Monthly Archives: September 2019

Day 2500: What are the words that you live by?

Yesterday, at a Boston performance of the wonderful musical Choir Boy, I saw this:

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Audience members (including me) responded to that invitation to share the words that we live by, by posting  sticky notes:

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Can you spot the words I live by among all those words?

 

Do you see any words to live by in my other photos from yesterday?

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What are the words that YOU live by?

 

Here  is a Rosh Hashana song ….

… and here’s “Rockin’ Jerusalem” from  Choir Boys.

 

Two of the words I live by, every day, are “Thank You,.” Thank you for helping me create two thousand and five hundred daily blog posts with (I hope) some words to live by.

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Categories: blogging, personal growth, photojournalism, theater | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Day 2499: Every day is a miracle

“Every Day is a Miracle” is a song from the miraculous David Byrne‘s American Utopia. 

It was a miracle that Michael and I got

  • tickets for the last pre-Broadway performance of American Utopia,
  • a reasonable parking space in Boston,
  • sushi at our favorite sushi restaurant,
  • time at a Halloween pop-up store near the theater, and
  • the chance to witness and enjoy an incredible show with amazing musicians in a miraculous theater.

Every day that I took each of these previously unshared photos was a miracle.

 

 

Every one of those photos is a miracle.

Every moment of American Utopia was a miracle, including “Every Day is a Miracle.”  Here‘s a miraculously clear recording of a 2018 performance of that song in Houston.

 

Every comment you leave is a miracle, for me.

Thanks to all who make my every day a miracle, including YOU.

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Categories: gratitude, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Day 2498: On the verge of tears

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a blog post with almost exactly the same title as today’s. 

I wonder if I’m on the verge of tears, here and now, because

  • summer is gone,
  • I’ve lost three close and beloved friends in the last fifteen months (including two within the last four weeks),
  • I’ve been sharing important thoughts and feelings (including tears) with new people (like classmates at my 45th college reunion exactly a week ago),
  • I’m more than half-way through my Presidency of the Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy,
  • I’ve been providing my Coping and Healing groups for more and more people,
  • everywhere I look I see emotional pain and physical pain in others,
  • even though I invite people to throw away harsh self judgment and other old habits that do not serve them well, that’s much easier said than done,
  • global warming and the world’s political situations scare me to the depths of my soul,
  • I wonder about the future for my son, and
  • I’m so friggin’ grateful to be alive.

I’m on the verge of revealing all my recent photos.

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Yesterday, Oscar was on the verge of having an infected paw because of ingrown nails.  Now he’s on the verge of being back to his usual self.

I’m on the verge of revealing some news about me and my boyfriend, Michael. Can you guess what that news is?

Here‘s “On the Verge of Tears” sung by Patty Loveless:

What puts you on the verge of tears?

I’m always on the verge of expressing my gratitude for all who help me create these blog posts, including YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Day 2497: Who’s crazy?

As a pysychotherapist, I’m supposed to be an expert on crazy.  There are times when my patients seem a lot less crazy to me than other people I’m seeing around me.   Now is one of those times.

Who’s crazy in my photos from yesterday?

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Here‘s Patsy Cline singing “Crazy.”

My boyfriend Michael tells me that the original title of that song was “Stupid.” Is he crazy?  He’s been singing that other version like crazy, lately.

Whether things are stupid or crazy right now, I’m still grateful for everybody who helped me create today’s blog post, including YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 2496: I helped myself feel safer

Yesterday, when I was helping people feel safer in a Coping and Healing group, I wrote and shared this:

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I helped myself feel safer yesterday by changing how I visualize a judgmental and critical person. I used to call them my personal dragon.  Which is scary!  I imagined them as a little yappy dog.  And that helped!

I helped myself feel safer, after the group, by walking around Boston during a beeoootiful day and then going to see a play with my friend and real estate agent, Jane (not pictured, because my phone was running out of juice and I wanted to conserve some power so I could feel safer when I walked back to my car). Do any of my photos from yesterday help you feel safer?

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Knowing that this is “Thinking of You Week” helps me feel safer, as does Boston’s Christian Science Center, book stores, cakes,  animals, friends, and people trying to solve world problems.

I helped myself feel safer yesterday while I was waiting for Jane at a restaurant by starting a new original song, called “Who Cares?”

Who Cares?

by Ann Koplow

Who cares?

Who dares to?

Who cares what scares you?

Who cares and shares with you?

Who cares in that rare way

from Sunday to Saturday.

Who cares, aware and true?

Do you have that someone

Who never says, “I’m done,”

Who won’t run

Even when it’s not fun.

© Ann Koplow, 2019

I’m hoping to help myself feel safer this weekend by working on that tune and three others I’ve started but haven’t finished.

Dr. Peter Levine, whose books have helped me feel safer, offers two ways to help people feel safer:

 

Expressing gratitude helps me feel safer, so thanks to all who helped me create today’s post and — of course! — to YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, original song, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 2495: Above all

Above all my other photos from yesterday, this one stood out to me:

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Above all, we need to respect each other.

Above all, a good enough sense of safety allows us to trust other people and ourselves.

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Above all of us is the sky.

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Above all, I need to get to work on time today so I can do individual and group therapy for my patients, so here are all my other photos from yesterday:

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Above all , which is your favorite photo from that batch?

Above all, I’m focusing on this one …

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… because I used that image yesterday to reduce the power of a critical person, whom I used to call a “dragon.”  I figured if I could imagine them as a little yappy dog (instead of a dragon who can wreak lots of destruction and fiery havoc),  they would have less power over me. Above all, this technique worked!

Above all, what music should I choose for today’s post?

Above all, I assume my readers might choose Imagine by John Lennon.

 

Above all, I can’t resist also sharing this:

Above all, if you don’t like that, you can always turn it off.

Above all, please accept my gratitude, here and now.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Day 2494: Sometimes life sucks

Sometimes life sucks, like when you lose an old friend to a terrible brain cancer that has killed another friend of yours.

Sometimes you see a card that perfectly captures your experience.

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Sometimes you listen to the same damn song over and over again to comfort yourself, like when you’re driving to say goodbye to an old friend.

 

Hajanga

by Jacob Collier

Everybody, near and far
Come together as you are
To the ocean, to the sky
Sing that cosmic lullaby
Sing the hajanga

Sing your pleasure sing your pain
Like you’ll never sing again
Let it echo, loud and clear
Across the ancient stratosphere
Even when the sun refuse to shine
There’s a song of love that never dies

Even when the good days pass you by
Lift your voices to the sky singin’
La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…

As the words go round and round
Let the tears roll down and down
Sing the way you wish to be
Let that singing set you free

Even when those dark clouds bring you down
There’s a spark of joy that can be found
Even when things break and fall apart
Lift your hands up from your heart, singing
La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la…

Said every morning
Every night
Through the darkness
To the light
Like a beacon
Shining bright
Sing the hajanga you’ll be alright

From the winter
Comes the spring
It don’t matter
What life will bring
You can do most anything
So give your hajanga
A song to sing

So tell your mama
Tell your pa
Sing it near and sing it far
Be exactly the way you are
See the hajanga
It’s your guiding star

To every woman
To every man
In every nation
In every land
I said please you’ve gotta understand
Now sing the hajanga
And take my hand, sing it!

Then one day your life is through
Nothing more that you can do
So give away the things you know
And tell your friends you love them so
Tell them hajanga

I let the tears roll down and down, yesterday, as I told Tony‘s friends and family that I loved him so.

Sometimes life sucks and we CAN do a damn thing about it, like telling people we love them so.

Here are all my other damn photos from yesterday:

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Sometimes life sucks and we can feel and express gratitude for what we still have, like this blog and YOU.

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Categories: in memoriam, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Day 2493: Temporary

Yesterday morning, before I drove to the farewell event of my 45th college reunion, I took a photo of this temporary parking permit in my car.

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I have a temporary smile, here and now, thinking that The President and Fellows of Harvard College assumed no responsibility for damages to my little yellow car.

I took a photo of that temporary parking permit because of my “deep sense of mortality” (described in my speech at my reunion the day before), which makes me realize that everything is temporary.

On my way to the reunion brunch, I noticed a temporary phenomenon that I had never seen before, so I temporarily parked my car so I could capture it on my phone.

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I loved that temporary gathering of more snowy egrets than I had ever seen together before.

Then, I got back in my car, which I had temporarily parked at the Kennedy Center.

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I wonder if you had a temporary assumption about what Kennedy Center that was.

Then, my classmates and I met for some temporary conversation at a beautiful home in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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I spent most of that temporary time there hanging out with people I love, because there’s no telling when we’ll see each other again.

On my ride home, I received news that another beloved friend of mine had died in the month of September. I wrote about my dear and long-time friend  Tony in this post from May, 2016 — Day 1219: Tone.

As I said in my temporary speech at my college reunion, “Life is too precious to spend on things I don’t love.”  I’m glad that when I heard that Tony had the same cancer that killed Senator John McCain and my friend Michelle last year,  I bought one of his books and sent him a card telling him I was reading it and how much I loved him.

Last night, when Michael and I were doing our temporary Sunday shopping routine at our local supermarket, I deliberately took photos of sympathy cards to comfort myself.

I now get comfort from sharing all these contemporary photos with you:

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Even though life on this earth is temporary, certain things linger, like the distinct laughs of my late friends Hillel and Tony, who both passed away this September. I can easily imagine both of their wonderful laughs, here and now.

In honor of Tony, who played guitar and loved music, I’m posting a tune I associate with him:

 

I’m hoping I can get temporary coverage today at work so I can attend one of the memorial events for my late, great friend Tony today.

Thanks to all those who helped me temporarily forget my grief by creating this post and — of course! — thanks to you.

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Categories: in memoriam, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Day 2492: Time’s a-wastin’

“Time’s a-wastin'” is a phrase I used during my “Ted Talk” at my 45th college reunion yesterday.

Before I gave my talk, all the speakers at the event received an email explaining what would happen if we were a-wastin’ too much time during our 5-minute talks.

To help you keep track of the time, we will be holding up a sign for: FIVE minutes. Then SIX minutes. Then a buzzer at 7 mins.

I wrote to the organizers:

You can count on me to do what’s right.  Since I’ve got my speech pretty much memorized, please don’t rattle me with fingers or timers.

I also wrote this:

Mine is between 5 and 6 minutes. Okay?????

I was sure I wouldn’t be a-wastin’ people’s time by going over the limit because I had timed myself several times.

Because several people (including somebody with the same rare heart condition as mine) had asked me to record my speech, I left my phone running under my chair when I spoke, despite the no-taping request at the event.  I also recorded the speech for all of you, because  this blog was part of my “big finish” (as I’ve been spending much time discussing here, in previous posts).

Then I gave my speech, totally from memory.

When I checked the tape, I realized that I had slowly taken my time and taken up 10 minutes and 47 seconds!  So much for expectations.  I also realized that the organizers had respected my request and not held up signs or interrupted me with buzzers. If they had, it would have  upset me so much, I know, that all my preparation would have been wasted.

Because I always try to keep my promises, I wasted some time feeling bad about going SO MUCH over the limit.  I apologized to one of the organizers, and she said, “No worries.” (She said more, but I won’t be a-wastin’ your time with that.)

Without any further time-wastin’ ado, here is the “bootleg” of my speech yesterday:

 

 

In case any of that is difficult for you to hear, here’s the “5-minute” speech I had written:

I want to start out with a question to you. Raise your hand if you remember where you were on November 22, 1963. I’m different from all of you. I have no memory of that day because I was having heart surgery to get my first cardiac pacemaker. While you were being traumatized by the assassination of President Kennedy, my family and I were being traumatized by my unexpected surgery, by hospital rules preventing parents from staying with their kids, and by medical staff not knowing how to answer the questions of a confused and frightened l0-year-old girl like  “What is that coffin on the TV screen?” and “What is this giant thing sticking out of my body?”

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I’ll tell you how I got there. I was born with the rarest of congenital heart conditions. My heart is essentially backwards, with the ventricles, great vessels, and valves switched and doing jobs they weren’t designed to do. Plus, the electrical impulses that control a heart’s rhythm are completely blocked in mine, which means I need a pacemaker to survive. However, pacemakers hadn’t been invented yet.

Luckily, I did well enough until I was 9, when my heart rate got slower and slower. You can see it in photographs from that time: I look like a ghost child in a family of mortals. The doctors tried speeding up my heart with yucky medicine that made me sick. Pacemakers were too new, too untested, and way too big for children to be even mentioned as an option.

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Which brings us to November 1963. I was in the hospital for observation when my heart stopped and then started up again. That changed everything. The doctors told my parents they’d have to put in a pacemaker immediately, which would “stick out like a sore thumb.” When my mother expressed doubts about this new plan, the surgeon asked, “Do you want to lose your daughter?”

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They didn’t lose me, but I had to struggle not to lose myself, as the pacemakers kept breaking down in every conceivable way. Once, when we were back in the hospital because my pacemaker had failed just two weeks after the latest operation, the surgeon called another one of my doctors on the phone and said, “The Koplows are here with their lawyer” — as a joke. My father and I used our senses of humor to mix things up — that December I went into the operating room wearing a sign that said, “Do not open until Christmas.”

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Despite my many absences from school, I excelled academically, ran for class office,  read voraciously,  and appreciated the few benefits of being so different from my classmates, like getting out of gym class, which all my friends hated.  I read a book about Helen Keller who had also overcome physical differences with a palpable appreciation for being alive. Right then, I decided I wanted to go to Radcliffe, just like her.

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When I was at Harvard, pacemakers had improved enough that I needed far fewer visits to the hospital. And just as I had avoided gym class , I managed to graduate without passing the swimming test. That’s another way I’m different from you.

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Before, during, and after Harvard, I’ve lived my life with a deep sense of my own mortality — there’s no telling how long my very unusual heart will last. This makes me pretty impatient —time’s a-wastin’ and too precious to spend on small talk or on anything I don’t love. That’s why I changed careers until I found my soul’s best work as a wounded healer. I’m a group therapist who specializes in trauma.

And while I got enough personal training in trauma when I was young, I’ve had major heart-related crises in the latter part of my life. My poor, overworked tricuspid valve leaked badly, causing several bouts of endocarditis and also weakening my heart. Some doctors said I needed that leaky valve replaced, another doctor said that valve replacement would change the pressure in my heart to a catastrophic effect. Nobody seemed to know, because of the rarity of my condition.

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In May, 2016, I met with the experts on hearts like mine at the Mayo Clinic. They said, “You must have that valve replaced immediately.“ Because my only child — a son with a fabulously normal heart — was about to enter his first year at the University of Edinburgh and we had plans to spend August together in Scotland, I asked for an extension. Well, I made it to Scotland, made it through my son leaving the nest, and made it through open heart surgery to get a new mechanical valve, exactly three years ago today.

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So as I tell my story to you today, I wonder, perhaps along with you, what has allowed me to survive, so intact, through all this? What has helped me pick up the pieces, over and over again? As when I was a child — the love of my family and friends sustain me. Also, seven years ago I expanded my network of friends by starting a daily blog. Every morning, including today, I’ve written about my heart, my son, my passion for the healing power of groups, my song-writing, my cats, my hopes, my fears, this speech — whatever helps gird me and prepare me for the day ahead. The day after my heart valve surgery was the only day I needed a substitute blogger — my boyfriend Michael let my thousands of followers know I had survived the complicated procedure. Their comments included “Fantastic news! I’m in public but I’m dancing all the same,” and “She’s going to be alright guys’ is the best line ever!”

As a group therapist, I know that community is essential for survival. Perhaps because of all the traumas I’ve been through, I need a bigger group than most to keep me going. Thanks for being part of my group, here and now.

After I gave my speech, many people told me that they

  • were inspired,
  • thought I was very brave,
  • had an amazingly polished and effective delivery,
  • never knew any of this about me, even though we were good friends in college, and
  • were struggling with heart issues.

I guess people didn’t believe that I had been a-wastin’ time with my speech.

Let’s see if I was a-wastin’ time yesterday with the photos I took during the day:

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If you leave any comments, that will be time well spent for me.

Time’s a-wastin’, so I will express my gratitude to all those who help me make it through every day, including YOU.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Day 2491: What helps?

What helps you?

What helps me is blogging every morning.  What helps me is sharing my experience.

Today, I’ll be sharing my experience at my college reunion in a five-minute speech about living with my very unusual heart. It’ll help if I can record it, so I’ll do my best. If I can’t record it, I’ll help you experience the speech by sharing the full text here, tomorrow.

Yesterday, it helped for me to facilitate a Coping and Healing group at work and then to spend the day at my reunion with my long-time friend Lawry.

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It helps to have friends. Here’s part of today’s speech:

So as I tell my story to you today, I wonder, perhaps along with you, what has allowed me to survive, so intact, through all this? What has helped me pick up the pieces, over and over again? As when I was a child — the love of my family and friends sustain me. Also, seven years ago I expanded my network of friends by starting a daily blog. Every morning, including today, I’ve written about my heart, my son, my passion for the healing power of groups, my song-writing, my cats, my hopes, my fears, this speech — whatever helps gird me and prepare me for the day ahead. The day after my heart valve surgery was the only day I needed a substitute blogger — my boyfriend Michael let my thousands of followers know I had survived the complicated procedure. Their comments included “Fantastic news! I’m in public but I’m dancing all the same,” and “’She’s going to be alright guys’ is the best line ever!”

In other words, I get by with a little help from my friends, including YOU!

 

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Categories: blogging, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

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