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Stepping Out of the Shadows/[Re]Connecting With
Your Life's Journey

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Illuminating the Path

By Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D.

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Let’s Play the Match Game

We are the products of editing, rather than authorship.
-George Wald  

Our path is illuminated when the essence of who we are is expressed in the way we live our life.

People often ask me if my life has changed much since my first two books, Building Better Bridges and Moving Mountains, were published. I tell them that nothing has changed except for one thing.

You see, there’s one person in my life who has made it her personal mission to see that nothing about me changes. She keeps me grounded. She reminds me of who I am. She spares no words when she thinks I am getting too big for my britches.

I wrote about her in Moving Mountains. Her name is Sylvia. She’s been tending bar for almost forty years. For the last fifteen years my name, in her mind, was simply Little Stevie. But that is the one thing that has changed since I have started writing.

I am no longer Little Stevie. No, whenever I go visit her now, upon seeing me she immediately yells out, “Well, if it isn’t Mr. Big-Shot-Writer” or “So Mr. Big-Shot-Writer, what’ll it be?”

Well, a couple of weeks ago I went to visit Sylvia. I was on a mission of sorts. I had just finished a meeting with my editor, showing her the outline for this book. My editor was mystified that I had left Sylvia out of this book, so I was instructed to go see Sylvia and get her to make some kind of contribution.

I reluctantly agreed to go, you see Sylvia has been getting harder to live with since her appearance in Moving Mountains.

So I walked into the bar and there was Sylvia with the ever-present cigarette hanging out of her mouth, leaning on the top of the bar, gabbing with a couple of the regulars. As soon as she saw me, she motioned for me to join her, pushing two of the customers out of the way so that I could sit at the bar.

“Well, Mr. Big-Shot-Writer, how nice of you to come around to see me, where ya been?” she asked.

I explained to Sylvia how busy I had been, reminding her that I had called her twice in the last week to check up on her.

“So, Mr. Big-Shot-Writer, what brings you around  tonight?” her tone telling me she was not at all placated by the idea that I had been keeping in touch.

I explained to Sylvia about the meeting I had with my editor and her request to have Sylvia contribute to the new book I was working on.

Sylvia stared at me for a moment, then smiled. Before I could bat an eye, she quickly reached underneath the bar, pulling out a file that was at least three inches thick.

As she leafed through the file, she said, “You know Mr. Big-Shot-Writer, I’ve been making some notes, you know, just in case you needed me to help you again with your next book.

“Now I’ve been thinking about how we can do this book a little differently. You know your last book, Running On the Hillside?”

“Uh, that would be Moving Mountains,” I  corrected her.

          With that said, in one swift motion, Sylvia grabbed a bar towel and flicked it at my forehead, striking me between the eyes. “I told you to stop correcting me all of the time!”

As I wiped the tears from my stinging eyes, I thought to myself that this is what they must mean when they say an artist must suffer for his craft.

“Anyway, that book--it had way too many words in it. We can make this one a lot shorter.”

“We’re writing a book, not a brochure,” I offered somewhat defensively.

“Yea, yea, you’re always so sensitive. Now listen to me. If your readers follow this one idea, they won’t need to read anything else.”

“Well, tell me what the idea is and I’ll see if we can use it,” I said somewhat impatiently.

“Now settle down, just settle down and I’ll tell you, you hear?” she shot back. 

“Are you ready? Now listen real careful.”

With that said, she leaned over and whispered in my ear as if she was about to reveal some secret concerning national security. “Your innards gotta match your outards,” she whispered.

“What?!” I exclaimed, feeling like I was in a time warp talking to ol’ Granny Clampett.

“You know what I mean. Your life is working for you when the inside of you matches your life on the outside.

“No, I don’t know what you mean,” I said, slumping forward in my chair, my head falling to the bar top.

She slugged me in the arm and said, “Well then, listen real good, Mr. Big-Shot. I was with Marge yesterday. We were shopping for some furniture for her new apartment. Anyway, the man who waited on us, he was a miserable soul. You know how I can tell?”

She didn’t wait for me to answer.

“His insides didn’t match his outsides. His mouth smiled at us but his eyes were dark as night. He talked real fast but his words didn’t say a damn thing. He acted like we were the most important people in the world, but he always kept one eye peeled on the front door checking out whether he was missing out on his next customer.”

“So?” I said not getting her point.

“Listen, sonny. I’ve been behind this bar a long time. I’ve seen them come and go. Oh, you got your big fancy words for it, depression, anxiety, what’s that word you taught me a couple of weeks ago, actual..., actual...?

“Self-actualization,” I muttered.

“I don’t need any of those big fancy words. You know why? I can tell the happy ones from the not so happy ones. You know how I can tell?

I had an answer all ready for her but she kept talking without pause.

“The happy ones, they always match. Their eyes, their eyes tell me a story about who they are on the inside. No one can fake the eyes. And that’s what I’m trying to tell you. This guy wasn’t real. He didn’t want to be there selling furniture. He didn’t want to be there dealing with us.”   

“But what is so damn helpful about you and Marge buying furniture from this guy?”

“You tell em Mr. Big-Shot-Writer, you tell your readers that Sylvia says to start getting their lives to match.”

“Match what?” as usual, I was totally exasperated trying to follow her logic.

“What they’re doing with who they are? Listen, life is hard enough without us making it harder, you know what I mean?

“We all need to find our place in life and be happy with whatever that is. We all need to know our insides, so we can get our outsides to match.

“So many people are like zombies. You know how I can tell?”

I started to mouth my answer but she didn’t take that as a signal to stop and listen.

“They wind up with jobs that don’t match them, they wind-up with boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, all of them, they don’t match. They wind up spending most of their lives doing things that don’t match what they like to do.

“Do you ever ask ‘em why, Mr. Big-Shot-Psychologist? Cause I don’t get it. Why do so many of them refuse to let go of their lives? You know, let go of all of that dead weight?”

I scratched my head and ticked off the some of the reasons I had been told throughout the years, “I dunno, mortgages to be paid; retirement plans to maintain; don’t want to disappoint their parents; don’t want to hurt their children; it’s a lot more complicated than you make it seem; Steve, it’s easier to stay quietly numb, I don’t believe I deserve anything different, it’s my parents’ fault.”

"That’s what I’m trying to tell you, Mr. Big-Shot. Look at me. I’ve been tending bar my whole life. Been with my old man forever. Got more hobbies than I have time for. Organize the bake sale for the food shelter every year. I love it all. Know how you can tell?”

          I quickly put my hand over her mouth and hurriedly shouted out, “Because it matches!”

As she removed my hand from her mouth she said with a look of satisfaction, “You betcha Mr. Big-Shot-Writer, because it matches.”

Alright, so Sylvia may have a point. In fact, I know she does. Illuminating the Path: our inside matching our outside. I suppose that is the eventual outcome of awakening our soul and liberating our spirit.

The word I would use is congruent, but that really is the same as matches. When people come to see me, they really are searching for what that match is. They may not say it that way. They may not even recognize it that way, but  much of the pain we experience in our life stems from the fact that some aspect of our lives doesn’t match the essence of who we are.

Time and time again I walk down the very lonely path with another person helping them to discover what is locked up inside of them. I often think of it as finding a magical lamp that lives inside of us. You know what I mean? There is this old dusty lamp inside of us that we only need to dust off and then release the magical genie that lives within it.

Once the genie is released, we only need learn how to use the genie to help us construct a life that is congruent with who we are. Or in the words of Sylvia, “We only need to have our innards match our outards.”



Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at drfrisch@aliveandwellnews.com  or at
(773) 477-8959.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.


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