Amy's Story
Keanna's Story
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Bye Bye Grumpiness!
Keanna, Amy, and Jessica
(A story about blueberry bars, green tea,
Eye-Zen English)

(c) 2014 by
Angus Cunningham
Principal, Authentix Coaches
    Suddenly, a man in perhaps his 60s and a young lady in perhaps her 20s, a lady who later turned out
    to be his grand-daughter Keanna, asked if they might take the remaining two chairs at my wall table.  
    Of course!” I effused in my best gentlemanly English manner; for, truth be told, I was at a grumpily
    loose end and open to any distraction -- so long as it didn’t arouse alarm in me that I might become
    drawn into a hassle and have to get up to escape.  They chatted happily about this and that, relieving
    me in the process of the taut edges of my frustration.  And soon a moment arrived when I felt my
    breaking in on their conversation might actually be good for all three of us.  Can you guess what I
    wanted to talk about?  The manuscript for a book I had been writing for six and a half years was
    nearing what I wanted it to be, or so I thought then; but I was holding back from sending the parts of it
    that I was pretty certain would attract interest from some publishing executives I had singled out.  
    Unable, to come up with the idea that would intrigue them enough to focus a little of their attention on
    the vision I had for my book,  I was vacantly -- and a little grimly too, for I had absent-mindedly burned
    the tip of my tongue while trying to get some healthy liquid into me -- 'blah'.

What I now, almost screamingly, needed was feedback that would give me clues as to how to expand my moments of genuine
confidence.  If I can ease out from those moments of doubt and anxiety that I'm sure we all experience, then moments of peace and
confidence start to string themselves together for me and life is pretty blissful for a while.  But when writing, I often suspect that the
only action likely to bring about such an easing is the making of those small editing changes by which we 'journey back and forth from
'I' to 'you' and back again into greater confidence.  Perhaps that’s why many of us suffer from what has gone down in our jargon as
‘writer’s block'.

But long before
my decision to make writing my post-retirement occupation, I had become, by accident, the inventor of Eye-Zen
, of which the key ingredient is the "I have 'X emotion' now (IHXEN)" I-statement.  You can conveniently pronounce the
acronym '
IHXEN' as 'Eye-Zen'.  Practising IHXENs has taught me that the effort to articulate, silently or aloud, an honest IHXEN leads
us to being able to take an action
or say something with genuine confidence (rather than out of bravado or some other form of
shame avoidance
) -- so long as one works steadily with that practice toward the closest one can get to equanimity.  So, after a few
IHXENs, I began to feel my psychological state improving, and before long I found the energy to say to my new table-mates, at a
break in their conversation, “
I’d like to tell you a true story”.  Because they looked as if they were open to my proceeding, I had in
mind to tell them the story of how I had put an
IHXEN to work in a boardroom.  To be frank, I had blazing anger for more than a
moment in that experience
, but I learned -- to my relief and astonishment -- how productive such an utterly 'incorrect' admission as 'I
anger now' would turn out to be, for ALL the parties present (and some others not present).

When I had finished telling
Keanna and her grandfather how, a few weeks after that experience, I had been promoted president at
the company I was then working as an intern for
, and how the turning point in that interning experience of mine came about,
questions arrived from each in turn that I was only too happy to answer.  But then, quite suddenly, Keanna's grandfather got up to

Whoops!” went a voice in my head and a muscle in my back twitched sharply.  Must I leave out seniors from my potential reading
?” Sensing also that Keanna had enjoyed hearing my story, I turned to her for assurance as she was pulling on her coat to
follow her grandfather.

I think it’s a neat idea”, she beamed enthusiastically.  Happy again, I thanked them both roundly, quaffed the remains of my tea, and
began to focus again on my presentation to the publishing people I had begun to think about

A few days later, I was again at that same
Starbucks, only to find they had run out of blueberry bars.  Since this was by no means the
only time I had recently met with that dietary catastrophe and I also wanted badly to draft something in my writer's notebook, I sternly
announced: “
Well, that means I’ll have to go somewhere else”; and noticed, with inner satisfaction as I left, that the lady behind the
counter looked chagrined.

Half-an-hour later I had walked West along the Danforth to
Book City by Eastminster United Church and bought the book I
remembered I wanted.  Then I began walking back home thinking how far it was to walk when all I wanted to do was sit down and
read.  Suddenly I became aware I was passing another
Starbucks, and it wasn’t long before a blueberry bar found its way inside me
and some zen green tea was warming my core.  But then I needed a pen.  Again putting on my best English gentleman’s behaviour I
made my request to the person behind the counter, only to find to my surprise and delight that the young lady handing me the pen
was asking if I remembered her.  “
Well, now, let me … oh yes, you’re the young lady I told that IHXEN story to.

Yes”, she said happily, and we chatted briefly about her grandfather before I returned to my table and began writing.  A little while
later, I grew curious about what Keanna might since have done with what she had drawn from the
IHXEN story.  Oh, I told it to one of
my friends and she said it would help her with her anger problem.

Yes,” I responded.  “IHXENs help with my anger problems too.  And they also help me with other issues, like over-enthusiasm, for
example, or anxiety.  One day I’ll tell you about how that happens, if you like
”.  She smiled and said she would look forward to that.
In late October of 2014, I was sitting in a Starbucks in Toronto's Greektown trying to make a list of priorities.  I’d finished my
blueberry bar and, grumpily puzzled that I didn't want actually to do anything, I would occasionally take a sip from my cup of zen
green tea and then put it back on the table before me.  Nothing was going into the writer's notebook that
Katie Marshall Flaherty had
given me when I had taken her inspiring and insightful course at Riverdale's
Duke of Connaught public school.

                            (To be continued ...  Comments to Angus Cunningham)

Angus Cunningham
Executive Coach & Writer
(based in Toronto, Ontario)