Monthly Archives: September 2019

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 the procedure if they were a-wastin’ too much time during their 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 at the time 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: , , , , , , , , , | 2 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: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Day 2490: People have the power

People have the power to

  • create,
  • destroy,
  • connect,
  • disconnect,
  • change,
  • love,
  • hurt, and
  • affect each other in many different ways.

My powerful reader, Maureen, had the power to inspire today’s blog post by sharing this video in her comment about yesterday’s post:

People have the power to join together beautifully.

Do people have the power in any of my photos from yesterday?

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You have the power to say whatever you like in a comment.

I have the power to end these posts as I choose — with gratitude and with hope that we’ll all be back here, tomorrow.

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Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Day 2489: Good as hell

I’m feeling  good as hell today, because I’m facing a day that is full as hell of

  • group therapy,
  • individual therapy,
  • people I love, and
  • the first event of my 45th college reunion.

Yesterday, in a therapy group that was good as hell, our new good-as-hell social work intern revealed that she loves the music of Lizzo.

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I see that Lizzo is in the new movie Hustlers, which is  popular as hell.

Here‘s “Good as Hell” by Lizzo:

I love this good-as-hell comment about that video:

Chazz
1 week ago
I gotta start loving myself, I don’t wanna let Lizzo down

 
We gotta start loving ourselves; we don’t wanna let Lizzo down.

Here are other good-as-hell photos from yesterday:

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Oscar was good as hell last night at the Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy board meeting.

Here are some good-as-hell revelations I’ve had this week:

  1. When you’re good as hell, some people (who probably feel bad as hell about themselves) might resent you for that, and
  2. You can reduce the power of people who make you feel bad as hell by imagining them as small and far-away-as-hell from you.

I’m looking forward to some good as hell comments and here’s some good as hell gratitude from me to YOU!

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

Day 2488: Being here, being there

“Being here, being there” is something I wrote on the white-board wall while human beings were being here and there during a Coping and Healing group yesterday.

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Being human beings, their thoughts went here and there to regrets, the past, the present, the future, work, other people’s reactions, progress, tears, fears, emotions, death, showing up, reservations, reasons, sleeping, bravery, speaking, not speaking, triggers, early, late, and choices, among other here-and-there meanderings.

Being that triggers were affecting all the human beings in the room, “triggers” ended up being the topic of choice, including what helps dealing with them:

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Being there, I couldn’t help but notice that “YouTube” made it to the list of what helped those human beings deal with triggers (along with breathing, acceptance, self care, sleep, safe spaces, kindness, music, and other helpful choices).

Being here, I’ll search  for “being here, being there” on YouTube.

Here‘s “I Love Being Here With You” by singer/songwriter Peggy Lee.

I love being here with you, and I loved being there when I took all these other photos:

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Being that you’re here, why not leave a comment?

Whether I’m being here or being there, I’m being thankful for all who help me create these posts and — of course! — for YOU, here and now.

 

Categories: group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Day 2487: The difference between good and great

What’s the difference between good and great? Here’s one difference:

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A great co-worker and mom showed me that great card yesterday.  Another great co-worker and mom showed me more great pages of The Daily Bitch Calendar:

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Last week, when I did my first Coping and Healing group for staff,  I was basically a cucumber with anxiety, but the group was still good.  Today, when I’m doing my fourth group for staff,

  • I’m less anxious and
  • I’m very happy that the feedback about the group has been so great.

The managers at work think the groups are so great that they want me to do more and also train other good therapists to do them.

Great!

Do you see the difference between good and great in my other photos from yesterday?

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Every two weeks, I need to perform an INR test and test my blood because of my heart issues.  The results are always good and usually great!

There are a lot of videos on YouTube titled “The Difference Between Good and Great, including one by The Angry Therapist (which is a great name) and also this one by William King Hollis:

 

Yesterday, on my way home from work, I listened to this great tune by the great Jacob Collier a good many times:

 

How would you define the difference between good and great?

Great thanks to all those who helped me create today’s post and to you — of course! — for being so great.

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

Day 2486: Shocking confession. I’ve made mistakes.

Shocking confession.  I often steal the titles for these posts.

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I’m wondering if this shocks my old friend Lawry, a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property and who used to read this blog every day.  Shocking confession: Lawry and I are both attending our 45th college reunion this weekend.

Shocking confession: I keep rewriting the first paragraph of the five-minute “Ted Talk” I’m giving at the reunion, which includes shocking confessions.

Everyone in our class, I’m sure, remembers where you were on November 22, 1963.  I’m different from you.  I have no memories of that day, because I was having heart surgery to get my first cardiac pacemaker. While the world was being traumatized by the assassination of President Kennedy, my family and I were being traumatized by that unexpected surgery, by hospital rules preventing parents from staying with their children, and by medical staff not knowing how to answer the questions of a frightened 10-year-old girl, like “What’s that coffin on the TV screen?” and “What’s this giant thing sticking out of my body?”

It’s shocking how many mistakes people made back then.  Unless I’m mistaken, giving this speech in front of my classmates will be a reparative experience, even if I make mistakes in my presentation.

Shocking confession. I’ve made mistakes every day of my life.  Let’s see if I’ve made mistakes in my other photos from yesterday.

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Shocking confession.  I like to make up stories based on what I see around me.  What story might you make up using the photos in this post?  Don’t worry about making mistakes.

Shocking confession. One of the people pictured in today’s blog played the role of Ursula in a local production of “The Little Mermaid.”  Can you guess who that was?  Here is a song Ursula sings about mistakes being made:

Shocking confession. We’re all poor unfortunate souls who make mistakes.  Ariel makes the mistake of giving up her voice in the Disney version of “The Little Mermaid,”  but she recovers it in the end.

Shocking confession.  I’d love to see your comments about this post and I’m grateful to all who helped me create it.

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

Day 2485: Easy for people to get in touch

Yesterday, when I was trying to make it easy for me to get in touch with

  • people I love,
  • all my feelings,
  • confidence,
  • hope,
  • needs,
  • support,
  • strength,
  • vulnerability,
  • adventure,
  • being prepared for my speech at my college reunion next week,
  • recovery from an inappropriate encounter, and
  • the present moment,

… it was easy for me to get in touch with these two notifications on my touch screen:

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I don’t know if adding a phone number to Oscar’s Facebook page would make it easy for people to get in touch, since Oscar doesn’t talk on the phone.

It’s easy for people to get in touch with my life because I share so many photos, like these:

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It’s easy for me to get in touch with Oscar, Harley,  and all of my photos, for now.

Thanks to YouTube and Spotify, it’s easy for me to get in touch with music I love.

It’s easy for people to get in touch with the comments about that live performance of “Song for Bilbao” by the Pat Metheny Group, including these:

Noemi Zaffanella
2 years ago (edited)
I heard Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays since I was 6. I remember my mum when she told me that pat’s music is ever green. It’s true, I’m 19 now and I listen pat metheny every day for 13 years.

Steve Tocco
4 years ago
They’re all exceptional artists and I’m convinced Antonio Sanchez is not human.

Steven Reichert
3 years ago
A stage full of geniuses.

Luiz Janela
4 years ago
Heard trumpet sound, came to see if it was Pat soloing, but this time i was wrong. Great Cuong Vu. Beautiful!

geraldotorres35
5 years ago
Lets not forget Mr. Steve Rodby this guy sure keeps a smooth steady pulse love his groove PMG pls get back together …plssss

Joyce Sweeting
4 years ago
Pat becomes one with his guitar …you gotta luv it! 🙂

00xanawolf00
4 years ago
This is the first time I’ve heard this…

My mind is blown.

Fabio Copponi
4 years ago
Bona’s solo is a piece of magic…the calls to old jazz pieces are fantastic

edward shivers
4 years ago
GREATEST LIVE PERFORMANCE OF ALL TIME

Sometimes it’s easy for people to get in touch with appreciation.

Here and now, it’s easy for me to get in touch with my appreciation for the cats, pop-up shopping experiences, the Pat Metheny Group, the beauty surrounding me, and — of course! — YOU.

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

Day 2484: Inappropriate

Almost two years ago (but who’s counting?) I wrote a post titled “Appropriate.” As I often tell  members of my Coping and Healing groups, whenever we name an important topic in the room, the opposite is also implied.   Therefore, anything I write about “Inappropriate” today would also include aspects of “Appropriate.”

I think it’s appropriate that I move on with this blog post.

The inspiration for today’s blog post is somebody saying inappropriate things to me yesterday. By inappropriate, I mean

  • disrespectful,
  • toxic,
  • unprofessional,
  • unpleasant,
  • misdirected,
  • insulting,
  • condescending, and
  • dishonest.

Is it inappropriate to consult an online dictionary to see if that definition includes any of the same words in my list above?

in·ap·pro·pri·ate
/ˌinəˈprōprēət/
adjective
not suitable or proper in the circumstances.
“there are penalties for inappropriate behavior”
synonyms: unsuitable, unfitting, ill-suited, unseemly, unbecoming, unprofessional, unfit, unbefitting, indecorous, improper, lacking in propriety, ungentlemanly, unladylike.

“Unprofessional” makes it to both lists of “inappropriate.”   Almost all of the other “inappropriate” words are appropriate to my experience yesterday (although I wonder about the appropriateness of “ungentlemanly” or “unladylike”).

When somebody is inappropriate, I

  • am shocked,
  • get angry,
  • feel at a loss for the right things to say,
  • try to get away from the person as soon as possible, and
  • enlist appropriate people to help me deal with the situation.

What do you do when somebody is inappropriate?

I’m not sure if any of my photos from yesterday are appropriate to today’s topic.

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Personally, I think love is always appropriate.

Here’s “Inappropriate Behavior” by Lime Cordiale, performed live on the streets of Llanes, Spain.

Is it inappropriate that I also featured an Australian band in yesterday’s post?   Is it inappropriate that I’m guessing how my readers from Australia are going to respond?

Gratitude is never inappropriate, so thanks to all who helped me create today’s “Inappropriate” post and — of course! — to you, my always appropriate readers.

Categories: definition, group therapy, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Day 2483: Crowded

As usual, my mind is crowded with lots of thoughts, including ideas about what to write in today’s blog post.

Last night, I watched part of the debate among the crowded field of Democratic candidates for President of these United States. Did anybody stand out from the crowd, for you?

Yesterday, my day was crowded with three Coping and Healing groups — two for patients and one for staff.

In one of the groups, I handed out the Rumi poem “The Guest House” which mentions “a crowd of sorrows.”

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I love this kind of acceptance of whatever thought or feeling enters our crowded hearts and minds. In other words, nothing we feel or think should be considered trash.

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The white boards in the group rooms were crowded with lots of topics.

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The word “unexpected” stood out from one of those crowded lists.

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It looks like the letter “D” has been crowded off the page in that photo.

Let’s see what other recent photos are on my crowded iPhone:

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Our awareness of our positive qualities are often crowded out by our focus on our negative ones. That’s why we made a list of positive qualities in one of yesterday’s groups.

Here’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House.

 

Hey now, hey now, I’m facing a day crowded with individual therapy appointments and two groups, so this post is over (but not before I share a crowd of thanks).

 

 

 

Categories: group therapy, personal growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

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