Those who’ve spent any time with me or my writings know that I long ago disabused myself of the belief that things just happen (i.e., that Life is little more than a linear collection of random events). To the contrary, my experience has been precisely the opposite – not necessarily that things happen for a reason, but that there is an interconnectedness to it all that may not be apparent in the moment, but plainly is there to be seen if we are willing to search for it – and often is quite profound. To me, there is no other credible explanation for events and encounters that otherwise seem so ill-fitting, if not wholly incongruous with my often admittedly too narrow view of the way things should or were meant to be. Consequently, I’ve learned to pay closer attention to what I once would have dismissed as ordinary, unrelated experiences and, on occasion, to give voice to the “common threads” I see running through them. Such has been the case over the past three weeks, when, in succession, I received a note from a friend, had dinner with a stranger and, out-of-nowhere, decided to read Mitch Album’s book “The Time Keeper”, which, with apologies to Mitch, had been gathering dust in my nightstand since he generously sent me a signed copy shortly before its release back in 2012!
“Dear Don, Today, I am feeling, very acutely, that old sentiment of ‘everyone would be better off without me’. My eating disorder is a burden for so many people around me, not just myself. Don’t get me wrong: They have the right to break down and feel as frustrated and enraged by the eating disorder as I do. But since I am ‘the carrier’ of that eating disorder, it always feels like I’m the one burdening everyone, causing misery and anger and strife. It makes me feel very, very, very alone. It makes me want to give up.” A Friend
“Don, I love my daughter dearly and I would do anything for her. In fact, in many ways, I feel like I already have done everything I can do for her, but it doesn’t seem to have made a difference. I know that she’s made progress and I’m proud of her for that, because I know how hard it’s been. But, I also know she’s far from being out of the woods, that she’s still struggling – and that recovery seems a long way off. I’m sad about that and fearful. At the same time, I’m frustrated and exhausted. I’m not sure I can do this for another minute, let alone another year. A Dad”
“The very next moment may be an answer to your prayer. To deny that is to deny the most important part of the future: Hope!”
I suppose it would be easy to conclude that the occurrence of these events in close proximity to one another and in this particular order was simply a coincidence, but the tears that spontaneously flowed from my eyes in Row 23B as I read Album’s words told me otherwise. So, no sooner had I set the book down, than I reached for my laptop and hurriedly wrote the following notes to my friend, my now no longer a stranger fellow dad, and Mitch – mid-flight:
Dear Friend, Thank you for reaching out from the darkness and for trusting me with your heart in a moment of vulnerability. I wish, as I often do, that there were a magic wand I could wave that would help heal the hurt embedded in your words. Of course, there’s not or I (and those who love you) would have waved it a long time ago – and not for my (or their) own selfish purposes, but because we care deeply about you. Our message, not always conveyed properly (i.e., with just the right tone, at the right time or with the right words, etc.) is not that “the world would be better off without you”. Quite to the contrary, the message is: “the world (and our lives) are infinitely better with you in them, which is why all of us desperately want to keep you in them and long for the day when you can be even more fully part of and engaged in them – free of the shackles that keep you from realizing just how important and special you are.” I hope you will allow yourself to breathe in that truth for a moment this morning. We loved ones don’t always get it right, because, at times, as you so astutely recognize, it’s hard for us too. But, don’t mistake our intent. All of us care deeply about you. You are a remarkably gifted young woman with a sensitive and uniquely beautiful soul. I, for one, am committed to protecting that light and feel privileged to be part of your life. I hope the day softens for you. Warmest, Don
Dear Dad, You hurt the way you do, because you love your daughter as much as you do, the way a father should – the way every daughter needs and deserves to be loved by her father. That said, I know how hard it can be to keep loving and giving so much, especially when you’re getting so little in return. But, don’t mistake what seems like a lack of reciprocity as a lack of need for every ounce of love and support you can muster. I assure you, while your daughter may not be able to voice her gratitude at the moment, let alone properly convey her love, her need for you, for your affection, for your support, for your patience, for your empathy and for your continued understanding likely has never been greater. The truth is: No one wants to be free of the millstone that is your daughter’s eating disorder more than she does, not only for herself, but for those she loves who also are suffering under its weight and for whom she feels acutely responsible. You are at or near the top of that list. Regrettably, she can’t offer a timeline for when that day will come any more than I can, but it will come and when it does it will be in part because you (and others) loved her that much. I know you’ve gone the extra mile, but I also know you can go a few more! Warmest, Don
Dear Mitch, Thank you for reminding all of us of the power that resides in HOPE and the potential that resides in Life’s very next moment! Don B.