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Auditioning for friends

When we moved here, one of the things I dreaded was making friends. They’re such an overhead of time and money: the phone calls, the constant demands for reassurance, the endless thoughtful birthday presents (I mean how many birthdays can one person have?), the three hour lunches  . . .

No, wait.

I meant to say: I dreaded the process of MEETING people.

The circle of friends we had in Dubai were in many ways the closest thing we had to family. I miss them every day. Now we have to start all over again.

Making friends gets harder as you get older. You look for deeper qualities than an extensive wardrobe to pilfer borrow from, your boyfriends being best mates, a frothy sense of humour, or whether someone will talk to you. Admittedly, I am still drawn to people who talk to me; but these days I prefer a sense of humour that’s crisp and refreshingly dry. As for our partners being best friends? Well, all that indicates is both of us has dubious taste.

Not only is it harder; the process itself takes longer. Teenage friendships were so easy:-

“Polo mint?”

“Yeah thanks. My boyfriend is SUCH a jerk. You’re my best friend.”

“I know! I feel like I’ve known you forever, instead of, like, six minutes.”

“Seconds.”

Now, with benefit of hindsight and a dash of maturity, I know it takes years. The potential of a new relationship sparkles, but nothing surpasses the lustre of an enduring friendship.

Of course, the effort is worth it. It’s just . . . well . . . why can’t friends just spring into your life fully formed? How long does it take to learn the in-jokes, for goodness’ sake? If you trust me, I’ll trust you. There. Any freaky character traits you want to share? No, me neither.

Ok, I know, I know, I KNOW. *kicks sofa*

I was flattered by the number of people who assumed Husband and I would have no problem Making Friends, that there would be so many hopeful applicants we would have to hold auditions every Wednesday and beat them off with a stick.

The only thing we’ve been beating off is mosquitoes.

Much of this has to do with where we’ve chosen to live. We will move to South Island within two years, so there is not the same imperative to meet people. Socialising is complicated by a half hour drive to civilisation and Husband working evenings.

My first attempt at procuring a friend was an abject failure. At the Christopher Howard Seminar, I met John and Yvette. Many of the attendants I sincerely hoped I’d never come across again – especially if I were alone and unarmed – but John and Yvette were different.

For a start, John’s ‘cynic shield’ (as one woman described my attitude) rivalled mine. He refused to partake in the hyper high-fiving, so I high-fived Yvette across him and occasionally high-fived the upside of his head when he wasn’t getting the message.

Afterwards, Yvette asked for my phone number and we exchanged contact details.

“I have a FRIEND!” I crowed to Husband. “We’re meeting for lunch next week. She’s LOVELY. Do you have a lovely friend? No? I do. Bet you wish you had a friend. We’re meeting for lunch next week. She’s LOVELY. Do you have a etc.”

For the rest of the week, I seized upon every opportunity – and even made up a few – to remind Husband about MY FRIEND and how great she was and how I was really looking forward to lunch.

The day before lunch, Yvette called to say she couldn’t make it for a reason which, at the time, sounded entirely genuine (washing her cat).

“What’s up?” said Husband as I mooched around the living room moodily dodging advancing dust bunnies.

“My er, friend postponed lunch to next week.”

“Never mind, baby,” said Husband soothingly. “She’s probably just busy.”

During the week, my self-confidence returned and I promoted Yvette from Erfriend back to My Friend. I also stepped up the guerrilla tactics, sneaking up on Husband unawares and shouting: “My friend!” into his ear.

I’m sure you can see exactly where this is going.

Yes. She cancelled again (Christmas shopping).

“What a cow,” said Husband, instead of: “Where’s your buddy now, huh? Ha ha HA! Niamhie No Mates! Niamhie No Mates!”

The compassion is all part of his long-term devious scheme to drive me over the edge.

“Maybe you should advertise for a friend on Trademe,” he suggested.

“What? Like: ‘Friend: low reserve, very loyal, never returns books, no funny stuff?’”

In the end, we didn’t have to. Last time we were in South Island, we learned that Husband’s college mate’s brother lives just down the road from us (that being about 8km).

The first time we met MarkJ, we went around to his place. We wondered whether we had got the right house – the entire place was dark – but rang the doorbell anyway. There was a bang, followed by a mechanical hum; then the garage door groaned up and it was like that scene in ET – you know where the aliens stop by to pick up ET and you wonder what’s going to come out of the spacecraft?

When the garage door opened fully it was still pitch black, and I don’t know about Husband but I was holding my breath. Then the light blared on and there was MarkJ perfectly framed in the doorway.

It was possibly the most dramatic greeting I’ve ever experienced. Subsequent meetings can only suffer in comparison, but each has been full of chat, frequently entertaining, and often freaky. MarkJ is a multi-talented, all-purpose friend: he can conduct simultaneous conversations with Husband about cars while discoursing the nature of solitude with me. We will see much more of him.

Some time ago, our Dubai-based buddy JohnM sent an email to me and Shelley, a friend of Sylvia’s living in Devonport on the North Shore. It said:-

Niamh, meet Shelley.

Shelley, meet Niamh.

‘Do Lunch’

So we did. Husband got bored around the two hour point and went to – ok, I’m not sure where because I didn’t notice him leave – but Shelley and I talked for another hour and a half and could have kept going.

Last weekend, we met her husband Greg who is almost as nice (Shelley’s Irish. It’s an unfair advantage, I know), and daughter Victoria. They are an awesome family.

And finally, can we claim John and Haze as new friends? John is less grumpy having left Dubai, and Haze less dusty, so it’s almost like they’re different people.

No?

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My life is awesome

‘Breakthrough to Success’ involved a number of exercises to practice the faith, reinforce The Message and obscure the fact that we spent three days covering material that would comfortably fit into half an hour.

 

One exercise involved identifying ‘limiting beliefs in your life. Afterwards, Guru Howard asked for volunteers to share their revelatory, life-altering breakthroughs. The microphone was passed to Bruce.

 

“Kia Ora, BRUCE!” roared 1000 people.

 

“What’s your limiting belief, Bruce?” enquired Guru Howard.

 

“I hate myself, I hate my life, I hate my family,” said Bruce, “and I wish I had been born a woman.”

 

I laughed so hard I fell off my seat – until I realized I was the only one: the guy was serious.

 

“I see,” said Guru Howard. “Eeeeeer. And how does this affect your life, Bruce?”

 

“Quite a lot,” said Bruce. “Like, I’ll do something I’m proud of. Like painting the spare room. And then I’ll go and ruin it all by saying something stupid to my wife or beating my kids. They hate me and I hate them. Not just them – I hate everything.”

 

“Umm,” said Guru Howard. “So, what’s your limiting belief, Bruce?”

 

“I think my limiting belief is that I’m unlovable,” said Bruce.

 

I could see where he was coming from.

 

“Give him a big hand, folks! Yeah! Bruce!”

 

At the time, I was sitting beside an enormous man in a vest, who was so overcome with emotion he had to resort to deodorant.

 

“I’m a but whuffy, time for the smullies,” he informed me, before spritzing strawberry scented body spray all over the two of us. I had coped with his fetid underarm stench, but when it combined with the jagged strawberry smell, I seriously considered throwing up.

 

“You will not puke, you will not puke,” I internally positively self-affirmed. “Wait! No! I feel entirely healthy! My stomach is in top form! There is no stomach acid whatsoever – argh!”

 

Two minutes later, we were required to hug the person sitting next to us.

 

Now, THAT was a life-changing experience.

 

Later, we were split into pairs to discuss where we were MOST STUCK in our lives and WHY. Rebecca went first:-

 

“I’m- I’ve- my relationships are awful. My relationship with my family is- well, if things don’t change, that’s it; it’s over between my husband and me. This is kind of the end of the line. I- we can’t find anything nice to say to each other any more. And I’m taking it out on the kids and I know it’s so unfair, I feel dreadful. So I think- I think I need to change my approach and be more loving and change how I think about my family and show them I cherish them.”

 

I actually gave this stranger a spontaneous, totally unprompted hug before it was my turn.

 

“Um, ok, well, I’m a writer. And I’m having trouble writing. Ah, that’s kind of it, really.”

 

At least there is one thing I have learned from ‘Breakthrough to Success’:

 

My life is awesome

I love this stuff! WOO!

All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual

– Albert Einstein

 

Much of The Message preached by Breakthrough to Success was that, if you have enough self-belief, enough faith, if you WANT IT ENOUGH, all that you desire will be yours. Forget education and intellect, personality or circumstance.

 

Guru Howard had a number of illustrative examples:-

 

“I remember this guy, Dave was his name – probably still is his name – Dave came to one of our seminars, ‘Performance Revolution’ – there are forms outside if you want to sign up for that – this guy had Alzheimer’s, real bad – see the back of the auditorium there? It would take Dave 15 minutes to make his way from that exit door to the stage right here – it was that bad. But over the course of the seminar, his Alzheimer’s – it disappeared! Gone! Once Dave released those limiting beliefs, his body HEALED ITSELF.”

 

I think skepticism set in when, after two days, my arse had got no smaller.

 

“There was this woman, Mindy, came to ‘Breakthrough to Success’. She was living in a trailer park. Fallen on hard times – she didn’t always live in a trailer park – but her partner had died – Mindy was not in a happy space – what was she not in? A happy space. Again, at level 10: a HAPPY SPACE – that’s right – Mindy came to ‘Breakthrough to Success’, and her whole life changed. She came up to me after and said, ‘Chris, Chris! You changed my life’. Mindy wanted to go on ‘Fast Track to Success’, but she had no money. Maybe two weeks later, Mindy got the exact amount deposited in her bank account by an anonymous donor! Awesome, huh! And Mindy went on to do our ‘Billionaires Bootcamp’ course in Hawaii, and she’d always- her lifelong dream was to own a house, to do good stuff, you know, charitable works – and this guy on the course, he BOUGHT HER A HOUSE! How awesome is that?”

 

It is arguable whether Guru Howard is a better trainer or salesman – probably depends on one’s individual perception of reality. Many of the participants were attending the seminar free, and Guru Howard has to make his millions of dollars somehow.

 

“Now, ‘Performance Revolution’ – can I tell you about ‘Performance Revolution’? Thank you! Turn to person next to you and give ‘em a high-five and say: ‘I love this stuff!’ Yeah! ‘Performance Revolution’ is if you want to have leadership skills for influence and persuasion. Now, it’s normally $6500, but we have a special offer for you, folks – if you bring a friend, we’ll let the two of you attend for $6500! Is that good or good? It’s FANTASTIC! All right!”

 

Here’s MY perception of Guru Howard’s reality:

 

“You can make millions – if you pay me lots of money.”

 

“Now, special offer, ‘Passion for Profits’ – first book I ever wrote – it’s $47 – and you might think that’s a lot for a book, but I’ve gotta question for you: if it makes you $20,000, would you say that’s worth it? Of course you would! ‘Passion for Profits’ – it’s on sale outside – we’ve only got a limited number, folks – and I’m sorry about that – and I guarantee the books are going to sell out in minutes – so I won’t be offended if you want to leave now to get your copy-”

 

There was a stampede towards the door, people punching each other in the face, crushed bodies littering the aisle. I was only grateful the chairs were bolted to the floor.

 

If you’re interested, ‘Passion for Profits’ sells on www.amazon.com for NZ$25. The thirty customer reviews say it is ‘awesome’.

 

Now, it would be remiss of me to let you think Guru Howard is primarily concerned with achieving his own potential. Part of living a fulfilled life is philanthropically giving back to the world and helping those in need. To demonstrate, he showed a slo-mo clip of himself playing with street children in Peru. This was after the photo of himself draped over Richard Branson, who looked vaguely bemused.

 

Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former

– Albert Einstein

High five! Yeah!

A while ago, I was given a free pass to a 3-day Christopher Howard ‘Breakthrough to Success’ seminar, possibly because I do a lot of moaning. It is a ‘journey to self-discovery, empowerment and finding your life’s purpose’, using the ‘cutting edge sciences of Results Technologies’ including Neuro Linguistic Programming, cognitive re-imprinting and er, other stuff.


Originally Rosina agreed to accompany me, but with Brian in hospital, she had to pull out. Since I have no friends here, I went alone. Husband? I would have had to lash the man to a seat – assuming I was able to dope him sufficiently to drag him in the doors of the conference centre in the first place.


However, he did accompany me to register at the Bruce Mason Conference Centre. Outside the front door was a large poster of Christopher Howard, arms akimbo, looking as if he’d just punched out his two imaginary friends.


“This guy will commit suicide,” predicted Husband.


“Go ahead and mock,” I said, “but when I’m successful and empowered and profoundly positively changed through acknowledging my inner magnificence and stuff, and you’re, like, a part-time welder, you’ll be sorry.”


Before entering the auditorium, the participants were required to agree to Terms and Conditions, which included:-


I understand that this event includes loud music at times; if that should cause me any distress I will leave the room immediately.


I presume this clause was included because before every session, Chris Howard was introduced by his adoring assistant with thumping music and strobe lights. We were informed that Chris loves ‘noise and energy’. Personally, noise and energy don’t even make it into my top 100 – but perhaps this is why Chris Howard is (allegedly) a multi-millionaire who makes up to $3m a day and I recycle glad wrap. Anyhoo, we had to entice him on stage with lots of roaring and clapping and jumping up and down and then he had an obsessive compulsive thing going where, to get himself motivated enough to address us, we all had to go 1-2-3-YES! and punch the air.


The entire thing is probably best described as a cross between a rock concert and evangelical gathering. I was always vaguely disappointed Chris didn’t ride up through the floor on a thunderbolt with an inflammable billowing cape – and that there wasn’t more knicker-throwing.


Here’s the man himself. He is not blue, but does generally show that amount of teeth:


There was a lot of blither about how we were part of an elite group of people committed to success and achievement and how even turning up at this seminar was the first step.


“These three days will be one of the most exciting experiences you will ever have,” promised Howard. “It can change your life! You better believe it! Turn to the person next to you and give ‘em a high-five and say: ‘I’m in the right place!’ Yeah! All RIGHT! The only thing I ask is that you play at a hunner percent.”


I never really figured out what a hunner percent was, but it seemed to involve lots of high-fiving and group massage.


“It’s about how you show up, folks.” Chris’s dress code included three day’s worth of stubble and the top three buttons of his shirt undone, so I feel quite confident about how I show up. He also had the beginnings of a paunch, but the guy radiates the CONVICTION of sex appeal, which is almost as good as the real thing.

Some of the material presented was interesting – for example: you can’t think about what you don’t want to think about without thinking about it. That is, suppose someone says: ‘DON’T think about a blue tree,’ what’s the first thing that pops into your head? – a BLUE TREE. High five! – because the subconscious doesn’t process negatives. So someone who thinks, ‘I must not fail’ is focused on failure; it’s a completely different message from an expectation of success.


This goes a long way to explaining why there is so much killing and committing of adultery and bearing of false witness and coveting of neighbours’ houses.


As another example, you might think: ‘I WILL succeed’ is a positive, affirming message to stick to your bathroom mirror and repeat to yourself 50 times before breakfast – but no! It implies to your subconscious that you are not currently successful. High five!


Then there were a lot of sensible and even catchy things that you can probably get on a fridge magnet:-


Most problems are problems of imagination, most solutions are solutions of imagination

It’s not the events that shape our lives, it’s our response to those events

By looking at the world a certain way, we create the world

It’s not a question of resources, it’s a question of resourcefulness

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