That’s Good. That’s Bad

 

“That’s good. That’s Bad.”

I recalled this tag line from one of my favorite children’s’ books by that title, as I watched nature unfold while on safari in Africa.

 

A lion was in hot pursuit of an antelope. “Oh, that’s Bad.”

 

The antelope, away from the protection of its herd, leaped into the water to halt the lion’s pursuit, just narrowly escaping certain death. Oh, that’s good.

 

But almost immediately a crocodile surfaced with wide-open jaws and the antelope succumbed. Oh, that’s bad.

 

Life in the bush is a constant tale of, “Oh that’s good. That’s bad.”

 

But so it is for our lives as well.

 

Out in the bush, I was away from the horrific news events that occurred in Seville, Spain and in our own country in Charlottesville, and now in Houston.

 

How is it possible to remotely think of, “That’s Good,” with tragedy, loss, and devastation?

 

Those events are unequivocally horrific.

 

Yet, what’s good?

 

The immense outpouring of love and kindness. The swell of people supporting one another. The rush of goodness and financial support.

 

I know of a Dr. in Houston who used his own kayak to rescue 39 people and pets from their flooded homes. There was the furniture owner who opened his shops to allow people to sleep on his merchandise. People who formed human chains to rescue others. People who cooked for rescue workers.

This news link: http://abcnews.go.com/US/incredible-acts-kindness-hurricane-harveys-wake/story?id=49511397 highlights a few of the stories of greatness and kindness not often reported in the news.

 

And yes, there were the looters and the schemers, and those stories tend to reap the greatest media attention, but there were and are also 100’s of good people who continue to do small things with compassion.

How do we take something bad and reshape it?

 

When we focus on those acts of kindness it fuels us with hope and possibility and inspires our own acts of compassion.

 

When we focus on the devastation, harm, and malevolence, we succumb to those energies.

 

Hating, even for good, is still hating.

 

Hating is an energy that drains and harms us. Hating feels bad and bad feelings makes us more subject to finding ways out of that pain with drugs, alcohol, food or anything else to numb it.

 

Where we put our focus defines our experience.

I am reminded of Ann Frank, who amidst unimaginable atrocities, maintained an astonishing perspective.  Her courage, her focus, her faith is a legacy that begs us to follow.

 

“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
― Anne FrankThe Diary of a Young Girl

 

Make Believe~ Make Belief: Today I focus on what good I can think and do.

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Why You Want to “STOP IT.”

 

My client called me the day after it happened…

“I went to the emergency room, she said.  “I thought I was having a heart attack. I guess I’m really anxious about this speech. Her tone was heavy with shame and self-recrimination.

“Well, it’s better to die of embarrassment than a heart attack,” I said, “but let’s talk about what got you there.”

Anxiousness is a really poor use of imagination.

I am not a doctor and I don’t play one in my coaching practice, but what I see from lots of clients and my own personal observation is

Anxiety is:  fear, discomfort and catastrophizing on steroids

Yes, some people genuinely need medicine to alter or interrupt their maladaptive brain patterns,

but the behavioral component of

Stopping what you’re doing that got you into that state is an often overlooked component. 

You need to create different body postures and  think different thoughts if you want a different outcome

People who are not anxious DONT keep visualizing repetitive catastrophes–

They don’t repeat dialogue in their head that is the equivalent of an accelerant

They interrupt their thoughts if they go astray

They create new pictures

They breathe and move

They change their body postures

They say soothing things

and when their brains go rogue they say: “STOP IT”

They interrupt their patterns because they know it’s easier to stop a car going 5 miles an hour than a train going 100 mph.

Something as simple as “STOP IT” has magical effects.

The perfect illustration is Bob Newhart’s Youtube clip, “STOP IT!”

Humorous, Simple and Divinely wise:  A Less than 5-minute counseling session that will help anyone.

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Is anxiousness ever a good thing?

Yes, anxiousness is a signal that says you need to get ready. It lets you know something needs to be done. It’s a call alerting you prepare.  As you prepare, anxiousness converts to excitement.You may still have a butterfly tingling stomach, but the energy moves you toward taking flight not freezing, crumbling or ending up in the emergency room.

It’s energy speeded up to give you the power to complete something bigger than you thought you could.

As for my client with the fake heart attack…

Together we worked on a few simple exercises, more practice with her speech and some inner and outer game pattern interrupts.

The result?

She gave her speech, got some laughs, connected authentically with her appreciative audience and was asked to speak at another event.

Most importantly she liberated herself from the tyranny of that crazy smack talk and found she was of genuine service to her audience.

What will you STOP so you may release your true gifts?

Make Believe ~Make Belief: Today I will interrupt my negative thoughts and say, ” STOP IT!” change my body posture and breathe. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Breasts, B.B.’s and Belated Beatitudes

 

 

I am at the doctor’s office filling out the standard paperwork.  It’s been a year since my last mammogram.  I scan the list of every horrendous ailment. “No,” I check to burning, itching, psychiatric disorders. “No” to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and enlarged prostate. I pause, however, at the question:  “Any changes to your breasts?”

“Yes,” I write.  “Apparently someone let the air out of them, and they don’t get enough attention.”

“Vision?”  “Stolen around the same time my breasts were deflated.”

“Mouth or oral changes?”  “Shit, yes, I swear like a sailor and I can store enough food in my recessed gums to open a food bank.”

The doctor swaggers in. He is an alarmingly handsome newbie, not the overweight-bespectacled female physician I am accustomed to seeing.  I scramble to erase my comment about my under-attended-to-deflated breasts, but the eraser’s gone flat and only smudges the page.

“Let’s see here,” he says taking my clipboard.  “Dr. Katz is on leave and I’ve come into the practice. I’m Dr….”

“Hottie-good-looking?” I blurt out.  “I’m sorry, it’s the CCMMS” I say.

 “What?” He blushes.

I direct him to the last line of my paperwork hoping he’ll pass over the breast remark. Reason For Visit: Can’t Control My Mouth Syndrome (CCMMS).

 “Heh heh,” he chuckles.

 “No, seriously, I can’t control my mouth.”

“Mrs. Tanzman?  Mrs. Tanzman?”

A tech assistant has come through the door and I am snapped back to reality.  I am not sitting in Dr. Hottie’s office, but in fact, in the waiting room at the Long Beach Memorial Breast Center cloaked in what only could be called a peek-a boob robe. The gown, if one is lucky, ties in the front at the neck and not again until the thigh.  This is meant to dupe one into thinking if both strings were tied one would not be flashing one’s boobs to every passerby (which one does).

I didn’t get a lucky robe. I am held together with one set of strings and one pair of hands.

“Come this way.” says Rita the tech. “We need to get more films.”

I was here last week for my annual mammogram and the center called two days later.

 “Mrs. Tanzman, this is the Long Beach Memorial Breast Center.”

“I guess you’re not calling to say I’ve won a fruit basket?”

“Uh no, we found a little spot that we’d like to magnify and get an ultrasound on.”

So here I go off to sandwich these semi-deflated breasts in the machine I’m sure has the potential to catapult my nipple across the room. After about eight more films we head to the ultrasound suite where the slightly overweight, bespectacled female physician finally meets me.

How pathetic am I that have fabricated this whole Dr. Hottie thing in order to cope with what is now being called a “mass” in my right breast? Upon hearing the word “mass” I feel the urge to run to the nearest pew and drop to my knees.

“You think it’s that ominous word ‘mass,’ I blurt out, “or a just a Catholic-free-association-thing that’s got me feeling like I should start praying?” This CCMMS moment goes completely unnoticed because the doctor is busy squishing gel and running her ultrasound wand over me like those beachcomber guys zig-zagging the sand with their metal detectors. “There it is!” she exclaims as if she’s found the mother lode.

 “I’d like to do a needle biopsy if you’re up for it? We’ll insert a tiny metal BB to tag the tissue. Don’t worry, it won’t set off any airport alarms.”

I consent to the procedure before I see the tool she will use. The tech unveils what appears to be a hybrid between an electric toothbrush and a spear gun. It whrrs whrrs whrrs and then pops with a single staccato when the hollow needle spears into the tissue.  
“You will numb me? I ask rhetorically. The vibrato in her “Oooh yes” suggests a little deep breathing would be a good idea.

 “You’ll feel a little stick,” she says as she injects the Lidocaine needle or at least tries to.

 “This is so tough,” she huffs, hoisting her knee on the table while thrusting herself full force against my 98-lb frame. I am relieved and surprised that I feel absolutely no pain not even a stick, but the sight of this woman practically mounting me makes me long for Dr. Hottie.

“All right, are you ready for the biopsy now?” she asks.

“Whrr away,” I answer.  “Just don’t say oops.”

For the next several days I wait with the borrowed grace observed in the faces of the other women who sat with me in the waiting room.  Between the mental meanderings of Dr. Hottie I had actually listened to the other women.  Some had been through multiple rounds of chemo and radiation. Others had breasts removed. They talked about their trials so matter-of-factly it was unnerving. It wasn’t their courage so much, but their acceptance of what was, that gave them such power and I repeat, such grace. I say that I borrowed grace because clearly, I was a neophyte. But each day of my waiting I awoke and stood naked in front of the mirror and said,   
   
“Thank You, God, for this wonderful body that has served me so well.” I also apologized for all the criticisms and verbal lashings I’d flung about for so many years. All the really mean “I hates” about my body. I concentrated on the what IS’s not the what if’s.

And something funny happened. I began to notice things around me as if everything had a Fresnel lens with micro-arcsecond-angular resolution bringing the universe into exquisite focus.  Everything was magnified: colors, sounds, smells?as if the elements had suddenly been injected with a mega dose of steroids.  And then the call came.

 “It’s a fibroadenoma.”

I panic for a moment because although I am not fluent in Latin, I know my way around the “oma” suffix. It means tumor. The doctor goes on to explain the good news.

 “These tough fibrous tumors are benign. It’s odd,” she says with a long pause, “Tumors like these are usually found in young breasts.”

I decide to take this as a compliment.

“Ha, Ha , tricked that tumor,” I say. “It found itself a 53-year-old cougar-host instead of some young cubby.” My comment is patently ignored.

 “No further treatment is necessary, just continue to come in for your regular mammograms.”

 “Thanks,” I say. “No, really, thank you.”

So there I stood at the edge of the proverbial cliff and my flight lesson was canceled or at least suspended. I was not forced to leap or fly like those other women. I was given a lesson in grace and gratitude and a tiny little metal BB that will forever reside in my right breast. It’s the tag and release program. Proof positive, at least to any radiologist, that I am tough but benign. Now if only I could get my mouth under control.

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Myers-Briggs or Candy Land ?

“I want winning!” the three-year old seethed as he plucked the dreaded peppermint candy card from the pile.  He was so close to the castle, the finish line, the grand ending where he could declare himself the winner, but instead he boomeranged back to the beginning only to watch others race to the finish.

Candy Land is a game of momentary thrills and devastating setbacks.

It’s a game of chance– pick a card — see what you get

Like life itself, it reveals one’s general resilience and stress tolerance when external circumstances happen.

In plain talk:  You get to see who you are when Sh%$ happens

The game is about trust and tolerance about enjoying the journey and about dealing with the unexpected turn of bad news just when you thought you were at the top of your game.

Everyone covets the ice-cream cone card. It’s the winning lotto ticket catapulting your gingerbread man closest to the castle.

But even a great thing gotten too early can turn bad

In Candyland, getting ahead too early means there is a deck full of other cards itching to yank you back to the start line instead of the finish.

In life, too much too soon can also have the same effect:   Overwhelm, anxiety and depression.

In the words of the world’s earliest  Greek “life coach,” Epictetus

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

Winning or not winning are almost irrelevant

It’s who you are and what you make it mean that dictates your experience.

There are countless stories of lottery winners going bankrupt, losing friends and suffering nervous breakdowns. While even more stories abound about those who endure catastrophic illnesses or events that bring them inner growth , resilience and gratitude.

Can you change who you are when Sh&% happens?

Maybe not initially.

As Wayne Dyer, the self-help guru and author of numerous books on personal transformation once said, “If you squeeze an orange you get orange juice.”

When you are ” squeezed” under pressure you get to see who you are. If you don’t like what you see, you must take conscious steps to change it or it’s likely life will keep presenting you with the same situations to master.

If you find yourself frequently asking “Why does this always happen to me?” You might consider upgrading your question to  ask, “What would it take for me to have a better outcome?”

As for the three-year-old ” sore loser” who bitterly complained about losing at Candyland, it only took  6 months of playing every day to increase his tolerance for losing. He developed resilience, the ability to laugh and enjoy the game even if he didn’t win. He focused on what else was fun about the game and most importantly he reframed what losing meant.  Losing now meant he could experience many different outcomes and still feel whole and intact.

Not so ironically as soon as he started accepting losing, he started winning.

He somehow intuitively gleaned the principle of the “Third Noble Truth” of the Buddha who taught when you let go of craving and attachment, pain will dissolve.

 

Plenty of life circumstances seem to happen beyond our control

But how we respond is ultimately our choice.

This is our Response- Ability

How we respond dictates the outcome of our experience and the lessons learned.

There is no one right way, but if we could for a moment believe that what ever happens( even the most horrific of incidents)  is either for our good or for our growth, we are much closer to finding our resilience and inner peace.

Practicing with small setbacks ( annoying disappointments) builds stamina and resources for coping with bigger challenges. Does it make it any more fun when serious challenges arrive?  Not really, but just like deeply rooted trees survive storms there is often more to be gained in the recovery phase.

Gatorade’s latest ad campaign showcases the setbacks of the world’s most elite athletes asking the question,

“Do you want to know the secret to victory?

“Make Defeat your Fuel.”

 

Make Believe~ Make Belief Affirmation:  Today I’ll ask, ” How can I use this experience for my good or my growth?”

 

 

 

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What’s Better Than Understanding?

We all want to be understood. This is a fundamental principle of our being.

 

To feel that someone truly “gets us, know us, feels what we feel, and can relate to us.”

 

This resonance and simpatico is the strength of relationships.

 

But when it comes to “understanding” problems, discovering our motivations and why the problem is what it is, understanding may just be the very thing blocking progress.

 

Examine the word for a moment Under-Stand

To stand under something is to not see it

To not see it, is to not know it

To not know a way out or around it.

 

To stand under something is to have a weight above you—something impenetrable and too heavy to shake off.

Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

 

So we need a way out. Perhaps OVER standing our problems is a beginning.

 

To overstand means to make yourself bigger than the problem.

 

This shift in perspective can be just the spark to get unstuck.

 

Shifts in perspective can occur through time and points of view and can generate ideas for the present.

 

Simply imagining how you will feel about the problem 5 years from now, 5 months from now, 5 weeks from now etc, loosens up your rigid thinking for fresh problem-solving.

 

Stepping outside your viewpoint to see it through the lens of another person is helpful for innovative thinking or negotiation.

 

Getting bigger than the problem by rephrasing it can be helpful. Our brains love to answer questions, so make sure you ask a quality question. For example, If you are constantly asking, Why do I always pick the wrong person to fall in love with?” You could ask, “What would it take for me to find a healthy loving relationship?

 

You could even ask this question in reverse. For example, What would I look for in a person to make sure it would be the worst possible relationship for me? What would that person have to be, do, or have, that would make me positively miserable? You can unwind the answer to find a new approach.

 

The next time you are in an argument, negotiation or are dealing with a problem practice consciously shifting from the mindset of UNDERSTANDING. Use any of these options.

 

I hear what you’re saying.

 

I get what you’re talking about.

 

I respect that you feel ___________

 

I appreciate that you want______________

 

Get bigger than the problem and be willing to see an outcome you want.

 

 

Make Believe~ Make Belief: I connect to source energy and am bigger than my problems.

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