Northern Illinois Counseling Associates, P.C.

A Tradition of Excellence

Larry B. Gelman, Psy. D.

LBG1 1I’ve always been infatuated with the word “oomph!!
I like the way it sounds akin to a traditional Zen “mantra.”

The sound seduces all with an “oom” at the start,
And concludes with a powerful “ph” sound at the end.

If you listen carefully, what do the sounds of each enunciated word elicit deeply within you?
Especially, if you string-out the “o” in “om” to say “o-o-o-o-o-m-m-m-m-m;”
Or if you exaggerate the “oo” in “oomph” to say “oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-mm-mm-mm-ph-ph-ph?”

The other appeal of the word “oomph” is how it subjectively feels internally.
For me, there is a palpable emotional tone which invites both serious and vivacious participation.

I recall an old friend who, though “larger than life” and as “strong as an ox,” Had an incredibly slow, smooth and spectacular golf swing.
When I inquired as to his secret, his advice was simply to “get your ass into the game.”

I think he was making a point about “oomph” which combines true passion infusing one’s heart and soul,
So, you must be “fully committed” with “skin-in-the-game”, either “all-in or all-out” and “no half-assing” any effort!

One day my friend felt unusually ill and sought immediate attention at a local hospital emergency room.
To his shock and horror, he discovered he was terminally ill and was only expected to live 3 days!

To add insult to injury, he and his wife had unsuccessfully tried for years to conceive and, miracle of miracles, they had just been selected a few days earlier as top candidates to interview for either one or two pending adoptions.

My friend and his wife were completely devastated since his physicians said in their matter-of-fact bedside manner “you only have a few days to finalize your plans, put all of your affairs in order and prepare to meet your maker.”

I finally got a frantic call from an extremely distraught and grieving wife, who loved her husband more than life, itself, requesting my urgent intercession as a friend and I mobilized into action as if I were cruising in automatic.

But I admit to having delayed my departure by 30 minutes to find a matched pair of un- usually resistant handgrips.

He lived more than an hour away and rush hour traffic had slowed my driving speed. I worried that each tick of the clock might be a single tick longer than he had left to live as this was already day 3 and the clock was still ticking!

I walked through his front door and my friend looked like death warmed over. He was frail and week. It was clear he had given up any discernable fight for life and was passively awaiting the inevitable, bitter end.

I tossed the handgrips on the coffee table in front of the sofa he was lying upon. He asked in a surprised tone why I had brought them for him as he had no strength with even two hands to slightly close only one of the handgrips.

I politely informed him that since he had apparently decided to “give up” because of what his doctors had proclaimed as his certain death sentence, that the handgrips were actually for his petite, beautiful wife!

Now clearly agitated, he asked me why would she need to use the handgrips when he, easily being thrice her size, could not even use one of them with his two gigantic “tool and die” shop hands.

I replied that the moment you die, every Tom, Dick and Harry will want to keep company with your woman and try to bed her down since you aren’t going to be here to protect her, she’ll have to learn how to do that for herself!

With that said, he slowly got up from his sofa, looked me straight in the eye, conveyed a barrage of expletives beginning with the letter “f” which were alliteratively directed at me and in that moment, he made a serious and vivacious decision not to die that day!

Several weeks later, his wife informed me that he was now able to do several repetitions of the handgrips with each hand and that he had commenced and completed making some repairs and upgrades to their home.

The diseases of multiple myeloma and pernicious anemia leading to systemic organ failure, coma and death were not a pretty sight to see. But from a death sentence of 72 hours to a decision not to die until he was ready, almost a full 18 months!

My friend understood “oomph” while golfing; temporarily forgot “oomph” while under healthcare siege and when he was truly in need, was challenged by his friend, in deed, to “get his ass into the game.”

He lived with “oomph” and died with “oomph”, “fully committed”, with “skin-in-the game” and “no half-assing!”


Author Note: Dr. Larry B. Gelman is a Clinical Psychologist and a Personal Mentor

Copyright © 2014-2023 Larry B. Gelman, Psy. D. All Rights Reserved.