Playing a Violin with Three Strings

I recently got an e-mail – one of those “feel good” and “pass it on” kinds. Normally, I read them, enjoy them, and delete them. But this one seemed worthy of a mention, and a repeat. It’s by an unknown author.

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight.

He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play.

But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap – it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage – to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn’t. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that.

You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said – not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone – “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life – not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

 

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Life Coaching and Weight Loss Chat

Hi, All.

As usual, my Monday nights are spent in a weight loss chat room, hosting and visiting with people who are interested in losing weight, getting support from a group, and sharing victories, successes and challenges with others who are also in the same situation of trying to implement healthier life choices, eat right, and lose weight.

Join me on Monday nights at 7 pm PST, 10 pm EST, on www.weightlossbuddy.com.

It doesn’t cost a thing; you just have to register, and the people on the site are great. If you’re struggling with your weight, with getting proper exercise, or eating healthy, then take advantage of having a support system who understands and is willing to help.

Hope to see you all on Monday Nights.

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Overcoming Overwhelm

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Tucson Coaches Alliance, a collaboration of life and business coaches in the Tucson Arizona area. The topic of the meeting was “Overcoming Entrepreneurial Overwhelm.” Wow – what a timely topic!

If any of you are anything like me, you probably spend a lot of very productive time in overwhelm mode. I actually find that I get a lot done when under pressure, have more energy when more energy is required, and like being busy. There are times, however, when the overwhelming tasks (that irrationally take on mythically important proportions) get me over the hump of being productively busy, and send me into a panicked state that is almost paralyzing. It is times like that when I become anxious, distracted, and my productivity decreases.

Recognizing when the line between being busy and being overwhelmed is close to being crossed is crucial in being able to overcome that overly-anxious feeling of being under pressure and crunched for time. In myself, I know it’s coming when I stop taking time to really listen to what people are saying to me. I find myself ruminating about the same things, being compulsively perfectionistic about things that don’t really matter, and losing focus of priorities and tasks that really ARE important. I dawdle over things that are insignificant, out of panic and fear at some of the bigger, scarier tasks that need to be tackled.

Some great suggestions that came out of the coaches collaboration, and from a free e-book offered at www.inspiredentrepreneurs.com:

1. Practice extreme self-care. This may mean taking time out to get a haircut, pedicure, or massage. It may mean taking some alone time to read a good book, and get out of your head.

2. Visualize the finished product or accomplishment, and then make a list of tasks in chronological order that can be accomplished in order to get where you need to be – when you need to be there. As a list maker myself, this is a great suggestion. And by chronologically listing the events, tasks, and priorities that have the most leverage (have the biggest impact on the finished project) this keeps me from being distracted by details, until all the big stuff is done.

3. Vacation – it’s mandatory!

4. Know your Overwhelm Set-Point. This will differ for everyone, of course. We all have different thresholds of tolerance for anxiety and overwhelm. Know yours, and recognize when you’re not just busy – you’re overwhelmed.

5. Ask for help, and delegate responsibilities that others can do – even if there’s no way on earth they can ever do them as well as you can. :)

6. Do what you absolutely must, and UN-do what you can’t, don’t want to, or isn’t an absolute necessity. (You might need to say no to some things you don’t want to.)

7. Ask yourself – is it that you truly don’t have enough time, or aren’t wisely using the time you have? (This is a biggie for me. Better Time Management Skills can un-whelm a good meaning person.)

8. Acknowledge all the things you DO get done. If you don’t cross out those must-dos on your to-dos list, then add all the things you did that were never on the list in the first place. Give yourself some credit!

9. Get Involved and Get Outside Yourself! Be a community member, good friend, and active part of the world outside of your office, your cubicle, or your house.

10. Search for wisdom. Talk to people whom you admire, who are good at managing stress, and ask them for suggestions. What do they do? They may have a great suggestion that is the golden ticket that will help you avoid the overwhelming feelings of obligation and time that too often disrupt our flow and stop our creative processes.

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Resiliency: Coping With Adversity

“Life is not a matter of holding good cards but of playing a poor hand well.” —Robert Louis Stevenson.

As President (and newsletter editor) for a local psychological association, the Adlerian Society of Arizona, I am called upon (nay, I volunteer) to choose an appropriate theme for each edition of the newsletter, and ask (nay, beg) for my fellow Adlerians’ contributions. I try to make each newsletter relevant and interesting, (and worthy of the 25 bucks in annual dues that the members spend to belong to our fledgling group.)

The following is my contribution to the ASA Fall Newsletter, on the topic of overcoming challenges, and fostering resiliency in our youth:

Resiliency, or the ability to “bounce back” from adversity and challenge, is a trait (or perhaps a skill-set) that I’m sure we as counselors, parents, and/or educators, hope to foster in others: our children, our students, our clients, and even in ourselves. We know that being resilient is necessary to be able to get over huge obstacles, maintain perspective, move forward, and overcome setbacks. Without resiliency, any unfortunate event, accident, or loss can result in giving up, learned helplessness, hopelessness, and even a lack of social interest.

Whenever I think of resiliency, I can’t help but think about my experiences as a Probation Officer in the Juvenile Court system and the many children I encountered there who lived in unspeakable conditions and in the most dysfunctional of circumstances. Amid the many terribly “troubled” kids in the system, there were always a rare few who were amazingly resilient, who were somehow able to make it against the odds, making me wonder where they got the strength to cope and exist in a world that, to them, must have seem terribly unfair and difficult.

Just as there are some children from great families who mess up, and have to learn many of life’s lessons “the hard way,” there are, too, many children who come from dysfunction and despair, who somehow make it, and somehow survive amazingly well—despite poverty, affliction, criminal families, lack of education, and a lack of social or moral values or role models. I would often wonder, in my years of working with some of the most troubled teens in town, what the secret was. What was it that made it possible for one kid to be capable of coping with his ugly world, overcoming problems, turning his life around, and abiding by societal rules, when another from a similar background just couldn’t seem to be able to get it together?

Fortunately, much research has been done on the topic of Resiliency, and Tucson is fortunate to be a leader in the Resiliency Movement. The Tucson Resiliency Initiative (TRI) is “a grassroots effort to promote resiliency” by mobilizing all aspects of the community – particularly schools – to build resiliency in youth.

According to “Introduction to Resiliency” by Katie Frey, Ph.D., researchers in this field have identified characteristics common to children who have succeeded “against the odds.” These protective factors include many traits that can be developed by using principles that we (as Adlerians) identify as being Adlerian in nature, including: encouragement, respect, and social interest.

Dr. Frey identifies resilient children as those who are: “self-reliant, independent, self-controlled, hopeful, and who have an internal locus of control, and a sense of purpose.”

So what can we do to help foster these qualities and create an environment for our children that is condusive to resiliency? As Adlerians, we already know. To learn resiliency, we can and must aim to provide: access to resources for meeting basic needs, access to leadership positions, opportunities for decision-making, and meaningful participation in the community.

Dr. Frey’s other suggestions for the community to help foster resiliency include: “creating an environment where there is unconditional acceptance by at least one other person, having clear and enforced boundaries, encouraging pro-social values, appreciating an individual’s unique talents, and creating and maintaining a positive school climate with teachers and positive adults who truly care.”

So as the school year begins, and many of us resume (or continue) in our efforts to make the world a more encouraging and resilient place, keep in mind that the single most important thing you can do in the life of a child is to love him or her, and teach the importance of positive attitude, social interest, encouragement, and unconditional acceptance.

For more information on resiliency, check out these resources:
www.tucsonresiliency.org
www.raisingresilientkids.com
www.resiliency.com

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Right from the Getgo (or Gecko)

So I have a houseguest. It started out harmless enough, but I’m afraid it’s gotten ugly.

At first, he was polite, quiet, no loud parties or anything. Didn’t eat much – the kind of low-maintenance do-my-own-thing kind of guest that’s easy to have around. But then things changed. He got too close. Started expecting too much. Making a nuisance of himself, being sneaky. Going where he wasn’t invited, and snooping around. He has the kinds of friends that I don’t really approve of, too.

He’s become very stand-offish. He’s definitely avoiding me. And he scares me sometimes. Pops out from nowhere when I’m not expecting it. Watches. Stares. Makes me very uncomfortable. And I don’t know how to tell him. Whenever I feel brave enough to confront him, he runs and hides. Makes me feel guilty. I’m not a hater; I just think he should know his place. And his place is no longer in my life.

Here, Leezard, Leezard, Leezard.

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No, Thanks. I’ve Lost My Appetite.

I’m disturbed. But not in that way.

Last night, in my quest to find some mindless, uplifting television, I found myself thrown into the sick, sad, shamefully amusing world of “Starved” on FX.

Well known for the controversial show, “Nip/Tuck,” which explores in graphic detail the world of flaws both character and aesthetic, freakish vanity, facial reconstruction, body dysmorphic disorder and plastic surgery in general, the FX channel has now added to its repertoire a show detailing (again, rather graphically) the ins and outs (you’ll get that pun in a minute) of characters with eating disorders: bulimics, compulsive overeaters, and anorexics. How should I feel about this show?

It was troubling. Confusing. Disappointing, Thought-Provoking. Sickening, and yet somehow ashamedly entertaining. Don’t hate me for saying that until you’ve seen it. (On the other hand, I’d rather you didn’t see it at all. No reason for you to have to wrestle this, too.) The show details the acts of starving, overeating, binging and purging, and the lives of those who do so. Offensive. Disgusting. Horrifying. And yet it wasn’t so gross that I had to turn it off. Or maybe it’s BECAUSE it was so offensive that I stayed glued to the set. Isn’t that awful? Some Hollywood writer has actually made the concept something that (at least to many) is considered entertaining, engrossing, and probably even funny. But as I watched, I just didn’t know whether I should be light-heartedly entertained, principled and angry, or just terribly, terribly sad. I guess in one degree or another I was some of each. And that made me even more sad. How should I feel about this show?

The show, unfortunately, is really pretty good. It’s well written, and well acted. The characters are quirky, flawed, and extremely likeable. I could see the quality of character development, the creative, interesting story lines, and occasionally even good-hearted and harmless humor, hidden between gag scenes (no pun intended) and offensive nonchalance about the seriousness of the illnesses portrayed. Hours after seeing the show, the images, the characters, the dialogue, and the not-so-subtle jabs about being fat, were still invading my thought processes, and threatening my sleep. How should I feel about this show?

<>There’s a storyline about a very overweight male character, preparing for gastric bypass, who goes on a liquid diet – of liquefied pasta, cheeseburgers, and pepperoni pizza. “Liquid in, liquid out, right?” he asks.

Another character (again, a male) has an unhealthy addiction to Nemo’s chocolate cake. He buys four at a time, and in an effort to exert some kind of self control, keeps them under lock and key in a desk drawer until something triggers an episode, during which he consumes all four (or more if he can find them) in one sitting, and then promptly makes an appointment with his porcelain commode. The opening scene in the episode shows him getting up in the morning, weighing himself, using the bathroom, weighing himself, eating cereal, weighing himself, and then throwing up before weighing himself again.

Another character (another male,) actually teaches a male protégé how to regurgitate on command. “BE the purge,” he tells him, as they share a stall in a public bathroom, proudly demonstrating with a head bow, a silent and unimpressive purge, and then delicately wiping the spittle from his mouth with a smug grin.

And all the characters are obsessed not only with their own weight, but the weight, size, and appearance of others. The Puke-on-Command Guy actually tells his student, “It’s not important how you feel. What’s important is how you look.” The “student,” a good looking, black police officer, takes notes. Literally. And practices his new mantra. “It’s not important how you feel. What’s important is how you look.”

In the middle of the show, the police officer, who has by now mastered the art of purging without so much as lifting a finger (again, quite literally), uses his police power to stop a man on a bicycle for running a red light. The man explains that he doesn’t run red lights. He runs yellow lights. The police officer asks his Chinese detainee, “You got chicken lo mein in there?” motioning to the parcel on the back of the bicycle.

“No,” the man says, in a thick Asian accent. “Chinese egg roll and moo shoo pork”

“Drop the Chinese egg roll and moo shoo pork on the sidewalk, Old Man, and I might just let you off with a warning.”

Cut to: cop eating egg roll, shoveling moo shoo pork into his mouth as quickly as he possibly can, and then finding a place in a dark side-alley where he can get rid of it. Unfortunately, after the first lurch of the cop’s stomach contents, the trash on which he is vomiting moves, revealing the occupant of said alley – an old, homeless man, who now is not only covered with remnants from the trash he was using to keep warm, but the contents of another person’s stomach. The cop, surprised, pulls a gun and says, “That’s illegal! Go get a real house!”

At least they’re all in therapy. “Group” is led by a brash, insensitive female therapist, who starts the 12-step like group by saying that “By creating an environment of accountability and shame, we are helping each other.” One by one, the members of the group introduce themselves, and divulge their eating disorder of choice. After each person in the group reluctantly confesses his or her food-related sins, the whole group, in unison, shouts, “IT’S NOT OKAY!” Some therapy, huh? It’s irresponsible and unethical. So how should I feel about this show?

Keep in mind that the whole thing is done with a dry, tongue-in-cheek, completely irreverent tone that makes the whole thing look and feel more like a drama than a comedy. Very dark. Nip/Tuck-ish.

It’s not funny ha-ha, but somehow funny sad-funny.

Funny “Shame on me for almost laughing“ funny.

Funny “That’s just wrong” funny.

It’s very not funny-funny. So how should I feel about this show?

I’m not sure yet whether the show is glorifying such disorders, or is intending to send a message of some kind. Is it good that there’s a show that brings attention to the diseases, or is it destructiuve to present them as being somehow humorous? Is it good that the show profiles a large number of males with eating disorders, and dispels the myth that women are the only sufferers? Or does it make it cool? Isn’t it size-ism to tell fat jokes (even if the joke tellers are pathetically disordered in their thinking?) Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Taking it too seriously? Feeling guilty for being captivated by the whole thing? Maybe. But maybe not.

All I know is that there is an epidemic in this country of aesthetic perfectionism. We are a country with citizens – most of whom are young females – who are dying from it. Body dysmorphic disorders, self-absorption, bulimia, anorexia, cosmetic surgery addiction, laxative abuse, and overeating. And then there’s the seemingly acceptable form of ‘ism that we’ve adopted: size-ism; weight-discrimination. Young girls commit suicide because they don’t feel pretty. They starve until they can see their rib cages. They punish themselves with food, and teach each other how to stick their fingers down their throats. They even have weight-loss contests, for heaven’s sake, with the winner being the one who loses the most weight without losing their hair! And they’re going on diets as young as nine years old. And where do they learn that it’s okay? So exactly how should I feel about this show?

I still don’t know. I don’t know how I should feel about the show. And I don’t know how I actually feel. And that might just be exactly the reaction the producers are hoping for. In fact, I’d bet on it. I mean – look how it’s consumed my time? My resources? Invaded my thoughts? Gotten me talking? Raised my emotions and made me examine my own personal values? I mean – geez – I just promoted their blasted television show on my blog!

So please. Don’t watch. Just don’t watch. Because if you do, and if you feel any kind of compassion or empathy for people in this world who are suffering – and even dying – from these kinds of illness, then you, too, may have to ask yourself: Is this show irreverent and totally socially irresponsible, or is it really – like they want us to believe – just a little harmless entertainment?

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Life Swapping

The title of this blog should really be “Wife Swapping,” but it’s probably not what you’re thinking.

There’s an ABC Television series, entering its 5th season this year, in which an under-appreciated (and often over-worked) mom switches lives with another equally as under-appreciated mom. It’s called “Wife Swap” and, hopefully, at the end of the show, the moms return home, tearfully welcomed by a considerably more humble, more grateful, and more appreciative (read: traumatized) family.

It’s really kind of a “feel-good” kind of show. By the end, everyone realizes how grateful they are to live where they live, live HOW they live, and have the families they have. And hopefully, everyone has learned a little in the process – about themselves, about how and where they could do better, and about things they will most certainly work to avoid.

This week I was contacted by a casting agent with ABC, looking for Boot Camp Fitness Instructors (who happen to be moms) who run their lives and their families with structure, self-discipline, rigidity, expectation and principle to be on their show.

Wouldn’t you know it? I had the perfect person in mind. No – it’s not me. lol. Strong (but kind), determined (yet flexible), self-disciplined (yet tolerant), structured (yet spontaneous) and strict (yet loving). She’s a formerly overweight self-trained marathon runner, certified personal trainer, nutritionist, devoted student (working full time plus going to school), mother of three very well behaved children, and wife of a former Marine turned police officer. How’s that for structured, disciplined, and responsible?

Anyway – within 2 hours, they were on the phone with her. Within 4 hours they had interviewed her, her husband, and both the kids still living at home. Within 6 hours they had booked flights for their New York Production Crew to fly to Tucson to pay them a home visit and within 24 hours, she was sitting in her living room, talking to a television producer about the intricacies, quirks, and secrets of daily life in her home, (oh, yeah – and they brought cameras, of course,) and thinking about what kind of wife (or mom) she’d be to someone else’s family.
We don’t know if she’ll get picked, but it’s pretty big news around here. And it’s gotten me thinking, “Would I do it?”

The monetary compensation isn’t huge, but it’s enough to make you stop and think. Knowing that the place they would send you would be the most miserable, intolerable, and frustrating place they can think of for you, and that you would be subjecting your family to what might possibly be a week and a half of pure, unadulterated Satan’s Haven, could you do it? Would you do it?

So Tucson may have a celebrity on its hands. And my friend might have a nightmare on hers. Then again, maybe it will be an opportunity to grow, learn, gain some insight, and take a paid vacation. But I don’t know……….

Could you do it?

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Here’s to Old Friends

As I mentioned before, I recently returned from a Class Reunion in Pocatello, Idaho. Now I wasn’t even going to go, at first. In fact, I was a holdout until practically the last minute. I had been having some weird, inexplicable anxiety about it for weeks. There was no rational reason for feeling insecure, nervous, or anxious about it – I just did, and was having difficulty figuring out where it was coming from.

I had a great time in high school. I had some great friends, I wasn’t the subject of any scandal that I can remember, and I don’t have any old boyfriends that would be painful to see or anything. I just felt kinda weird about it. In fact, I even had a dream about it – I don’t remember if it was a good dream or a bad dream, but the idea that I was dreaming about the reunion at all kind of concerned me.

I asked myself if it was that I had any regrets about my teen years. Of course, the answer was both yes and no – not too many perfectly righteous teenagers out there – and I wasn’t one of them, but there was nothing I was really ashamed or embarrassed about. I did the normal talking-about-people and spreading-gossip stuff that teenage girls do. But nothing major that would warrant any of my classmates visiting me in slumber.

Was it that I wished I’d accomplished more? Traveled more? Studied more? Gotten a couple more degrees? Written a book? Maybe. Looking back, realizing that – well – a large number of years has passed, you suddenly start getting accountable for how you’ve spent them. But that wasn’t really it. After all – I didn’t care who was doing what, or who was considered the “most successful” or any of that crap (pardon my language but it IS crap!) that people care about at a 10-year reunion. I doubted whether anyone would care what I was doing, or how successsful I was, or anything like that. And I didn’t feel the need or desire to talk about or justify the last 20 years of my life to anyone, so that wasn’t the source.

Was it the way I looked? After all, as much as I try to avoid it, I AM getting older. And things don’t look the same as they did when I was 17 years old any more. I sat with that one for a long time, before I realized that, to some degree, that was it. After a long, hard sit down with my ego, I realized that I was concerned that I wouldn’t be cute! Am I a vain, self-absorbed FREAK or what? Was I ever even cute at all? Who knows? And if I ever was – where had it gone?

A week before the reunion, instead of thinking about how great it was going to be to reunite with my old buddies and girlfriends, I was thinking, “Dangit! Is it too late to lose 5 pounds? I probably can’t get ripped arms in 5 days, can I? I should have been squeezing in an extra workout here and there. Am I wrinkly? EEK! I’m wrinkly! Why did I ever sit out in the sun? Are my teeth sparkly and white? I wonder if I should get a haircut? Do I look as old as other people my age look? Maybe I should visit my dermatologist for an emergency-treatment of some kind? Plastic surgery is out of the question – but maybe I can camouflage my flaws with makeup?”

It was endless – the mental energy I was spending on useless thoughts like that was embarrassingly consuming. I’m embarrassed even thinking about it now. I’m no SuperModel – why do I care so much? Well – it was too late to lose 5 lbs. Especially since that was about the same time I started stress eating. And I AM a little wrinkly. And my teeth aren’t movie-star white. And I don’t get carded any more. So I must look my age. And dermatology is expensive.

Although all those kinds of insecurities have occasionally raised their ugly heads as I’ve gotten older, I tend to just find those kinds of thoughts to be annoying and unproductive. I can usually brush them off and ignore them, and be happy that I’m able to do what I can to take care of myself. But it wasn’t happening this time. I was on a mission. Mission: Imperfectus. Mission: Self Destructus. Mission: Reunionitis. Why couldn’t I let it go?

After I had decided and made the commitment to go, I became consumed with STUPID obsessions about what I would wear to what event; would I wear my hair down, or pulled back? Contacts or glasses? Sandals or pointy-toes shoes? (Sandals won, by the way – I had treated myself to a pedicure). Which color looked better on me – blue or pink? Capri pants or a skirt? What if the weather makes my hair flat? What if the humidity makes me break out? Were my clothes out of fashion? Exactly how much bigger IS my butt? I could go on and on, and I DON”T KNOW WHY. It’s embarrassing – but it was so bad, I packed 12 outfits for 2 days. Took 7 pairs of shoes. Even bought some new underclothes. What was the deal?

So I did some work. I made a list of all those irrational, unhealthy and negative thoughts, and came up with a reasonable response to each one. I even kept it on a notecard and studied it. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to overcome all the negative little gremlins that talk in our heads and keep us frustrated, stuck, and paralyzed. I won’t go into all the details about what my new, more logical perspectives and responses were, but I will tell you this. I realized that I haven’t seen most of these people in nearly 20 years. That alone tells me that what they think of me hasn’t mattered too much in all that time – and certainly shouldn’t matter now. I also realized that even though I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not 18 any more – neither are any of them! Every last one of them is 20 years older, too! And I’ll bet you anything that many of them are struggling with the same mental garbage about their looks, how they’ve spent their time, what kind of person they’ve become, and on and on. I wonder how many people deliberately didn’t go to the reunion because of it? I honestly hope not too many. Because as it turned out, it wasn’t about that at all.

The reunion was wonderful. Seeing my old friends was – GREAT! (A really cheesy word for a really incredible experience for me.) All my fears and worries vanished immediately the moment I saw so many people that had been such an important part of my life years ago. And it was like barely a year had passed. We were all so different, and yet so much the same!

It wasn’t at all about who was doing what. It wasn’t about who had gone to what college, or who had the coolest job, or who had the most kids. It wasn’t about who looked the best, or who looked the worst, and certainly not about what we were wearing. In fact, I don’t remember a single memorable outfit in the crowd – which means all my worries about my own outfit were just plain silly and immature.

So what was it about?

It was about friendship. Appreciating each other. Getting to know each other as we are NOW instead of trying to recapture what we WERE back then. It was about enjoying each others’ company, telling funny stories, and indulging in some happy memories. It was about reconnecting. Letting all the insecurities go, and just enjoying the experience. It was about visiting and appreciating snippets of past experiences, people, and places, and being grateful for how far we’ve come. It was about finding commonalities – even after that many years – and appreciating family and friends. It was about – well, it was about companionship; not about competition. Allowing people to change, and appreciating them for it.

And for me? For me, it was most about having an opportunity to really look inside and figure out how to overcome a pattern of thought that was threatening to really rock my self-confidence, and put me on a path of self-pity. You know, I’ve been at this for a long time. I use coaching, motivation, and therapeutic tools every day to help my clients overcome negative self-talk, and use them in my own personal life as well and yet I am STILL amazed at how much I have yet to learn, and am grateful for opportunities to do so.

Thank you, Highland Classmates, for what was truly a highlight of this decade. Personally, I don’t think I can have too many friends, and it’s certainly easier to maintain the ones you’ve got than to make new ones. I look forward to having you all in my mental database of people who have been important in my life, and people with whom I hope to always be friends. See you at the 30th – wrinkles and all!

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God Bless Pocatello

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Took 2 Short vacations to see family, attended a Class Reunion, ran a Kids’ Summer Camp, and still managed to get through all (or most) of my emails, trainings, appointments, and other “real” obligations. I should be exhausted! Ironically, I’m not. I’m a little jazzed. I’m looking forward to the winter. I feel like I’m headed for a really good Fall. (As in the season, lol.)

You will all be glad to know that all is well in Pocatello, Idaho – and that Pocatello is virtually iron-clad safe from terrorism.

Let me explain….

The Pocatello Airport People have their act together! First of all, when I called the ‘rents to tell them what time to pick me up, I told them the airline and flight number, which they immediately disregarded and forgot, saying that the airline I was flying on was the onlyone that flew to Pocatello, and there were only 3 flights a day anyway, so it wouldn’t be hard to find me.

The plane itself which flew me from Salt Lake to Poky had about 10 seats on it, and offered barely enough storage space for a small purse. The engine was loud; it was turbulent and scary, and – let’s just say it was not the most relaxing flight I’ve ever been on. But it was better than when I flew into Idaho Falls a couple of years ago, where the seats on the puddle-jumper plane I was on had wooden fold-out seats. Like those in a sports arena but not anywhere near as comfortable.

The Pocatello Airport runway is short, and our little plane pulled up so close to the “airport” I could practically tell you what magazines were on the coffee table in the waiting area. The airport itself looked to me more like a double-wide trailer than a mecca of air travel. The plane was small enough to park right at the door. It was as if we were just casually pulling a car into a driveway. When we landed and the engines turned off, I could still hear the purring of an engine. I looked out the window of the plane, and found the source fo the noise: an older guy not 50 yards away was just casually mowing the grass, completely oblivious to the existence of our monstrous (lol) mode of transit from which we had narrowly escaped death (okay – perhaps that’s a little exaggerated…)

The airport personnel was friendly, and plentiful. Uniforms everywhere. Watching. Supervising. Keeping the Peace. As well they should! They practically carry your luggage to your car for you (not that you have far to walk; the parking lot is smaller than that at my local Walgreens.) And all parking – even in the long term parking lot – is completely free. I didn’t know that was possible!

Anyway – I found out just how iron-clad the security is when I returned to the ‘port for my flight home. My flight left at 12, so we determined I needed to be at the airport by 11:45. I got there early – 20 minutes before the flight. I checked in at the check-in desk, where they asked for my I.D., twice, checked my bag for a proper identification tag, and then promptly instructed me to take my bag to The Security Clearance Desk, which is, quite literally, a metal desk, less than 10 feet from the check-in counter. Keep in mind that there is no other potential passenger in sight. I was pretty much alone in the airport. Just me, my bag, the ticket agent, and The Security Clearance Desk lady. I’m not sure – but it may have even been the same person who checked me in that searched my bag after I lugged it to The Security Clearance Desk.

I must have looked threatening because they felt the need to open my bag, and rummage through it. Imagine my horror when I realized my delicates were right there on top for the world to see, had anyone else in the world been there just then. They searched the bag, swabbed it extensively – exterior and interior, up and down, over and across (used like 6 little doily-things) looking for evidence of some kind, I guess, and asked me if I was transporting any weapons or drugs. Does Prozac count? (Just kidding.) They didn’t seem to appreciate kidding. They were VERY, VERY SERIOUS.

I still had a few minutes before they boarded the plane, so I found a chair. When they called Boarding minutes later, they checked my I.D. and boarding pass before they let me proceed to the security gate, which is really just a very narrow hallway, like that that exists in a double-wide trailer – uh, manufactured home. Sorry. That was no big deal – it happens pretty much everywhere – but a lot of times I’m fairly certain that the gate agents are only pretending to verify a match of the I.D. to the boarding pass. In Pocatello, they don’t pretend.

The gate agent looked at me, and then the I.D.; then at me; then at my I.D. He asked suspiciously, “Ms. Beutler?” (My maiden name.) “Yes?” My voice cracked. I couldn’t help it – I started to get nervous. I knew, rationally, that I had no reason to be. I’m a law abiding citizen. I am who I say I am – but I started to sweat and act nervous, which made me even more nervous, since I knew that they were studying me for suspicious behavior. And the more nervous I got, the more suspicious I acted – I’m sure of it! Then the irrational thoughts started. What was wrong? Why were they talking to me? Maybe they don’t think I’m me. I got my I.D. nearly 10 years ago, and the picture shows it. What if I look different and they think I’m using a fake? I should have gotten an updated one! Where’s my passport? What if they ask me for my passport? My Drivers License as an I.D. doesn’t expire until 2027. Dang! Why didn’t I get a newer photo taken? Would they believe that I was who I said I was? What if I accidentally forgot that my I.D. says my maiden name on it, and if they asked me, I gave them my married name? Would that be suspicious? What if they tested me and asked me my driver’s license number? Would I know it? Would that be suspicious? A million fears delved new synapses into my brain. Quit acting suspicious! I told myself. I couldn’t help it. I was a wreck.

I walked down the narrow hallway to the Security Checkpoint trying not to pee my pants. Awaiting my arrival at the metal detector were three guards – more of those than passengers, it seemed to me. One was the “Put all your stuff in these tubs” guy. Tubby. He asked to see my I.D. and boarding pass. He looked a couple of times, but when I reached out to take it back, he didn’t budge. I let him keep it. They had plenty of tubs, and he made sure I made use of them. Shoes alone in one. Purse in one. Camera in one. Laptop in one. Empty laptop bag in one. Belt and loose change in one. I watched my stuff disappear behind the black curtain of x-ray security, and I innocently, but foolishly, made the mistake of stepping through the metal detector to collect it on the other side. Bad idea! Tubby grabbed my arm, and barked, “STOP! Wait behind the line!” Huh? What line? Crap! Where’s the line??

It scared the living heck out of me!

By this time, all my tubs of stuff were starting to back-log on the other side of the X-Ray machine. (I know it’s not really an x-ray. Don’t e-mail me about it.) They were piling up. The conveyor had completely stopped, trying to accommodate all my tubs on the exit ramp, but they wouldn’t all fit. I felt strangely naked. The separation from my purse was paralyzing. I could see all my stuff – those precious, precious (not really) belongings, and yet it felt as if I might never see them again. I desperately wanted to be reunited with my stuff. Then I felt weird for having such a strong reaction – separation anxiety? From being 5 feet away from my purse? Maybe I’m crazy! Maybe I look crazy. Maybe that’s why they’re suspicious of me!

Tubby handed my I.D. and my boarding pass to the female Security Agent who was manning the PMD post, (Pre-Metal-Detector.) She was sitting on a stool in front of the thick white line, might have even been masking tape. She was about 8 1/2 months pregnant, and wouldn’t have been able to chase a bad guy, even if there had been one. She did the whole I.D. – me – I.D. – me – I.D. thing, and again instructed me to wait behind the white (masking tape??) line in front of the metal detector to await further instructions. “Tucson?” she asked. Was she testing me? “Yes.” I got nervous. My boarding pass said Salt Lake City. I tried to overcorrect. “But Salt Lake first.” I was babbling, and I couldn’t stop. “I mean, I go to Salt Lake, and change planes, and then I go to Tucson. So Tucson… uh, yes. Final Destination is Tucson. That’s where I live.” Geez – I’m an idiot.

She then passed my I.D. and boarding pass to the post-metal-detector post, who also did the ID-me-ID-me-ID check, who then puffed out his chest, stood directly in front of me, on the other side of the metal detector, and inhaled deeply before calling my full name- much too loudly for the small space. It felt like I was standing at the pearly gates, and St. Peter had just called my name, summoning me into heaven – to FREEDOM. Except that the PMDD (Post-Metal-Detector-Dude) had grossly mispronounced my name. St. Peter wouldn’t have done that.

Panic set in. Is this a test? Did he mispronounce it on purpose? Do I correct him? Do I let it go? If I do let it go, is that suspicious? And when he called my name, was that permission to go through the metal detector, or was he just saying my name? If I tried to go through the metal detector I was sure I’d get in trouble. If I didn’t, and just kept standing there like an idiot, it might make me look suspicious. Crap! Do I go through? Should I ask permission? I took a step. Nothing. PMDD just looked at me. I took another step. Still nothing. I watched him carefully for a reaction. One more step and I was nearly in the middle of the big metal detector thing that I was sure was also programmed to be a lie detector. Geesh. What if it went off? Was everything out of my pockets? I didn’t have any pockets. What about my barrette? Would that set the thing off? I prayed that there were no metal grommets on my day’s apparrel. My phone! Where was my phone? Oh – it had gone through in a tub – in its own tub, of course. Thank heavens. “Proceed slowly, Miss Beutler” I was told. I did, accutely aware that at any moment I could be thrown in jail for not following directions. The metal detector was silent. But on the other side, he wanded me anyway – just in case.

I made it! He gave me back my I.D. and boarding pass, and it took what felt like an hour to collect my things. But I didn’t care. I was happy to see my stuff. There were dozens of tubs of stuff. All mine. My hands were shaking, and all three of the Super-Scary Security Force were staring at me. I could feel their suspicious little eyes waiting for me to make one false move. I walked out the glass doors to the fresh Pocatello air, trying not to drop anything. I didn’t. I climbed the rickety five stairs (which felt like a gangplank) into the plane and sunk into a tiny little seat, happy to be there. I couldn’t wait to get home.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love Pocatello, and I’m glad that they have the funds and personnel to enforce all the security measures that they do. But the ordeal left me feeling a little violated, to be honest. No one had asked to pat me down or anything, but it still felt a little – well, a little wierd and over the top for a community like Pocatello (population: 50,000.)

Later, in talking to my sister, I learned that money for Homeland Security is distributed to states for their airports NOT by population of the state, or size of an airport or community like you might expect – but by how many miles of Interstate exist in the State. Therefore, despite Pocatello being a town of 50,000, it happens to exist in a state with TWO major highways, meaning that they have lots of money to spend on Airport Security – even though it means that there are often many more security personnel present than airline passengers. Whose idea was THAT, I ask??

So Pocatello-ans, sleep well. You can rest assured that Pocatello is safe from sneaky, weapons-smuggling no-good suspicious airline passengers with bad intentions. Although you might want to consider locking your doors from now on. After all – it won’t take long for bad guys to figure out that with 2 major Interstate Highways and Airport Security like Fort Knox , the best route to Poky if you’re a bad guy is by car – not by plane.

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