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Economy Got You Down? DIY Therapy Is Here

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Six months ago I fired my housekeepers. Couldn't afford them anymore. I've been lucky enough to be able to hire them back. I know. I know. Seems like a luxury. But it feels like a necessity, especially when I was without them. It got me thinking about necessities and how we don't necessarily take the time to define them unless we are forced to.

Two years ago I likely would have told you that landscapers and pedicures were a necessity. I'm not an idiot. I realize I don't need them to live. But there are certain things one grows accustomed to. And, if you're like me and you work hard for those things, you feel as if you deserve them in some ways too. It doesn't take long before what you feel you deserve and what you assume you need gets all tangled up and confused.

I don't think there's anything wrong with having the things you want. Too much conspicuous consumption is gross. But working hard for the things you want and not being made to feel guilty about it is the American way, right? But it seems like it might be a good idea to keep it straight in our heads that so much of what we have is extra. Why? Well, for example, when the bottom falls out of the economy, you suddenly have to decide what stays and what goes.

Some choices are easy. The shrubs don't have to be professionally manicured and neither do my toes. I can vacuum. And we can take a staycation this year. But what about things like health insurance, medication, and therapy? I feel lucky to still be able to afford health insurance, albeit not particularly good insurance and I can afford the meds to keep my body running in relative order.

I don't have a personal trainer. The landscaper and pool guy are long gone. I think I need the exterminator. And I'm not in therapy. But what if I was? Is that optional? I mean, if you can no longer afford a gym membership, you can get an exercise DVD. If you can't afford to go to restaurants, you can cook at home. But if you can't afford a therapist, is that a DIY kind of deal?

Strangely, I have never been in therapy. I say strangely because I was a kid of the 70's, a teen of the 80's, and a college coed of the 90's. Therapy's as common as grocery shopping in my generation. Still, somehow, I never went. Not officially anyway. Unofficially, I had my dad. Lucky again.

Anyway, the thought led me to the bookstore to peruse the self-help aisle and low and behold there it was, just released November 17, 2009. I loved the title, Get a Grip. And, ok, fine, I loved the author photo. Dr. Belisa Vranich is hot. Whatever sells books, right? Point is, it got me to pick up the thing up. I did so with full skepticism. I mean come on, be your own cook, ok. But be your own therapist?

The book is divided into fourteen days. Each day asks the reader to take a good hard look at him or herself. It's kind of scary stuff. And Vranich doesn't let you off easy. There's no blaming other people or claiming ignorance. You've got to get in there (in your head, I mean) and get honest.

I have to tell you, I couldn't stop reading. It's gripping and challenging and, although it seems tough, it also seems totally doable. Vranich doesn't guarantee any sort of quick fix. She offers a start, "a tough psychological workout... to start you moving in the right direction, get you out of that rut, and resolve that quandary." I love it.

Does it work? I don't know. I haven't started yet. I plan to though. But even if it takes me awhile to commit to it full on, it's already gotten me thinking about where I am and what I want.

But, perhaps more than anything, it's gotten me thinking about all the things we can do for ourselves, when it really comes down to it. That's not to say we can't have a housekeeper or a personal trainer, it's just empowering to know that I don't need those things. I want them. It's fine to want things. In fact, it's good within reason. It gives you something to strive for, to work towards.

But it's even nicer knowing that when the chips are down, there really are only a very few must haves in this world and I've already got them. Wouldn't be surprised if you do too. So, the housekeepers are staying for now, but I'm going to stop complaining about the other junk. And I'm going to try not to forget that if it's possible to be one's own therapist, being my own pedicurist should be a breeze.