The Rest of the Story: Part 2
Today’s blog continues where we left off in The Rest of the Story: Part 1. You’ll get more out of the story if you read Part 1 first.
I began the presentation, and had only been going a few minutes when I noticed someone in the corner of my eye enter the room. There were no seats left and he edged along the wall to my left and sat down on the floor. When I realized that the person sitting on the floor was Jeff Tirengel, I was almost overcome emotionally, and even physically. Jeff and I had met 10 years earlier, when we were both completing the Glasser certification week training. We became friends and stayed in touch from then on. Although he possesses a wonderful, dry wit, he has a way of always bringing the conversation to the important. And as we talked about the important things in life we became close. As he sat there on the floor, though, I knew the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey would say. I knew that he was in a battle for his life, that he was hanging in there through tough chemotherapy that, while trying to kill the bad cells, was draining him of the good, too. That he would somehow muster up the strength, which he had in such small supply, and come to my talk . . . I can barely write about it even now without choking up.
I briefly described each of the chapters, occasionally reading excerpts from the manuscript. I pulled back the curtain and talked about how the whole thing began and how Bill and worked together. Pictures of Bill on the screen behind me, from childhood to adulthood, added to the story. The hour and fifteen minutes for the breakout went by quickly and I began to wrap things up. I had prepared more material than the breakout time would allow, but had presented what I could. I fairly frequently give breakout talks and trainings, so I know the drill, but I was not prepared for what happened next. Instead of people saying thanks and then heading off to supper, they started asking me when they could hear the information from the rest of the chapters that I was not able to get to. I got my wits about me and stammered that I would be open to that. One person wondered aloud if we could continue early the next morning before breakfast. Other suggestions were tossed back and forth and it was finally decided to continue that evening after supper. Instead of the classroom we were in at that moment we agreed to meet in the general area, a large open space surrounded by vendor tables.
When the breakout was over I went over to Bill. He tried to speak, but he was too choked up to get the words out. “I don’t know what to say,” he finally got out. I tried to lighten the moment (I’m not saying it was the right thing to do, but it’s what I did.) and said, “I couldn’t have done it without you, Bill,” in an obvious attempt at understatement. “Thank you,” he said quietly as he held my hand tightly. I became overcome, too, the two of us in a moment that only the two of us could understand. Jeff joined us, our hug simultaneously conveying congratulations and appreciation. After I returned home Jeff emailed a picture he had taken with his cell phone during the breakout. It shows me talking to the group with Glasser in his wheelchair in the background. The resolution is not very good, yet it will always be one of my most treasured photographs. Jeff was not in the picture, but to me, he is as much in the picture as Bill and I.
I was drained, in a good way, as I headed to supper. I don’t remember eating much. Instead I got ready for part two of the presentation. As it turned out, more than twice as many people came to the next session. In spite of the late hour, Bill came to the next session, too. There was so much interest in Glasser’s life, the circumstances surrounding his career, and the evolution of his ideas. He was quiet throughout the evening, but I could tell he was taking everything in, the appreciation that people at the session had for him, the admiration, and the affection.
After the conference was over and I was driving back home to northern California it began to sink in. I had met or re-connected with so many wonderful people, learned important ideas from other breakout presenters, poured everything I had into my own breakout sessions, and, as I visited with others, even came upon more anecdotes for the ending of the biography, yet none of these things represented the most significant piece of the conference for me. It began to sink in that the most important part of the conference for me, the best reason for my attending the conference, was Glasser hearing and seeing the interest that others had in his story and hearing their thanks and affirmation for his efforts. I had been concerned for months and even years that he might pass away before I could put a physical copy of the book in his hands. Now, after the breakout sessions that he attended, I felt that he had experienced what readers would feel as they read his story. Somehow it felt to me that a ribbon had been placed on the package, so to speak, during those breakout sessions. He knew the book was coming and got a taste of the interest others had in the book’s content. I didn’t have a publisher yet, but at least I knew that Glasser knew it was coming and knew that people were looking forward to it.
As I drove up Hwy 5, the main north and south roadway artery from the southern part of California through Oregon and Washington all the way to the Canadian border, I had such a deep feeling of contentment as I reflected on my Glasser conference experiences. It struck me just how close I had come to not attending at all. I would have missed so much had I not attended. A bit of pride could have kept me from wanting to do the breakout at all. Discomfort at the thought of having to share a room with someone tempted me to pull the plug on the whole idea of attending the conference.
The good feelings I had, especially the feelings I had about Glasser attending the breakout sessions, were enough to fuel my contentment for quite a while. (Here comes the Paul Harvey “Rest of the Story” part.) But there’s more. In November, 2012, five months after the Glasser conference in June, I get a call from Carleen Glasser. I was just getting out of my car and about to head into Calistoga High School to observe a student teacher when her call came in. She said something about Barry Karlin and that I should call Jeff Zeig because he was interested in seeing the manuscript. For months I had been working on finding a publisher for the book, even exploring self-publishing options. Harper-Collins was a possibility, I thought, but they turned it down, even though they liked the manuscript a lot. It appeared there might be a possibility with Simon & Schuster, but that didn’t work out either. Queries to Beacon Press didn’t open any doors and I was really wondering what to do next. Then the phone rings and it is Carleen encouraging me to get in touch with Jeff Zeig. Zeig is the founder and CEO of the Milton Erickson Foundation, a highly respected organization in the field of counseling and psychotherapy. I did get in touch with Zeig and sure enough he was interested in seeing the manuscript. He read it, along with others on their editorial board, and they decided they wanted their publishing company to print it. We have been working on the book together, especially with his editor, Suzi Tucker, ever since.
It turns out that Barry Karlin, who I met at the Glasser conference months before, contacted Jeff Zeig and let him know of the manuscript’s existence. Barry and I had good visits during the conference and I was impressed with how committed he was to the Glasser message. He attended my breakouts and was one of the voices that asked for the second breakout session later that evening. Barry and I departed the conference as friends. I sent him the manuscript and sought his comments on what he read. He really felt like the book needed to be published and on his own he contacted Jeff Zeig and the Milton Erickson Foundation. That contact ultimately led to the book being published within the next few months.
Once again, the details of the situation hit me. Had I not gone to the conference I wouldn’t have met Barry and he wouldn’t have become part of the manuscript and the publisher search. The Milton Erickson Foundation would probably never have come up on my radar screen. I knew that Jeff Zeig was the force behind the success of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, but I didn’t know that the Milton Erickson Foundation had a publishing house until Carleen and Barry told me about it. Barry taking the initiative made all the difference in the world.
So now you know how the biography came to be published. It’s a bit of a convoluted tale, but most good tales are. The moral of the story? Don’t let pride keep you from experiencing life. As far as this story is concerned, a little bit of pride would have scuttled everything.
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Jim, You will have that joy in work satisfaction and justifiable pride when this book is published. And I will be one of the people first in line to purchase it. Thank you for this story and the courage to live it. I think it was Scott Peck who once wrote that when there is serendipity in your life, you are in a state of grace with God. (It’s even OK if Bill would be skeptical, but somehow, I think he might just agree….)
I love the idea of Grace. Maybe it’s because I am so dependent on it.
Aren’t we all???
Wasn’t it Jeff who invited Bill to speak at an Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim? I think so (I roomed with the marvelous Linda Harshman)….
Yes, Glasser was one of the main faculty members for several of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conferences. I attended the 2005 conference with him. He shared with me how in the early 90s he wasn’t included in the Evolution conference, but that he contacted Zeig when he was giving a presentation in Phoenix. Zeig took him up on the invitation and afterward told Glasser he wanted him to be a part of the conference in the future. Glasser was in his element in front of a crowd.
And that”s where i got to really experience the splendid Cloe Madanes. Bill went to one of her sessions with me and in an aside, he said, “This is one very smart lady!” And Michael White was alive then: almost an embarrassment of riches—the brain power was electric!!!!! When Cloe said that sometimes spouses stand to lose power in relation to the other rather than balancing power, Bill nodded his head. She also discussed paradoxical interventions which I observed Bill’s using as well as defining goals and making plans to achieve them. I felt very blessed to be in their company.
Bill spoke very highly of Cloe Madanes to me. I could tell that professionally speaking, he wanted to be in her Quality World. The two of them dialogued during the conference about working together in some way. I can’t remember the details.
I can only wonder and wish that might have happened; who knows the gifts the rest of us would have received from such a collaboration. Two truly great therapists, both so skilled in technique but both highly intuitive (something we don’t talk about enough maybe). It must have been somewhat reassuring for Bill to find a kindred spirit among his “peers.” and, the notion that he talked with his official biographer and made mention of her/her work interests me. Cloe really saw a family group as a system, and Bill had embraced so many ideas about systems and how they work. When he was younger, he spoke critically of client centered therapy, once saying to me, “If they wanted a parrot, they should have bought a parrot; it would have been cheaper than I am.” He really gave very little time to approaches he believed would not be effective. I think he wasn’t being arrogant, I think he was truly frustrated at what passed for counseling and helping. When you tell me that he spoke highly of Cloe to you, the first thought I had was “praise from the gods is praise indeed.” I like to imagine that Cloe would be very pleased about it.
At times Glasser seemed to be aware of his notoriety, but more often he seemed to forget his fame and reputation. The situation with Cloe struck me as one of those times. He was just so pleased to be thought well of by her. I’m not trying to take anything away from her. I still remember being impressed when I read her hio in the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference program. I think you make a good point, though, that it meant something to Glasser when he connected with a peer who liked or respected his ideas.
and he liked theirs too….
Truly inspirational. Your best tribute to Dr. Glasser yet. A slice of history that should be published. Keep those stories coming since you are the unique person to record this for future generations that will appreciate and admire this leader of personal development.
I’m not sure exactly where to publish it, but at least a few of you are seeing it. I really appreciate your feedback.
Thank you Jim! As I mentioned on the last post the people in that room shared an experience that will stay with us forever because of your talk. I walked out of the room and saw a wonderful friend of mine Mary Farrell-Jones and we hugged, cried and smiled with gratitude at the same time. I ran off to find my mum and dad (Ann and Ivan Honey) to make sure they knew about your talk after supper. Your experience with your friend Jeff is so special and his photo brought tears to my eyes. I am so glad to hear about how the biography came to be published and wish you all the best on this next phase of sharing such an amazing and inspirational life with the world. It will be a wonderful way to teach the world Choice Theory.
I didn’t realize who your parents were. I had a really nice visit with your dad during the conference. He was very encouraging about the biography and gave some good advice as far as publishing goes. His help meant a lot to me.
Your responses have been wonderful for me to read. Thank you.
Indeed a touching story. Apparently your decision or should I say “choice” to attend the conference was the right one. I am looking forward to reading your new book.
Good to hear from you, Nadine! I am looking forward to the biography finally being printed, too.
Jim, how well I remember how I floated from your session, my very being bathed in the music and poetry of your story telling. Thank you for sharing the challenging, creative experience of producing the biography. The room was steeped with such optimism and expectancy and then electricity as Dr Glasser was brought into the room. As one of the curious people in that crowded space, you provided such exciting information: a history lesson that had previously been clouded in mythology; insightful insights that gently polished my filters, clouded by hearsay and mindless trivia to reveal the thoughtful, compassionate, altruistic person behind Choice Theory. It was the most memorable conference session, ever.
When I finally have my own copy, what are the chances of it being autographed by the author?
We have in common that the session represents our most memorable conference experience. I say that, not as a point of pride based on me giving such a great presentation, but rather based on magical factors that came together at just that moment. As presentations go, I didn’t think it was particularly impressive. I can only hope you are right about my story telling ability and that that ability shows up in the book. And yes, I would be more than happy to sign your copy of the biography.
Jim, end-of-life issues are always moving; sometimes for gratitude, sometimes for despair. What a profound joy and rich gift it is to give someone a friendly view of their own life… to let them know that their journey has not been for naught. To help “tie a ribbon,” as you say, on the package of another’s life is a sacred rite. I am so glad you got to experience this in such a public way. It’s a great story. I’m glad that Dr. Glasser was able to see his life through the admiring eyes of a friend. We never know what uncertainties another may have about their own life and their passing.
Yes, pride could have cheated many. It always does (when it has the final word.) But think even of your very first choice, when you first felt attracted to an idea and began your own journey towards that day. Think of your own growth in understanding the gospel in a rich new way. Certainly the gospel is so much larger than choice theory, but the principles of choice theory run through it, and your own work has helped us educators understand the gospel even better as we work with young people.
So thanks for taking that journey and for chronicling it for the benefit of many. Seldom does a person get to approach the end of their life with such public affirmation. I hope that if your life ends on a quieter note, you will sense, with Stephen, the affirmation of heaven. In fact, I hope that affirmation dwells richly with you today.
I am treasuring your words, Jim. In fact, I could not even respond right away as I needed to think about what you have said. From my perspective you fully “get” what it meant to me to tie a ribbon on the package of another’s life. I wasn’t sure if I was really conveying the meaning of that, but you got it.
The affirmation of heaven would be absolutely huge for me. Thank you for reminding me of that possibility, of that reality. There really is much left to be said about the Gospel and choice theory. In fact, I see choice theory and sanctification as very, very much related. In fact, my new “bumper sticker” is Righteousness by Choice.
Thank you for reminding me of my journey. The Spirit has led; I cannot deny that. Oh, that He will keep leading.