I was recently asked by a friend of mine, the director of a women’s seminary, to create a workshop for professionals in Jerusalem. I thought it would be a delightful opportunity to talk about some of my favorite therapeutic interventions. I truly looked forward to the opening session, eager to share my many decades of experience. I even brought my husband and girlfriend with me, both as support and as a chance to let them hear and see how I strut my stuff.
Well, things didn’t pan out quite as I hoped they would.
When we got there, the auditorium was already in use; a guest speaker was delivering a lecture on the psychological underpinnings of the Bible. At least, I thought the space in question was an auditorium. When the lecturer finished his talk, I went inside and discovered that it was actually just a room with a table in the middle. This was not what I was expecting based on my friend’s description.
Ten girls were seated around the table, munching on cookies and chocolate wafers. When they looked up at me, they radiated weariness and boredom. It was eight-thirty in the evening and I imagine they’d had a long day of studies.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the director begging three more young ladies to stay for my workshop. I got a strange feeling in my gut. Were these my spectators, these students coming off a long day of classes, who were not especially interested in hearing about what a hotshot psychologist I am? Was I going to have to get up in front of this tiny audience of girls who had better things to do with their time than hear the likes of me rambling on about my discoveries as an addiction specialist?
Sure as shootin’, the answer to that was yes.
It turned out that something had gone terribly wrong with the planning of this event. There hadn’t been enough time to publicize it and the professional audience was not contacted in time. This was the best they had managed to scrounge together.
The notes I had prepared for the workshop were mostly useless for this crowd. Luckily, I had copies of the Twelve Steps to hand out. At least I had that much going for me.
I spent an hour talking about addiction, trying to speak to them on their level and not make any assumptions about what they did or didn’t know. They asked a lot of questions. I tried to spice up my answers, interacting with them, but if truth be told, it was not my most shining hour. I left there feeling crestfallen, the victim of an overenthusiastic director who didn’t have the power as he thought to amass a crowd.
The takeaway from this story is that my life will not always happen according to my plans and expectations.
I have to give myself credit for the fact that I didn’t make a fuss and didn’t get out of there before I gave a little something to the audience. Of course I was disappointed; of course my ego was bruised. I expected my name up in lights. I hate to use the expression but the truth is, this is a very clear example of: “It is what it is.” And it was what it was, a hardly impressive hour of my life where I didn’t really get a chance to teach the teachers.
I’ve had many opportunities to enlighten my professional colleagues and many more opportunities will arise. The fact that this wasn’t one of them was not in my hands. It reminds me of the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…