York’s piano sale an emotional event

It was the little piano that got away, and when it did, Patricia Shaw began to cry, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 9. The middle-aged woman, who came to Toronto from the west coast to head back to school, had eyed a 1927 Nordheimer baby grand piano, worth about $7,000. While considering the purchase, she ventured to the other models at York University‘s annual piano sale when a family snapped it up right before her eyes. As consolation, they invited her over for dinner. “I fell in love with the piano that someone else bought,” she said.

Shaw, who has played piano since she was 6, wasn’t the only one who fell in love with a piano on Sunday. She was among a throng of piano enthusiasts who attended the four-day sale, which started last Thursday. Each year, York’s music department renews its stock of pianos, which includes grand, upright and refurbished styles. About 120 pianos were up for grabs, with prices ranging from $1,100 to $65,000. The sale has run for 12 years, and the event’s organizer, Michael Chau, has seen many of the same people come year after year. Several thousand attended during the weekend, some from as far as Montreal, Chau said.

Extreme perfectionism wrecks lives, says Flett

The Times of London talked with Gordon Flett, psychology professor in the Faculty of Arts, whom it described as “one of the world’s experts on perfectionism.” Flett, said The Times in a story also published in the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 8, does not subscribe to the fashionable idea that perfectionism is a coveted trait that turns its possessor into a high-achieving success. Instead, he believes extreme perfectionism wrecks lives, is a substantial risk factor for depression, anorexia and suicide, and should be classed as a mental disorder. “When perfectionism impairs the ability to function in the workplace, or at home, or is causing distress to either the person or the people around them, then it’s a disorder,” Flett says. “Often these people aren’t aware they have it, nor of the impact it has on others.”

His analysis lies on one side of an absorbing and timely debate within psychology about whether perfectionist tendencies can ever be a good thing. One camp argues that some forms can be beneficial, or “adaptive.” The pernicious form is termed “maladaptive.” Flett makes no secret of his disdain for the adaptive point of view.

Flett also told The Times that homemaking guru Martha Stewart was a classic exponent of perfectionist self-presentation: Sufferers feel they must appear immaculate at all times. One trait of this super-achieving tribe is that they do not admit to mistakes or wrongdoing, however small. Flett suggests that it is no coincidence that Stewart admitted to a bout of depression in the ’70s: “She’s an extreme perfectionist and she refuses to say there’s anything wrong with it.”

The legacy of Lewis Wheelan

Hsi-Fu, Thelus, Peggy and Daryl have a new sense of freedom these days, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 7. It’s testament to the spirit of a 22-year-old York University economics student from Sault Ste. Marie who died alone in a high-rise apartment during the blackout that paralysed Toronto a year ago.

Lewis Wheelan, who studied at Glendon, was just getting his life back together after being electrocuted by a broken hydro line two years previously. He had lost both legs and an arm, and needed skin grafts to cover extensive burns, but his fighting spirit was still very much in evidence and he was determined to live independently.

Skin that has been grafted doesn’t breathe the way the skin we’re born with does. Wheelan needed a steady supply of air conditioning to prevent his body from overheating. By the time his frantic parents managed to contact someone in Toronto to help him, it was too late. But if you think Lewis Wheelan was lost in the blackout, think again.

As the anniversary of his death approaches, the young man whose story gripped the entire country is still very much present, said the Star. And his mother Melanie thinks this is a good time all of us to remember to look out for our neighbours, particularly those who live in high-rises.

Her son’s high-tech electric wheelchair and other special aids for daily living have gone to people who really need them. Hsi-Fu, Thelus, Peggy and Daryl, members of the L’Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, inherited his wheelchair-accessible van.

The gift from Lewis – with its ramp that unfolds automatically and remote door opener – is nothing short of awesome, says Daybreak community leader Lydia Banducci. But it is the way in which the Wheelans have touched so many lives that will endure, she adds. “Lewis’ spirit has brought people together,” she says. “Out of such a painful story, the family has given so much hope.”