“You’re not as good as you think you are and not as bad as you think you are,” Dr. Nooney advised me. It was 1981 and ready to hear it I wasn’t. No, I needed to get beat up some more.

I don’t know when it began— my insecurity. Was it at ten, when making Little League’s “majors” and being young on a team of 11 and 12 year-olds I went 0 for 1960? Was it our parents’ divorce? Or was it, just maybe, the result of culling the “facts of life” from experts like Stuart and Alan? All I know is that from some time in adolescence ‘til some time in middle-age, I never TRULY felt like I belonged. Liked I felt always —welcomed even — but never like I quite belonged.

— And No, assurance I’d been “drafted for the future” meant little. Nor did seeing my parents rebound. Nor, for that matter, did ultimately graduating with honors from Lamaze Class.

But for my Dad, I suppose, I just always felt …… expendable.

Ray and Walt were pure athletes and Wieder knew baskets. Snyder? Even with all his pomp and circumstance on and off the court— give the man his due: he excelled while with Sol’s Boys.

I was smart, to be sure — but not like Herman or Cohn.

And I had friends — even friends that were girls! But still, back in the SLAM Days of Susie, Linda, Arlene and Maddy, I remember feeling that the only reason they talked to me is because my guy friends were cool.

Whatever. It didn’t matter. I just felt out of sync.

At college in the late 60’s, on one of the largest campuses in the country, I was the one not smoking dope…In the military right after, I was the one Jew in Louisiana. And in law school, which followed…it was I that was married.

(Ed. Note: Ohio boy wedding east coast girl? Are you kidding me? Not one among her high school group didn’t think this naïve kid from Cleveland, this lad aspiring only to be in sales like his old man, wasn’t marrying up! Indeed, as The Jersey Girl once informed me: “Roberta thinks I can do better”.).

It wasn’t her fault; it was mine. Totally. I just never felt like I totally belonged. And then, again, looking back, it was never what others did that made me feel as I did; it was ME, and my internal “stuff”.

In the practice…in charitable work … in the lodge I felt not as smart as, not as giving as, and not as successful as the others. Surrounded I was, (or so it seemed), by markedly affluent people in creased pants that never outwardly stumbled. If they were wearing masks, I didn’t know it — but I bought what I saw … and I felt almost like a draft mistake. Like I didn’t fit. Not really.

(And that was in good times).

The bad times came, thank God, and I finally looked up. Over time I would learn that matter it didn’t if I fit in with others. Matter it did if I fit with myself.

Spring it was, in 1999—

Three hours with the clergyman, and for three hours I spilled. When it was all over, driving up Carnegie digesting his advice I realized what he’d told me was nothing other than what Dr. Nooney’d told me nearly two decades earlier: that I was neither as good or as bad as I thought… that what other people thought of me was just not my business … that I should just be myself, but be the best self I could be.

That day, for the first time in years, I looked in the mirror and truly smiled. That night, as I’d done for two years, I went to a meeting. That evening, surrounded by so many men and women interplaying sans masks, I looked the world in the eye.

And smiled.

Two decades more have passed, (almost). My son married a New Yorker and we mix well together. I still practicing law and I’ve found my right zone. As to lodge brothers? The true friends remain.

Today I feel comfort in my skin, and even stumble with dignity.  I can be myself.   In a crowd.

Today I feel welcomed. And “a part of”. And like I belong.

(Even when I don’t).

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