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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Courage

There are perks to this job.

No, not to being a therapist. No perks there, in fact, many disincentives. For example I'd be sitting at an affair, maybe a dinner or a birthday party, and someone would ask

Do you work outside the home?

I'd say

Why yes, I sell flowers. I have a little shop in Glendale (a nonexistent 'burb in Chicago.)

I used to do that because after I'd tell people I was a therapist it was all about me. What kind of therapist are you? What kind of patients do you see? What kind of problems do you see the most? And oh, by the way, can I ask you a question about . . .

It's like my brother, the dermatologist. He can't sit down in a restaurant without someone stopping by the table and lifting up his shirt to show him a dot. What do ya' think it is, doc?

Still, although the perks of being a therapy doc at a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah are few and far between, being a therapy doc blogger is awesome.

You get free books. Who knew?

Email:
Hi,

My name is A. and I work for Sourcebooks, Inc, the publisher of the book Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success by John A. Sarkett. I was hoping you would be willing to review this book for your blog.
The publicist goes on with a list of reviews and explains that there is no obligation to blog about the book if I read it. She continues:
AND, it's always nice to get free stuff.
Maybe she knows about the cool pens the drug companies give F.D.
Other docs get trips to Bermuda. He gets pens.
Oh, and I need more stuff.

Sure, I'll do it.

The book came in the mail the following Friday and I tossed it onto a pile of stuff I read. It's a big pile. I'm always embarrassed when I add to it. What if someone walks into my bedroom and sees this pile of stuff on the floor? Newspapers, journals, books, magazines. A complete disarray. What will they think? What a slob.

Anyway, there's a half inch banner across the cover of the book. It's not the best cover, honest, I wish they'd have hired my kid to do the art work, but okay. The banner says,
ADVANCE READING COPY. NOT FOR SALE.
Now that impressed me. I don't know why. Maybe I felt like I was in a special club. At some point I picked up the book and read John Sarkett's introduction, which was a little wordy and corny. I tossed the book back to the pile.

But I felt GUILTY. I'd said I'd take a look. They spent money on the postage. Reading the introduction wasn't much of a look.

So I did the chesbon (Hebrew word, sounds like hesh-bone, means accounting) and said to myself, There are 201 2-3 page stories about famous people in this book. Maybe I'll learn something cool, something I can tell over at a wedding or a bar mitzvah.

And I DID learn cool things.

Like, did you know that the Julie Andrews had a throat surgery and it went so badly that she doesn't sing anymore?

But she went on to make the Princess Diary movies and who doesn't love the Princess Diary movies?!

Or did you know that Pablo Picasso was depressed over his friend Carles Casagemes' suicide and THAT'S why he was blue during his blue period? This is why, peops, I keep telling you to use your emotion as an advantage, not a liability. Being sad can inspire creativity. Look at Picasso.

Or did you know that Michael Jordan didn't make the cut for his high school basketball team?

Or that Ray Kroc started out selling paper cups and moonlighted as a jazz pianist? (F.D., there's hope for you, honey).

Or that CBS originally said NO to Lucille Ball's idea of a sitcom called I Love Lucy?

Or that Stephen King nearly died in an auto accident and thought he'd never write again?

Wow, 201 stories like this. I started reading algorithmically in my obsessive-compulsive way, before I realized I could skip to the very end if I wanted to and STILL write this review! And no one would know!

Okay, truth be told. The book is a great social lubricant. I brought it to the dining room table and read a few stories to F.D. last Saturday. We were entertained, enjoyed the stories quite a bit. But then, we're easy on a Saturday afternoon. An article in Commentary or National Geographic would make us laugh.

The publicist wrote that I might want to recommend Extraordinary Comebacks because it's inspiring.
You know how hard it is for people to see the light at the end of the tunnel, she wrote.
But this book won't necessarily help anyone see their light at the end of the tunnel. I think it could even have that paradoxical effect of making depressed people even more depressed.

Why was HE able to be so successful and I'm such a sjhlub? (sjhlub is untranslatable; a close translation would be slob).

Inspiring stories, tributes to the human spirit, Extraordinary Comebacks is chock full of them. And for that, perhaps worth the price.

But this is what we in the therapy doc business call anecdotal data. That means for every 201 extraordinary comeback stories, there are a few million less extraordinary comebacks and many stories about people who are not coming back at all. Those quiet lives of desperation.

Most of us are not going to be like these 201 exceptionally talented people who rose up against mental and physical disability, financial loss, and Himalayan darkness.

Our saving grace is just being thankful, thankful that we're able to open one eye then the other in the morning and say, I'm BACK. Another day. Another chance.

Or simply, UGH. Still a comeback of sorts.

Now that may seem depressing. But you should know. When a therapy doc taps into your particular hidden talents, the ones you've shared with a person like me? When you and I talk in secret and the real you comes out, and I suggest that perhaps you really can beat those odds; I mean, who knows, I'll ask, who really knows what those odds are, whether or not, if you try, you might rise above the grain.

When we talk about you quitting that job, or investing LESS emotional/ physical energy/time in the job that's making you sicker day by day, and you consider working harder at your other strong suits, well,

Well, you usually laugh.
Oh, I could never do THAT, you tell me.

Write the book, I say. Start a band and play the gig. Borrow money, start a business. Adopt a child. Get vocational counseling. Charge more for what you're doing. Go back to college. Paint. Travel. Consult. Sell your work.

You shrug and tell me you could never do that, you're too old. Or you're too tired.

But I have to tell you. When we do hit on that talent, that latent aspiration? Even though you poo poo me and say you could never do it, even though you dismiss it all as pie in the sky and maybe, indeed, that is all it is,

You really do look up for a minute.

You get that glint in the eye, that tiny glimmer of, Well, it's true, I am a good. . .

You KNOW you've got it. I mean, maybe, just maybe, we're not all that different than the 201 people in John Sarkett's book. Maybe with just a little bit of luck. . .

That's why, I for one, LIKE anecdotal data.

Copyright, 2007, therapydoc

16 comments:

chana said...

My therapist has shown me some of the pens the drug companies give out. They're pretty snazzy, LOL.

Curiosity.Killer said...

Great post, Doc. And as for Picasso's Blue period...

Good to know. Good to know.

therapydoc said...

Once I got angry at someone. Wrote a whole novel. True story.

Scott said...

This is a beautiful article. I have an anecdote of my own to share.

I had a music teacher who believes that everyone has a song within them, and his job as a music teach is to find that song and help it emerge.

His classes were simple. He either played music and the class discussed it, or he taught us how to play instruments, and some days we just jammed.

The only rule in class was that talking wasn't allowed. If you had a question, you had to sing it. It was hard at first, but it was an easy habit to get into, especially in the climate of joy that he created in his classroom. Even today, 30 years later, I still find myself singing questions to people when I am happy.

Whenever I talk to my old kindergarten classmates, they all remember our music teacher as their favourite. Some of them have even found their songs.

That is beauty. One man has taught generations of children to find the light within themselves. And for myself, even during the darkest days of my depression, I looked back on my music classes and it made me feel a little better to know that at least one person on this world cared enough about me to help me find my song.

You're right, You really do look up for a minute.

Mark said...

Glad you took the time to read the book. Sounds like some great stories.
I agree, if a person can work past the fear of failure and have the courage to pursue their talents, amazing things can come to pass.

therapydoc said...

Mark, I think that's the word, courage. And what I would add to that is that social support ENcourages, so having a friend or two, maybe even a pet, helps. And even less than amazing will do.

therapydoc said...

SCOTT- Were you ever lucky to have that teacher, and in Kindergarten no less when a kid really does learn everything that's important. We should all sing a lot more, I'm convinced by your post. Thanks so much for sharing it.

Ange Anderson said...

this was a great post!

Jack's Shack said...

Life is about taking risks.

therapydoc said...

That's for sure, Jack.

Pamm said...

I like anecdotal date more than anything exactly for the reasons you suggest..that if it is POSSIBLE in one place, it can be possible in another. I like the possibles!

Pamm said...

I like anecdotal date more than anything exactly for the reasons you suggest..that if it is POSSIBLE in one place, it can be possible in another. I like the possibles!

therapydoc said...

It's true!

DigitalRich said...

Thanks for participating in the 10th edition of the Carnival of the Storytellers. The edition is up and running at:

http://digitalrich.blogspot.com/2007/05/carnival-of-storytellers-10th-edition.html

DigitalRich

Franc said...

I read this book a few weeks ago, got it from Amazon. My favorite thing about the collection is that it reminds you that everybody falls, but it is getting back up that counts. It seems like the greater the setback, the greater the comeback. The human spirit is among the most powerful and resilient forces on the planet!

Ben said...

Just wanted to say that you have a real talent for writing. There's so much crap out there in the blog world, it's nice to see someone with some real talent putting effort into their words.