THE COMFORT ZONE

It’s a wonderful place to be. Relaxed, gliding through the day, nailing every task you have signed up for. You have done them a thousand times, and you know what’s next, notwithstanding the curveballs life sometimes throws each of us. You’ve rehearsed it, and you kill it (mostly) every time. It’s easy peasy (mostly).

So, why would anyone ever choose to leave this cushy place? Why would you sign up for something that forces you to navigate an unfamiliar land and speak its unfamiliar language? That’s hard. That’s not the path of least resistance that most of us humans want to take, and do take.

Because that’s where the good stuff is. That’s where you find the high-hanging fruit, and it is much more luscious and tasty than the stuff hanging right in front of us, the stuff we reached for all our lives, because we don’t have to reach too high or too far.

When reaching for this high-hanging fruit, however, we may question our own sanity. Why, for the love of all things easy, would we voluntarily take ourselves to a place that makes us think and act in ways that require sharper focus and herculean effort? What the heck?

One must be crazy to do this, which is exactly what I thought of myself on about day two of the eight-day training I signed up for, and paid good money for. “What were you thinking, Kathleen? Are you nuts? You are not an auctioneer, you are a speech therapist. You have had some crazy ideas in your life, but this one tops them all. Now get back in your cage, and don’t try to pull this s*** again.”

Except that I’d already paid my hard-earned money for those eight days of class, and I knew, in my heart of hearts, that I was supposed to be here. This had been on my “Liberty List” for a long time (see Liberty List, September 11th, 2022). I was way outside of my comfort zone, and it was painful. I wanted to run back into the open arms of all things familiar in my life, and leave this crazy idea behind in that hotel conference room in West Des Moines, Iowa. Surely those other 21 people in my class belonged there; they all appeared to be perfectly suited for this adventure. Still, I didn’t run. Looking around, I noticed I wasn’t even the oldest one there, which I had expected to be. Nor was I the only female. There were five other women–but I was the oldest female.

I stayed. My higher self–the one who knows what is truly best for me–overrode the scared child in me, told the woman who had lived in her speech therapy bubble for 28 years that she was not too old, nor too inflexible to learn this new language. Most importantly, she was ready for something different in her life (see Change is Good, October 9th, 2022).

And different is what I got.

Now, back at home, back in the comfort of my home, two days after I graduated, I feel a sense of accomplishment that cannot be experienced without having left that comfort zone. Two hours after getting home yesterday, I went to my first auction last night and helped as a ringman/bid caller, thanks to the ongoing leadership of another auctioneer I am fortunate to be mentored by.

I have a lot of practicing to do; I can’t expect to sound as good as him without daily practice and continued pushing myself to new heights in this new field. I have a diploma, which is only a license to continue to learn and improve my skills.

The verbal and mental boot camp I attended for eight days–8:00 am until 7:30 pm–kept me disciplined and accountable. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I hadn’t sat in class for that long for 28 years since grad school, and my days weren’t that long then. Frequent breaks were necessary; I took a pre-victory lap on foot around the outside of the hotel for most breaks. My 56-year-old brain was being stretched, and my body needed stretching, too.

Arriving for the first day, a quick scan showed me the strangers I would be learning with; I don’t remember the last time I felt this isolated. This group of 22 quickly went from being completely unknown to each other, to cheers, camaraderie, encouragement, friendship, exchanging contact information and hugs on the last day. There were six women and16 men, and fourteen states were represented, as well as two Canadian provinces. The most amazing students were the under-25 group; ten of the young men–as young as 17–were lifelong learners, already having spent years learning the skill in their everyday rounds. Still, they supported their elders in the class, uplifting and encouraging us every step of the way. We were the amateurs and they were already the seasoned experts, but they inspired everyone around them.

One does not engage in that frequent and intense repetition of tongue twisters and number drills without having difficulty leaving them out of their head. Some of the twisters were familiar to me and some were not. I had never heard Tommy Attatimus took two Ts, tied them to the top of two tall trees, but now it won’t leave my mind. As a child, How much would could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? A woodchuck would chuck as much wood as a woodchuck could if a woodchuck could chuck wood was one of my favorites, so that came easy. However, I wasn’t used to repeating it ten times with increasing speed each time. Nor had I ever counted to 100 and backwards by 2 1/2s, certainly not ten times in a row, with increased rate each time as well. And I certainly didn’t do it every day for eight days straight.

Now, any series of numbers–even two–sends me straight into an auctioneer chant. The tens are especially persistent in my head. You will likely read this with the short /e/ vowel sound you have said it with thousands of times in your life: 10-10-10-10-10, but to me, it sounds like “tay-un, tay-un, tay-un, tay-un, tay-un” and that is the desired sound I hope to master one day.

I checked my alarm clock last night as I wound down, but the display sent my brain back into that drill, keeping me awake a bit longer: it read 10:10.

Before this class, I didn’t know any big names in the auctioneering industry in America. Now, I can say I got to meet some legends.

The legendary Paul C. Behr

I knew so little about this industry, but now as a graduate, I can say I received a well-rounded education, as well as a diploma. My 28 years as a speech therapist played well into this learning; so much of what the breathing and voice mechanisms have to accomplish as an auctioneer are the things I have been teaching my patients for years. Except as the student now, I had to work so much harder than I ever worked as the teacher.

Each student had to auction many items in our drills. As the week progressed, the auctions became more frequent, more spontaneous and more complicated. Among the multiple items I “sold” were: tables, chairs, chandeliers, wall sconces, neckties, my jewelry, an Iowa state flag, a mountain bike, a Corgi, a television, a dinner for ten at a fancy restaurant, a year’s supply of bottled water, an umbrella and a briefcase. Each student brought an item for our “live” student auction. I sold a bag of locally-grown Kansas popcorn for $110, with all auction proceeds going to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

I have grand ideas about how I am going to develop this new trade; there is so much opportunity, even for women in what has been traditionally a male-dominated field. I have a new skill set I didn’t have ten days ago, and I wouldn’t have this if I’d stayed in that comfortable bubble. If I’d listened to the doubter that most of us have living in our heads, I would have left on day two, or not even gone at all. It will be the perfect complement to my speech therapy career.

I knew so little before I started; I didn’t even know that, because auctioneering dates back to Civil War times, auctioneers are respectfully called “Colonel.” Gail and Suzanne called me that upon graduation. They knew. I ask that you call me the same, but only after you have stepped out of your own comfort zone and have done that thing that you want to do, but are being held back by fear, or that voice of doubt.

Become your own Colonel in your own dream. If I did it, so can you.

Now get out there.

Respectfully yours, Colonel Kathleen.

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THE LIBERTY LIST

According to my watch, the time is now.” –Jimmy Buffet

My generation remembers where we were and what we were doing 21 years ago today: I sat in the recliner all day, holding my sick baby as he slept, watching the horror unfold before my eyes on TV. These memories are seared into the brain of anyone old enough to remember that dark day, the day that forever changed our country.

Gail was preparing her soon-to-be opened donut shop for business. I called and told her about it, she hadn’t heard yet. She went home to watch it on TV, something she rarely does. She knew this needed her attention at that time. The donut shop could wait.

Suzanne arrived at work, not knowing what was happening. She and her co-workers remained glued to the TV for the rest of the day. Her five-year-old daughter had a friend over that evening, and they wanted to watch TV. She heard her ask him what they should watch. He replied innocently, “I guess we could watch the explosion channel.” We all remember there wasn’t much else on, and he realized this, too.

That dark day won’t ever be forgotten, nor should it ever be forgotten. The people who lost their lives that day should be remembered as heroes, even though they likely had no idea what was happening in those horrific moments leading up to their deaths.

The rest of us get to continue to live our lives, even though that scar will always be on the face of our country. The family members and loved ones of the victims, as well as the first responders and others who sacrificed their safety that day should always hold a special place in our memories and hearts as well.

Our veterans, active duty military, Reserves and National Guard are the heroes every day of every year; they are the ones who protected and continue to protect the freedoms most of us take for granted–including me.

Our small hometown held its 150th birthday celebration last Saturday; Suzanne and I were able to go to this special gathering, but Gail couldn’t join us. The veterans of our hometown who were present were honored with recognition: a profoundly moving speech and a special flag salute by some of our town’s youth, followed by a standing ovation:

They are the reason we live in this nation of freedom. We have so many liberties that we fail to realize, all thanks to them.

One of them is the opportunity to travel freely about this country, and take in all it has to offer. Gail, Suzanne and I do our best to enjoy this privilege. Another is to partake in whatever activities interest us, because this country is indeed the land of liberty.

Which is why the term “bucket list” is widely known. Popularized by a movie of the same name, many of us have a list of things we’d like to do, or places we’d like to travel to before we euphemistically “kick the bucket.” Instead of using that term, however, I decided to call it “The Liberty List.” It reminds me that I am so fortunate to have these liberties.

My 25-year-old son lives on the other side of the world. He is checking something big off his “Liberty List” at a relatively young age, exercising the freedom he has as an American to put this big world right in the palm of his hand. He has had the opportunity to travel to other countries as well, and has given himself permanent reminders of this liberty.

Last year, when America was celebrating it’s Independence Day, he traveled to Egypt with 5 other American friends. To remind themselves of this freedom, they gave themselves a permanent reminder in the local language–Arabic. This year he spent July 4th in Thailand, and added to this reminder in Thai:

The translation is “freedom” or “liberty,” both translate into the one foreign word. You pick the one you like best. I like the ring of “liberty.” And what kind of a mother would I be if I didn’t follow my son’s example? An unfit one, that’s for sure. So, my next tattoo will be inside my upper arm, just like his, with “Liberty” as my English word of choice.

I am already sure I will never regret this permanent reminder of all that America has given me.

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I asked Gail and Suzanne what they had on their “Liberty Lists.”

Gail: “I don’t really have one. I just live life to the fullest every day.” I can attest to this. She makes every moment of every day the most it can be, whether it is working one of her multiple jobs, or cruising around with her friends in “Lola,” her 1974 Chevy Nova, into the wee hours of the morning. It’s usually a party whenever Gail is there. Always has been, always will be.

Suzanne: “Going to any beach, anywhere, anytime.” Simple and true. If you recall, my maiden post on this blog just over five years ago detailed our epic beach trip to Florida (The Sister Lode, June 16th, 2017). We haven’t been back to a beach together since, but it is on all three of our “Liberty Lists.”

If you know me, you may want to be sure to be sitting down when you read what I am soon to check off my list. When I tell people, it is generally met first with disbelieving laughter, then something along the lines of, “That’s so cool!”

This endeavor has been on my Liberty List for some time now, and the time is right to check it off. I see it as a natural extension of my 28-year career as a speech therapist. I have been a speech scientist, and now it is time to be a speech artist.

I will spend eight days at the end of October/beginning of November in Des Moines, Iowa, training to become–wait for it–an auctioneer! I have long been fascinated with this skill, knowing that one day I would learn it. That day has come. I don’t know yet how much, or in what capacity I will use it, but I am doing it–now! All we have is now, and as the wise Willie Nelson says, “It’s always now.”

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Now only comes once, which is why I am struggling so much with some heartbreaking news I received this week. A friend, a bright light with an electric smile and unforgettable laugh, was cruelly taken by COVID and its complications. We bonded after she lost her parents separately, but both in devastating ways. We understood each other. We spoke this dreadful language. We connected, but I had let too much time pass, knowing I needed to reach out to her again. But I didn’t do it then, and I can’t do it now. My heart breaks for her family, because I know how it feels to lose your mother way too young.

I’m not feeling the strength yet, but I will regain it after this heartbreaking news, and I will check a few more things off my Liberty List. They are things I have needed to do for some time in order to reach out to other important people.

We never know when it may be too late. I smugly thought I had learned the Life is short lesson after our parents died in that one moment, but if I think I have fully learned it, that only means I need to go back to school. Clearly, I didn’t. It is a lifetime of learning in order to make sure every now is the most it can be.

We would all be well-advised to think back 21 years ago to September 12th, or perhaps a few more days or weeks later, when so many people used that tragedy to galvanize their efforts to create more peace toward each other. Let’s all do our best to do that again, every day. Connect with those you need to reach out to before it’s too late. The time is now.

So, turn off the explosion channel in your head; we’ve all seen enough, and it will always be there. Use that memory to honor those who lost their lives, their families and loved ones, the first responders and our military–past and present.

And get out there and work on your Liberty List.

Raise your hand high and place your bid on that.