Life Coaching: Vacuum cleaners and the Twilight Zone

Allow me to share a traumatic incident that occurred to me when I was 17 years old. I must warn you that the words that follow are not for the squeamish. Think twice before continuing. This article could redeem you, or it might send you reeling into despair, dismay, and premature balding.

ben goldfarb 88 (photo credit: )
ben goldfarb 88
(photo credit: )
Allow me to share a traumatic incident that occurred to me when I was 17 years old. I must warn you that the words that follow are not for the squeamish. Think twice before continuing. This article could redeem you, or it might send you reeling into despair, dismay, and premature balding. -------------------------------------- I was enjoying a carefree summer in El Paso, Texas where I grew up. I found it very difficult to enjoy the summer anywhere else because I wasn't there. I spent my evenings with my friends until the wee hours of the morning. When we weren't burning the midnight oil discussing philosophy and ways of changing the world, we were involved in heated debates over the flavor, viscosity, and alcoholic content of various foreign and domestic beers. I usually came home around 3 or 4 in the morning and awakened by my alarm at 10 o'clock. Being a master of discipline and personal growth, I proceeded to sleep for a couple more hours. After dragging myself out of bed at a few minutes before noon, I went to the kitchen where I threw a few kosher rolled tacos into the microwave. Equipped with my nourishment, I sat myself down in front of the TV to watch Twilight Zone reruns. One day, as I kicked up my feet on the coffee table waiting for Rod Serling's introduction, an event occurred that shook up my very existence. An interplay of cosmic forces was about to occur that would penetrate to the core of my being. As Serling was beginning his narrative, our housekeeper, busy with her vacuuming, asked me to lift my legs for a few moments. Apparently, she wanted to vacuum underneath the very same coffee table that was hosting my feet and my lunch. For some reason, I honored her request. Why didn't I ask her to wait a few moments until the commercial? Why didn't I just say no? Why didn't I ignore her completely? These questions haunted me for years. But alas, we can't change the past- or can we? I lifted my legs so she could do her work, and thereby missed 32 seconds of the show. The roar of the Hoover beast drowned out Serling's voice and created wavy lines on the TV screen. I was very lucky that the vibrations from her weapon of personal destruction didn't cause one of the tacos to fall to the floor, never to be consumed again. The horror. The humanity. Our housekeeper, although well intentioned, couldn't have had a poorer sense of timing if she had tried. This trauma was now a part of me, and as far as I knew, this event would be imprinted in my soul indelibly. Every time I heard a vacuum cleaner, I cringed. When a car backfired, I jumped to the ground instinctively in a vain attempt to save a phantom taco from falling to the ground. When I heard anyone whose voice matched Rod Serling's tonality, my hyper-vigilance kicked in and I looked over my shoulder for a vacuum cleaner wielding maid. Five years later during my senior year of college at UT Austin, I was recovering from an all night cramming session when I had an epiphany. I realized that just as this phobia was created instantly, it could be cured instantly as well. I started to play the scene over in my mind, but stopped right before I put my feet on the coffee table. As the director of my movie, I changed the scene ever so slightly. In my new version of the film, I picked up the portable phone and dialed our second home number. In my new version of the event, the maid answered the phone, and in my broken Spanish, I was able to sell her a cable TV subscription. When she hung up the phone and resumed vacuuming, it was time for a commercial. She did her vacuuming while I fetched some more tacos. The trauma had been avoided. I watched the entire show, and no tacos were even slightly in danger of plummeting to the floor. I was given the gift of changing the past. With my new memory, there was no need to create a phobia or suffer from any type of post traumatic stress syndrome. I had to test the efficacy of this cure, so I got in my car and drove to the closest mall. I went straight to Home Depot and ran to the vacuum cleaner department. I mustered up all of my courage and allowed the salespeople to demonstrate the various vacuum cleaner models to me. As they went through their pitches, I didn't cringe or jump. I even did some vacuuming myself. I was no longer scared and found myself enjoying the experience. But the testing process was not over yet. I spoke to a number of people in the mall whose voices sounded like Rod Serling's. To my great surprise, I experienced no negativity and had no flashbacks of the "the event." This is because my memory of the scene had changed, at least in my mind. Would this cure last, or was it just a quick fix? Would I be able to keep the change? The answer is unequivocally yes. The phobia was completely dissolved. It's been 22 years and I haven't had one flashback. To this day, I vacuum any chance I get. I've watched several Twilight Zone marathons on TV and I enjoyed every minute of them. I realize that not everyone is as lucky as I am. Perhaps the whole cure was a fluke and can't be replicated. Maybe I was chosen to go through this hell on earth so I could tell my story to others. Perhaps I was singled out to suffer so I could help those who may have gone through a similar experience. Or maybe I just need to get a life. Ben Goldfarb was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to Israel in 1988. He divides his time between his yeshiva studies and his coaching practice. His life calling is to help others understand their personal mission and accomplish it with humor, creativity, and spirituality. He lives with his wife and children in Jerusalem. His book, "Double Feature: A Nostalgic Peek into the Future" will be published in the spring. For more information about his coaching practice, visit the Paradigm Shift Communications website, or send an email to [email protected] © Copyright 2007 by Ben Goldfarb