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Well Qualified

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I don’t know how many times Cathy insisted, “It’s not about the Q, Andrea,” leaving silent the obvious message – “It’s about the process of getting to that Q.”  I told her I “got” the message, but it didn’t really sink in until now. I was still consumed with getting that coveted Q. (Q is short for Qualifying, which means you and your dog get a ribbon and a notch on your belt towards a title in a dog performance sport.) Now that I don’t have my mentor, trainer, rescue colleague and friend to brag to about scoring a Q, I finally GET IT. And I see it as the metaphor she intended it to be… a metaphor for life.


My partner, Andrea, wrote the passage above in tribute to our friend, Cathy, who passed away last week.

Ah, the constant quest to get this lesson and keep it in the forefront: Life is about the middle parts, not some result “out there.” We hear this all the time and send poems like The Dash to each other.

But how, exactly, do we do this? How do we keep it in the front of our minds to really live the middle parts?

I wish there was an easy answer to these questions.

After Cathy was diagnosed with non-smoker’s lung cancer a few months ago, Andrea and I sat with her and talked about death and life. Cathy, a retired ecology professor, had always taken a no-nonsense scientist’s approach to life. The data were what mattered. Now, with cancer riddled throughout her body, she had learned to meditate. And she never in her life felt more peaceful and more alive than when she meditated. She radiated serenity and contentment as she told us what she had learned – that she had spent too much time in her life worrying about the outcomes and not paying attention to living. That this time of her life when she was terminally ill was the best she had ever felt spiritually and emotionally.

“Cathy, how can we learn this lesson without having a life-threatening illness?” I asked her.

“You know, Bobbi,” she said, leaning back on her sofa, “I’ve thought about that and . . . I really don’t know. I wish I did.”

I don’t know, either. All I can say is we need to somehow remember. And to remind each other as often as possible that it’s not about the Q, it’s about what you’re doing to get there. It’s the middle parts.


Andrea closed her tribute by writing directly to Cathy:

Cathy, I know I wrote this too late for you to read with physical eyes, but I had to write it anyway. You gave me the gift of being able to see you at your house last week.  I’m so glad I got to tell you how much you’ve meant to me and hug and kiss you one last time. But what I didn’t tell you is that I understand about the Q. Damn it. I truly do.  What I understand is that YOU’VE Q’D IN LIFE. You’ve made a huge, first rate, first class, awesome and spectacular Qualifying run in this life. And I am so honored to have been a witness and participant. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

In loving memory of Catherine Toft, PhD.



Takeaway points: Somehow, we need to be aware of life at this moment – the dash, the middle parts, working toward the Q – not the Q itself. As so many sages have said: It’s about the journey, not the destination.

This is a toughie – trying to figure out how to live in each moment. What are your ideas?




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Bobbi Emel is a therapist who helps people in Los Altos, Palo Alto, Mountain View and the greater Bay Area manage their stress and develop their strengths.
She is effective in helping people dealing with anxiety, worry and grief; and also those who want to improve their effectiveness and performance.