance of thinking, I never thought about thinking in such an abstract way. Then again, how could I have even thought up the concept without the power of thought? See, I told you, that Suzanne Somers is one smart lady–and don’t you ever forget it.

As I made my way through the 200s, learning, as on Day 289, that that my life, like Suzanne’s, should indeed serve as an example to others, I could finally feel perfection coming on. It was a disorienting sensation, as if hundreds of flashbulbs were going off in front of my face while my body was warmed from above by a spotlight’s radiant glow. Jacob’s, or in this case, Suzanne’s ladder was opening before me.

Having already won America’s heart with her acting, then conquering the fitness demographic with her innovative ThighMaster products and health books like Get Skinny on Fabulous Food, 365 Ways’ mind and spirit focus places its author on the godhead plane of an L. Ron Hubbard. My devotion to Suzanne is complete and unquestioned.

I have now arrived at Day 316. Its affirmation reads, "The windows of our car were filthy yesterday…I got out and tried to clean the windows as best I could, but they were still pretty streaked and cloudy. As we continued our drive I thought, ‘This is similar to the thinking process.’ It is impossible to think when our minds are streaked and cloudy…In order to find clarity, it is necessary to wash out our minds with an imaginary clean cloth." Although scrubbing with the imaginary dishrag was an incredibly arduous task, I am now a tabula rasa, ready for imprint.

But wait! Even as I stand on the cusp of marvelous metamorphosis, I must know what lies ahead. What is Suzanne's final word? Actually, it is "Suzanne." Really–it is. I repeat it over and over again, stressing the "oo" like a chant. Forget the alpha and the omega; there is only Suzanne.

You didn't really think I would reveal the final day's devotion, did you? Did you think I would give away the very key to meaningful living for free? Oh no, you too must "do the work." You too must change and evolve. As Suzanne says, "Evolution is not about the apes. Evolving is ourselves in motion."

Dizzying, is it not? I can hardly stand it. At last, I am beginning to see! The scales are falling from my eyes! I am becoming one with the Shiva-zanne, moving beyond celebrity-like perfection to the blissful state of true nirvana. The white light…!

 

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