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How to Survive the Paris Terrorist Attack

Did you feel the way I did, as if you were punched in the stomach hearing what happened in Paris? An ordinary, calm night turned into a horror as terrorists gunned down people. I drank a half bottle of wine, ate carbs, and didn’t want to come out of bed.

I became depressed. Which is difficult when you're a speaker who is supposed to make people laugh.

I have a list of things to do when I’m down, but looking at the list was more upsetting. Only someone with a heightened sense of optimism would write, “When depressed: Write a poem. Listen to a motivating podcast. Read a book. Help someone else.” What may have seemed like a good idea when I was bursting with an “I’m high on life” attitude, was now shallow and exhausting. After all, people were killed and they will never read another book. And why would I help someone, as I hate people now.

One of the spectators said the shooters looked normal. As I walked my dogs down Abbot Kinney Boulevard, the trendy shopping street in Venice Beach CA, I passed people and found myself wondering what these normal looking people were capable of. Someone wanted to pet my dog, and I worried he might slip him some poison. 

It was then that my big Springer Spaniel started to get in that, “I’m going to poop” position, right in front of a hip outdoor wine bar and I realized I didn’t have a doggy poop bag. He has generous movements, things that are surely visible from outer space and contribute to global warming. I didn’t know what to do. I could stand over it but people might think it was my doing. If I left to find a bag, people would assume I was shirking my responsibility to clean up, and a hate mob would form. 

That was my metaphor for what the world had come to -- one big pile of sh*t.

And that’s when I saw the elegant woman getting out of her car next to me. She’s a stylish, beautiful older woman who I was sure was going to admonish me. She looked at me as I said in my defense preparing for her attack, “I have no bags!”

Rather than anger, she said kindly, “Let me help.” Then she reached into her car and handed me fancy, gift-wrap paper.

“Oh, thank you… thank you so much….” I told her as I picked up the stack left by my dog. I knew my dog was thinking, “What? Now you’re re-gifting it?”

She smiled and said, “No problem. Have a great day.”

That’s when it hit me that we have a choice as to what we look at. My fear and suspicion were derailed by the kindness of a stranger. Her caring act came between me and the terrorist act. By her reaching out -- the terrorist lost.

What are you doing to not let fear and hate win? 

23 comments:

  1. Awesome! Love this and thanks! Sharing!

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  2. Awesome! Love this and thanks! Sharing!

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  3. So true. I tried to focus on all the people helping after the attacks such as those donating their blood. Really great article.

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  4. You are right Judy, by shining our own light and recognizing it in others we shift that which is dark. It doesn't dismiss the darkness, but our conscious decision to be and seek light is what it means when Martin Luther King said, 'Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.We have to continually raise our own vibration because from that place our decisions and rightful actions become clearer and more empowered. You bring light to the world by sharing your humor, your frailties and your humanness. ThaNK U JUDY CARTER!!!

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  5. Terrific commentary, Judy. Be safe in your travels. I didn't let 9/11 stop mine, and I'm not letting ISIS stop them either. Thanks so much for this sane and hilarious analysis.

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  6. I am in Berkeley today. I went to the local butcher to get a ham hock for the split pea soup I'm making for a friend I'm staying with. On my way back I stopped at a small Asian restaurant for some sweet and sour soup which was divine. Prior to leaving, I decided to use the bathroom before my 30 or so minute trek back...Speaking of 'shit', low and behold, the terrorist before me left a 'bomb' in the toilet for others to enjoy as well. There's no doubt in my mind it was a suicide 'dump' as doubtful many would survive the explosion which must have occurred just moments before. So you're not the only one with terrorism poop issues...seems to be pervasive. Still, life is good and it only took the wind out of my sail for a moment.

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  7. This was a sweet read - thank you! Me? I think about the times I was so scared and rose to the occasion. I let that help me in the present. :)

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  8. My first class in an 8 week session of "The History of American Comedy" at Temple University in Philadelphia was (unknowingly) set for the first anniversary of 9/11...There was discussion as to whether to even have class that day, but with heightened security and "escape" routes posted all over the building, they decided to try...As I walked down the hall, I noticed classrooms were very empty, 2 students, 3 students, I was wondering "Would anybody even show up for my first class in something so frivolous?"... My way of coping was to make the best of whatever it was...As I got closer, passing more and more very empty classrooms, I could hear a murmur... When I opened the door to my classroom, there were people sitting EVERYWHERE - on the floor, on the window sills, everywhere...When class was over, the one comment I heard again and again was, "Thank you, we needed to laugh so much!'... So that's how we got through a sad, and a bit scary anniversary of terrorism.

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  9. Thanks, Judy. Paris reminds me a lot of 9/11 which also took the wind out of my sails for along time as it did everyone in NYC. Nevertheless, I got married about a month after 9/11 just a mile or so from Ground Zero. The wedding went well, ok, it was a few minutes late cause the bride was late to the wedding. It wasn't entirely her fault cause her father, who drove her to the church, thought the wedding was an hour later. The service was good.
    We made it to the reception ok, but the hall, which was in Queens, thought we were gonna be an hour earlier, so they rented OUR SPACE to another wedding. Keep in mind we had booked that space a year in advance. So much for Queens. At least nobody got hurt and we used another room in their facility.
    We were booked at the Waldorf Astoria for the wedding night cause our flight to Greece was the next day. However, we had to park a block away from the hotel b/c they were under terrorist alert and wouldn't let anybody actually drop off or park in the front of the building, even NEWLY MARRIED COUPLES!
    So, we flew first class to Greece cause nobody wanted fly, let alone board the plane in New York. Seriously, there were hardly any Americans flying.
    So, all's well that end's well, the honeymoon was great. Well, as great as could be expected. Greece had an early winter in October that year and we spent 10 days on a Greek Island which had a high of 40 degrees. Normally, that would be ok, except in Greece, where they have no heat (or air conditioning in the summer).
    We flew back after the strip search at the Greek airport which took an hour and our lives returned to normal in NYC, except at that time, there was a new normal.
    The moral of the story is: Life goes on. Thank God for all the comedians of the world who remind us that life is looney and we only have each other.
    We have to laugh after these events, not at the events, but at life itself.
    Thanks, Judy, for indulging my mad ramblings.
    Jeff

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  10. Life goes on, whatever happens.

    This time, I dug out my pictures of Paris and restaurants, on Flickr and made a new set, got 38000 hits: very unexpected. I called my son, wanted to feel closer to my family: he came. That counted. I begin to create new stories, remembering details of how we remained in life when the nazi army entered Hungary, how we fled a year later again to Russian soldiers to rape my mother, and yes, I remembered also how a German advices helped us hide, how a Russians advice incited us to fled in time, twice. And how happy I was at age 11 when a neighbor offered me an egg, when a French soldier we have hidden from Germans offered me an apple after a bombardment we escaped.

    I woke up early this morning decided I have to write down not only tell my stories or make laugh of them. And decided also to go this spring back in Paris, eat at restaurants, take new photos of a very resilient city again. But mostly, be there. Also, I am probably seen by some as a Migrant as I lived in a few different counties: I will tell the difficult place when we were, I were "in transition."

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  11. Wonderful post, Judy. Soon as I saw the topic, I wondered "how the hell will she find something to laugh about?" True to form, you did. Nothing beats a reality check like dog crap and the kindness of a stranger. Gift-wrapped dog shit, indeed. Soon as I heard the news, a boulder filled my throat. I felt like I'd been sucker-punched. I e-mailed a friend who lives and works in Paris, and heard back within minutes. She and her family are well. Solace there. Replaying Paris memories from two visits, I blew my nose, marveled at the resilience of Parisians, and fixed myself a hot fudge sundae.

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  12. You're so funny! I love your spunk and courage to live in the moment and see the hope.
    I'm reaching out to people I know who are from Paris or have traveled there and adore it. I know this cuts them deeper than most. When I've been there, I could always sense the love.
    Enjoyed ready the many smart and sensitive posts to your blog.
    Keep up the good work.

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  13. You are Paris to a lot of folks; I've seen the way you light up a room, with your wit and humor and can't wait to see you again. Great post! #keeplaughing

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  14. Thank you for that perspective. I think it's always the silver lining of tragedy. We tend to reach out and show more kindness and connection. What we need to do--is keep it as a practice. We can't let it fade the current fear subsides. Be grateful everyday and do some old fashioned random acts of kindness. You are brilliant and very , very funny.

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  15. My first thought was, "Normal people in Venice Beach, CA?" It must have changed a lot in the 17 years since I've been there.

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  16. I was one day from returning to the US from Israel when the Paris fiasco happened. My first thought was the world was going to hell. Then I counted my blessings. My flight home went through GERMANY! Had it been France, I'd still be in Israel!

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  17. Thanks Judy! You made me laugh which I needed since my back and hip are out of whack and I can't work right now. Working with you was one of the high lights of my year. You reminded me that I get to choose what I am focusing on at every moment, and that I can re-focus when I forget that.

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  18. Love this story. The gift wrapping paper. So simple, yet so meaningful.

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  19. I, for one, will bring an extra poop bag for people like you.

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  20. Two quotes help me to not let fear and hate win:

    "Be careful how you interpret the world: it IS like that." -Erich Heller

    and

    "if you do not see God in all, you do not see God at all." -Yogi Bajan

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  21. What a beautiful story--and an incredible metaphor.

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  22. Thank you Judy. You have great comments and clever followers. They say humor is about a shift of perspective and I find it useful to recall that there was no media attention for the billions of people who were essentially going about their kind and caring lives. Love is our reality and it serves us to remember that when the illusions are broadcast and placed in the forefront. We each can contribute to the collective lovingkindness or we can go off on our own like a cancer. Choose love.

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Judy's Blog

Judy Carter blogs on comedy, storytelling and public speaking techniques, using personal stories and her adventures as a stand-up comic turned motivational public speaker. Her weekly blogs are read by fans of her books, “The Comedy Bible” (Simon and Schuster) and “The Message of You” (St. Martin’s Press), which include comics, speakers, and entrepreneurs. She is also known for teaching the value of humor and storytelling to businesses as a leadership and stress reduction tool.