Friday, February 26, 2010

Arynne Simon

More than 30 years ago I took a class in assertiveness training from an amazing woman by the name of Arynne Simon. She was vibrant, intelligent, beautiful and she taught me lessons in life that have served me well. Ever since I took her classes, in which she taught me to say, "I want," "Would you be willing," and other phrases that helped me ask for what I wanted and accept when I got a no, I have practiced her lessons. I know her teaching made a difference in my life.
Soon after her class was over she asked me if I wanted to work with her. I accepted, and then, with no real explanation, I bailed on her. I wasn't ready for the kind of commitment she was requiring, but I was sorry I disappointed her. I never saw her again.
Today, while cleaning out some files I found a piece of inspiration she had sent to me. She wrote a short message to me on the bottom of the sheet, saying that she thought I would enjoy it. She signed it Arynne Simon.
I decided to google her to see if I could find her and send her a message. I found a web site for her, and read some of her entries. I discovered that she had gone on to be a motivational speaker, a life coach, an organization consultant, among other things. She had a list of articles in her archives. I noticed that the last entry was in November, 2006. I sent her an email and it was returned.
I did a further search and discovered to my dismay a personal blog by her husband, Will (or Bill) Simon. Arynne had a debilitating stroke March 21, 2007, three years ago. I wept as I read through three years of Bill's posts, describing in poignant detail how she had the stroke and had started the recovery process, but then apparently had another bleed, which caused continued deterioration. Today she lives in a care facility, a shell of her former self.
I have made a commitment to read her inspirational posts on her blog that is still up and functioning. The following was her last post in her archives on her web site.
Thank you Arynne for changing my life, for giving me tools that I am continuing to practice all these years later.


       How to Live
by Charles Harper Webb, from Amplified Dog.
©Red Hen Press. Reprinted with permission.

Eat lots of steak and salmon and Thai curry and mu shu
pork and fresh green beans and baked potatoes
and fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream.
Kick-box three days a week. Stay strong and lean.
Go fly-fishing every chance you get, with friends

who'll teach you secrets of the stream. Play guitar
in a rock band. Read Dostoyevsky, Whitman, Kafka,
Shakespeare, Twain. Collect Uncle Scrooge comics.
See Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, and everything Monty Python made.
Love freely. Treat ex-partners as kindly

as you can. Wish them as well as you're able.
Snorkel with moray eels and yellow tangs. Watch
spinner dolphins earn their name as your panga slam-
bams over glittering seas. Try not to lie; it sours
the soul. But being a patsy sours it too. If you cause

a car wreck, and aren't hurt, but someone is, apologize
silently. Learn from your mistake. Walk gratefully
away. Let your insurance handle it. Never drive drunk.
Don't be a drunk, or any kind of "aholic." It's bad
English, and bad news. Don't berate yourself. If you lose

a game or prize you've earned, remember the winners
history forgets. Remember them if you do win. Enjoy
success. Have kids if you want and can afford them,
but don't make them your reason-to-be. Spare them that
misery. Take them to the beach. Mail order sea

monkeys once in your life. Give someone the full-on
ass-kicking he (or she) has earned. Keep a box turtle
in good heath for twenty years. If you get sick, don't thrive
on suffering. There's nothing noble about pain. Die
if you need to, the best way you can. (You define best.)

Go to church if it helps you. Grow tomatoes to put store-
bought in perspective. Listen to Elvis and Bach. Unless
you're tone deaf, own Perlman's "Meditation from Thais."
Don't look for hidden meanings in a cardinal's song.
Don't think TV characters talk to you; that's crazy.

Don't be too sane. Work hard. Loaf easily. Have good
friends, and be good to them. Be immoderate
in moderation. Spend little time anesthetized. Dive
the Great Barrier Reef. Don't touch the coral. Watch
for sea snakes. Smile for the camera. Don't say
"Cheese."

And this by Arynne Simon.

Curiosity is often considered a vulgar habit - "Don't ask too many questions," "Don't look at those people," "Don't stare" are ways we've been trained out of a natural instinct to learn more.  If we don't indulge our curiosity, we cannot learn, we keep ourselves from knowing other people and building real relationships.  Worst of all, we will not have as much fun on an everyday basis.  Formal study, the reading of biographies, watching life from within a darkened theatre do not satisfy in the way I am suggesting.  We need to learn how to discover people and how they think in the way of Steinbeck (Travels With Charley) and William Least Heat Moon (Blue Highways).
I find that curiosity, once stirred, rarely sleeps until the appetite for knowledge is satisfied.  My seemingly boundless curiosity requires continual exploration and satisfaction.  I'm sure yours does, too; let's decide not to deny ourselves that pleasure.
I'm sure you can find non-offensive ways to ask questions so that the people you meet will tell you what they think, how they perceive the world, and how a problem can be solved.  You'll be amazed to find how very clever most people are - even though their solutions and conclusions may be very different from yours.  And while your curiosity is being fed, the people who have a chance to explain the workings of their mind will be validated... and upon this validations the best relationships are built.
There are people in our nation who think that there is only one side to a coin... that their way is the only way to think, to live, to behave.  For those of us who say we like to travel, considered that there is not a more exciting land to explore than the mind of another person.
Perhaps I could motivate you to explore the ideas of others if I offered mileage points.  But all I promise is that by asking quality questions (any question except "why") your every day will be a safari into unexplored territory and you can enjoy a fascinating life - wherever you are - without jet lag or packing or email build-up.
I describe curiosity as "lust of the mind." So far (and Hooray!) curiosity is not listed among the seven deadly sins.

Thank you Arynne. May you be at peace.

1 comment:

brooklyntart said...

Beautiful, Martha. Thank you for sharing this amazing woman with us.