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­­­The Terrible, Horrible Thing That Happened After My Book Reading

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

Have you ever lost perspective? Like, blown something out of proportion?

I’ve been known to do this occasionally.

If by occasionally, you mean daily.

Over time, I’ve become more tempered in my reactions, less likely to blow things out of proportion.

Most of the time.

As some of you know, I’ve written a couple of novels. Part of the territory of novel writers is book readings.

Which is why, several years ago, I found myself at a bookstore, reading from my latest novel, Leap.

It was a fun time. Grooviness abounded. Lots of folks came. The One Heart Choir did an audio flash mob at the end of the night.

Not a problem in sight!

That is, until the morning after.

No, I did not wake up with an empty bottle of tequila in my hand and a stranger sleeping next to me. It wasn’t that ­­­kind of morning.

It was much, much worse.

Here’s how it went down:

I woke up all bright and cheery. What a wonderful morning! What a wonderful day!

I meditated and exercised, feeling all peaceful and happy. I showered and adorned my body with clothing, ready to tackle whatever the day had in store.

And then I checked my inbox.

There was nothing unusual there, not at first. There were a bunch of emails about my reading the night before, about how fun it had been.

My wife Melissa had taken a bunch of pictures of the event, and those were in my inbox a well. Pictures of me signing books:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

chilling out at my table:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

and pondering the fate of contemporary literature:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

There were also photos from the reading itself, with me fully representing the Goofball Nation:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

None of these were a problem.

Not even this:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

The problem came when I saw this picture from my friend Georgia Davis:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

Looks benign, yes? What could possibly be wrong with this photo?!

I’ll tell you what. This:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

Whose arm was that?! Certainly not my arm! It looked like the arm of an old lady, and last time I checked, I was not an old lady. Or so I thought. The picture seemed to be proving me wrong.

Yes, I was aware that I was overreacting a teensy, weensy bit. But I couldn’t seem to shake the image from my head.

As the day went on, I kept thinking of The Arm.

Should I start working out more? Should I go to the gym every morning and pump some serious iron? Should I do everything in my power to make my arms look less like Olive Oil and more like Popeye?

What was I supposed to do?

Luckily, my spiritual practice – especially my meditation practice – makes it hard for me to traipse off into dusty corners of my mind for too long.

I caught myself.

My mind was committing a classic faux pas. David Burns, in his work with cognitive therapy, calls it Magnification and Minimization. (You can read my post about his work here.)

In Magnification and Minimization, we take positive things that happen and shrink them to the size of fleas. Negative things, on the other hand, become the size of Death Stars.

That’s what I was doing.

All I could see was The Arm.

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

I was neglecting to notice my snappy eyewear:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

I was neglecting to notice that Copperfield’s Books, a venue that can be difficult to access, had enthusiastically invited me to read at their store:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

And I was neglecting to notice that I had written a novel¸ a novel that got published:

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

And then there were all the people who came out to support me:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

and buy copies of the book:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

and sing a song at the end of the reading:

photo: melissa phillippe

photo: melissa phillippe

Once I got my head on straight and fully let in the awesome-ness of the night, The Arm lost its power.

What had been magnified went back to its proper proportion. And what had been minimized came back into view.

Bottom line, it had been an amazing night. I was aware of the love in and all around me. And what’s more important than that?

photo: georgia davis

photo: georgia davis

When have you lost perspective? And how did you get it back? Share your comments below!

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22 Responses to ­­­The Terrible, Horrible Thing That Happened After My Book Reading

  1. Connie July 23, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    If you think THE ARM gave you thoughts of “pumping iron” How do you think the little old lady sitting in the front row feels. Must get my hands on David Burns book or get to the gym…Love your blogs

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 9:47 am #

      Hi Connie,

      David Burns is great! You could take David Burns to the gym and you’d be all set!

      Thank you for coming to the reading – it was great to have you there. :)

      XOZ

  2. Georgia Davis July 23, 2013 at 8:16 am #

    Oh how I love you Z-Bert. You are a being that subtly, but deeply impacts me so wonderfully. Apparently, I get to return the favor. When I was almost 40 I noticed, some old lady had swapped out my arms. It was almost overnight that I had developed the grandma flapping, nonexistent triceps of an 80 year old Yaya.
    Thank God for my 13 years as a massage therapist. I wish I had counted how many bodies I’ve touched, how much I have been honored to experience the spectrum of the human form. As a child I was scarred and injured in a bad car accident, I learned early to be defensive when people starred and protect myself.
    Years later, when I was in massage school, I was practicing with a woman I saw as very beautiful, she felt self conscious of an surgery scar on her stomach. I
    told her. “Your body tells the story of your life, it is the only thing you will take through your entire life.” Those words have stuck with me. I feel blessed that everyday I get to know the perfection of each body I get to care for, and that includes mine.

    Whenever I feel self concious of my Yaya arms, I think…I bet no one else even notices, and if they do, that’s their stuff. So I’ll hold love for those sweet Z arms that move around when you rap, that move the hands that so magically express your thoughts through words and that illustrate your passion for life.

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 9:52 am #

      Hi Georgia,

      Thank you for sharing this perspective. Awesome! I love what you told the woman who was self-conscious about her stomach. So true.

      I also think you’re right about no one else noticing. We’re all too absorbed with worrying about our own supposed “flaws.” (And BTW, I never noticed the Yaya arms. So there!)

      XOZ

  3. Karen July 23, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    Hahaha — I’ve had similar experiences with The Leg, The Neck, The Nose, and The Hand. For sure, The Hand.

    Thanks for sharing. You made my day.

    I usually just let the negative momentum somewhat run its course over things like that, for I seem to prolong it if I try too hard to turn it around. Mainly, I try to focus elsewhere, on something that feels good and distracts me, until The Hand leaves me the heck alone by going back to the 80-year-old woman to whom it belongs. :)

    Congrats on your novel accomplishment!!!

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 9:56 am #

      Hi Karen!

      Oooooh – The Hand! Sounds scary! 😉

      I agree with you that letting these things run their course always works. The junk gets cleared out and the Truth can come forth. Always a relief!

      XOZ

  4. michael frank July 23, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    I don’t know exactly when I lost the “perspective”
    when I got it all back was after Sunday evening’s service listening to Melissa and then participating in “I AM”….I must have repeated this 20 times since. This morning my little 8 lb miracle, Clarabell-Bella, my angel chiuahua, nestled on her back next to my cheek. I turned too her, placed my hands on her little paws and did the thing with her, “I am”……all I received backed were 10 minutes of kisses and love…………..Nothing more to say Z xoxoxox

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 9:57 am #

      Hi Michael,

      It was fun to have you there! And I love that you did the “I am” with Clarabell-Bella. That is awesome!! Now she can teach it to all her doggie friends!

      Thank you for spreading the love. :)

      XOZ

  5. Kayla July 23, 2013 at 10:00 am #

    Once again, Z, you posted EXACTLY what I needed to read. Mine is magnifying certain things my boyfriend says into growls that mean PORTENDING DOOM and minimizing the sweet things into gnat-sized buzzing. Hmmmmmm. Now I have a term (magnification-minimization) for it and know that I’m not alone in doing this. What comfort! What relief! By the way, love the above post of the little chihuahua doing “i AM”. Great image!

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      Hi Kayla!

      Always great to see you here. That maximizing and minimizing is pesky stuff, isn’t it?! It’s amazing what the mind can do – and not always in a good way! You are definitely not alone in this. Having a term for it has really helped me too! :)

      XOZ

  6. Rafe July 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm #

    Oh I can so relate my friend. As I was recently sharing with someone who inquired about how my new knees were doing… “The knees are GREAT – it’s everything attached to them that’s still 53 that remind me how old I am. In reality, my body does a magnificent job supporting my crazy schedule and activities. It really is about where we focus. Love ya Z.

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      Hi Rafe,

      So true – focus is everything! Melissa and I recently started doing a practice of no complaining, and, well, it’s a continual reminder to watch that focus. Thinking before I speak seems to be the key – except sometimes I forget to think. (I’m sure you can’t relate to this.)

      I’m grateful that your knees are doing great – and the rest of you too!

      XOZ

  7. David Hartranft July 23, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Oh, Z, thank you for sharing your human-ness! This is one of the qualities that is making you an awesome minister. Perhaps it was reading aloud those passages full of adolescent angst that triggered those old insecurities? Being able to laugh at our own silliness is such a gift!

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 10:04 am #

      Hi David,

      I never thought of that – the old adolescent angst got me again! At least I could let it go a lot quicker than I did back then. Perspective is everything. Thanks for being there to help make it such a fabulous night!

      XOZ

  8. Barbara July 23, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Oh how sorry I am to have missed the book signing….actually I think I really missed you sharing with everyone. From the pictures it was a beautiful celebration of you and your gifts and talents which I always appreciate. I really relate to “the arms”!!! Have been doing it for a long time…but what changes my perspective is my gratitude for what they do for me every day. I always love your vulnerability and ability to bring such a variety of the realities of life to the table so that we can both laugh and walk away a little lighter. xoxo

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 10:05 am #

      Hi Barbara,

      It was a beautiful celebration – really fun. I would have been fun to have you there too!

      I like what you said about bringing gratitude to our bodies for what they do for us every day – thanks to The Arm, I am able to type this right now! So thank you for that reminder. :)

      XOZ

  9. Jane Beach July 24, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    I love you so much, Z! You are refreshingly beautiful.

    Oh my goodness, we all have the arm. We’ve all noticed it in photos and probably all had the same reaction. It’s interesting what happens to the human body as it moves through its lifetime. You’ll get used to it as you realize that what you do with your life is so much more important than what your body does with it. Of course, you already realized it here, and then you had the delightful courage to share it with us here. Thank you1

    I really do love you!

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      Hi Jane,

      Yes, photos really seem to bring out the self scrutiny. Perhaps it would be better if photography was never invented! But then we would find another way. Remembering to bring love and perspective to myself is the only way to get through. And, of course, friends help with that too. Thank you for being one of those friends! :)

      XOZ

  10. Lili July 24, 2013 at 6:57 am #

    Z!!! First of all, the reading was amazing and delightful, same as yourself. Secondly, and this might give you a laugh – I TOTALLY SEE THE MUSCULATURE IN YOUR (AND MY) ARMS FROM A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE!!! I am SO PROUD of the definition in them. Every time I see a picture of myself with the intricacies of tendon/musculature revealed I am like, LOOK AT THIS AWESOME CHICK. I kid you not. So reading this was really healing for me. Why? Because I have OTHER body-areas that I feel less happy about. I realized how subjective all my body-worries are and that I am the only one who sees myself in such extreme micro-judgment. Everyone else sees me for the whole of myself – as I do you. Thank you so much!!! XOLili p.s. your arms are awesome!

    • Z Egloff July 25, 2013 at 10:14 am #

      Hi Lili,

      I like this term – micro-judgment. That’s really what happens. And thank you for seeing my – and your – arms as awesome!

      For the record, when Melissa saw the picture (she’s my editor, so she sees every blog post first), she didn’t even know what was “wrong” with The Arm. But I realize that everyone has some area of their body that they’re making “not okay.” Pulling back and seeing the whole of ourselves, like you say, makes such a huge difference.! :)

      XOZ

  11. Wy July 29, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    Hey that’s me in the picture! No, I don’t think I’m U. You’re Z, not Y! I’m in another picture down farther with Dave! Couldn’t resist.

    I do that all the time. Used to be I focused on how fat I looked. Fortunately, I too can shake it off and not hang onto it forever like I used to. What a gift. I love this new way of thinking. Love ya!

    Wy.

    • Z Egloff August 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      Hi Wy!

      You are U and I am me and we are Y and Z. It’s a wonderful alphabetical mix!

      Thanks for coming to Copperfields and being part of the fun!

      XOZ

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