FIRST PERSON Hello? You’re Fired

Pink slip in hand. Dr. Lynn Weiss has some advice for herself.

Editor’s Note: For years, radio psychologist Dr. Lynn Weiss guided area listeners through divorces, layoffs, and other problems. When Dr. Weiss was fired by KLIF last October, D asked her to write about coping with a crisis of her own.

ON FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12 AT 10 a.m., I got a call from KLIF’s program director (PD for short) at my counseling center office. During the next break my secretary, Joy Hawn, told me that my KLIF boss of five years wanted to see me before I went on the air that day. I puzzled, wondering if there would be time to go by the station and still get to Fair Park for the remote broadcast at noon. Before going back into session, I quipped, “I wonder if he’s going to fire me.” An hour later, though, he canceled the meeting. A funny, nagging feeling of wonder drifted through my consciousness the rest of the weekend.

The following Monday at 3 p.m., the PD called me into his office to say that my show was being replaced. I was fired. It would be better, he said, if I packed my things right away.

Two different feelings swept over me as I sat in the office. First was a sense of freedom: 1 was tired of the daily grind in a setting in which I didn’t feel valuable. (To the station, that is. 1 always felt very valuable to the listeners.) Then my brain shut down, and I noticed that my breathing became very regular, a result of years of relaxation training to handle stress.

My biggest concern was for the regular listeners who had been such a part of my life for as long, in some cases, as seven years. (That included two years, 1981-1983, on WFAA.) So when the PD asked if I would like to record something for the listeners, I jumped at the chance. I wrote what I feel, in retrospect, was a satisfactory goodbye. I assumed it would be played a lot, probably at the beginning of my show hours for at least a week. But many listeners, I later learned, never heard the message.

I packed up and didn’t feel anything else until I heard the taped “goodbye” play the following day at noon. Tears came to my eyes as I listened to the lady whose compassion and caring reached herself as well as others. 1 liked that radio lady.

The anger came when I realized that my replacement was not going to start immediately. The station was going to rely on makeshift programming for the time being. A sharp pain came to my attention, radiating from my jaw. It was my body’s first loud declaration of the anger that I was feeling.

As the phone calls and letters from disappointed listeners inundated my counseling office, I set about wondering what the next chapter of my life would hold. I was not afraid, as I had been seven years earlier when WFAA fired all its talk-show hosts. I’d grown strong over the ensuing years. I was determined to take my time and construct a next chapter that would reflect the emotional growing and creative dreaming and planning I’d been doing, especially in the last couple of years.

It would have been easy to hide my feelings behind my public face and the counseling work I’d done for 30 years, but I chose not to. Sporadically. I felt anger not at the loss of the show, but at the handling of the listeners. I would happily have fielded calls on the air and managed a healthy separation. I know that’s not how it tends to be done in the radio business, but I am different. The Dr. Lynn Weiss show was different, and the needs and wants of my listeners are different.

A story in The Dallas Morning News on October 31 offered an opportunity to help all of us heal from the loss that is inevitable when change occurs. But when 1 read the piece, a new emotion swept over me: shame. I hurt. Because I try to live the way I tell other people to live, I asked myself, “Why do you feel the shame, Lynn?” Then I became quiet inside and waited for an answer.

Rather than limiting the article to a goodbye, the reporter went into some issues about why the show was canceled, and included quotes from the PD. He cited the Arbitron numbers that reflected my show’s popularity, or lack thereof, in relation to others at the station. I felt naked and devalued. My mind immediately filled with innumerable reasons why KLIF was bad and to blame for the problems. “No,” another part of me said. “Don’t waste your time on that. What is it in you that is creating the problem?” It took about 24 hours and some fresh outside air to come up with an answer: I’d let myself down. I’d perpetrated the abuse on myself. I had abandoned myself. By a sin of omission, I had stayed on a job that I ought to have left three to six months earlier.

I had done all I could do to improve my show’s ratings. I had talked to sales and promotions many times, trying to broaden the base of exposure beyond strictly mental health issues. I had tried to get management to see that, though I was different from the other hosts, I had a lot to offer; that I would be valuable interacting with other hosts from time to time; that my input could be useful and insightful in the news events and breaking stories of the day. I have to be honest: It was an uphill battle, and I don’t think I ever got past their original perception that I was a mental health professional who wasn’t “one of the boys.”

Because of that lack of melding with the staff, it is probably better that I was replaced. 1 also knew and had known for some time that I was ready to go on to other, less restrictive formats in my life. I wanted to be more creative with my writing and teaching, to travel outside the Dallas-Fort Worth area, to give more time to my personal life for fun, living, and loving.

But I hadn’t left three to six months earlier. Why? Because I was afraid: afraid to meet my future and live fully. My humanness showed through, and KLIF was left with the dirty work. I failed to walk my talk. For that, I apologize first to myself. Secondly, I apologize to my listeners. And finally, I apologize to my colleagues at KLIF. I take responsibility for my lack of action. I do not apologize for the humanness that allowed these circumstances to occur.

When I figured out the source of my shame, I hugged myself, as I have often advised my listeners to do. I love the fearful Lynn, who is still learning to be the kind of person I want to be. My inner child accepted the hug and has grown from the experience. She’s okay now, and I’m okay. I hope my listeners are, too.

When D Magazine called to see if I would like to write about leaving KLIF, I was eager to do it. It has turned out to be a very hard piece to write. I have had to live through my feelings to see what would happen. I wanted to get past the angry phase of the grief process that dredged up old hurts that I have felt during the past five years at KLIF. Like many people, I can remember each and every small inequity that I experienced. An example: I was never able to shake the feeling that the PD wanted a Sally Jessy Raphael and instead got a Lynn Weiss. On my second day of work five years ago, the PD went on and on about how wonderful Sally was. He said nothing about my “wonderfulness” then and never has, to my knowledge. I never really got the feeling that he thought I was the greatest. It’s funny how that stuck.

I wanted to write this article to help me feel whole inside, hopeful about the future separate from KLIF. My attention is now focused on giving thanks to people who helped me while I was there: To the listeners and callers, first of all, I love you; to my producer Anne Marie Schmidt, fondly known as Amps; and my technical director, Brian Kane, whose sly smile (especially when I was ready to get on the soapbox) will forever stay a sweet memory in my mind; and finally to my very special colleague and friend, Susan Palmarozzi. I wish we would have been allowed to do more joint programming. I think the public would have liked it.

Time goes on, and I’m excited about the new groups and workshops that have developed for me to do; about the Dr. Lynn Weiss Center’s spiritual growth program that is emotionally sound; and about my new book. Power Lines: What To Say In Problem Situations, due out in March from Taylor Publishing Co. Stay in touch with me, and I will stay in touch with you. I love you.


Keep me up to date on the latest happenings and all that D Magazine has to offer.