A Note To A Dad From The Darkness

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Dear Dad,

I’m not sure how I got to this very dark place.
And I’m even less sure how to navigate my way out of it.
I’m also not sure why I feel so worthless, like such a burden and so alone.
And I’m even less sure how to go about ridding myself of these feelings.

What I AM sure of, however, is how much I need you tonight.

I need a strong shoulder to cry on.
I need a voice I can trust to tell me everything’s going to be alright.
I need reassurance that the sun will come up tomorrow.
I need to be reminded that I’m good enough – “AS IS”.
I need a heart so filled with love that it has no space to be ashamed of me.
I need to know that, despite all that’s happened, I’m not a disappointment.
I need someone to check “under my grown up bed” and in the closet – the way you once did when I was a child and tell me it’s safe for me to go sleep.
I need to know I’m someone’s pride and joy – your pride and joy.
I need someone who will listen without judging me.
I need to know that I’m loved and that I matter.
I need you to show me the truth about me – again and again and again – until I can see it myself.

I need YOU, Dad.

I need you to hold hope for me.

I need you to light the way, to take my hand and walk with me out of this darkness.

I need to know I’m not alone in this fight.

Your 22-Year-Old “Little Girl”

A Note To A Heart Questioning Its Worth

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Several months ago, I received a note from a gentle heart questioning its worth, wondering if anyone would miss “it” if tomorrow it just “disappeared” – fearful it had become a burden, “let down” too many who had dedicated so much to its survival. Chances are if you love someone battling or in recovery from an eating disorder or addiction, you’ve heard similar words from their heart and if you are the one suffering you’ve likely spoken and felt the weight of them more times than you can bear to think about. Here was my response:

Dear Jen,

This is not about letting me or anyone else down, nor are you, have you ever been, or will you ever be “a burden”. This is about fighting for a beautiful heart – yours.

It’s about a disease that’s hell-bent on keeping that heart, which longs to be set free, captive – hidden from your and the rest of the world’s view.

Like the rest of us, the disease knows the truth about you. The difference is: We want that truth to shine through. It doesn’t. It is intent on distorting it.

And so, the battle lines are drawn. It’s you (and those who love you) against The Bully. You are the prize, Jen.

I sense the frailty and vulnerability of your spirit in your note. They are some of the many attributes that make you so beautiful.

But, make no mistake: You also are strong and courageous. The Bully knows that too. He fears that. The “slips” in your recovery are manifestations of his fear – not yours.

You deserve healing, Jen and I believe you have the resolve and the strength to claim it, to retake possession of your life. In fact, I’m certain of it.

Truth is: Recovery is the only option here. “Jen” is too important to throw in the towel and you, my friend, are the BEST (and only) hope she has – you and the One who created you.

I urge you to breathe in that truth – your truth – knowing that I am in your corner, that I am FOR “Jen” 100%, and that I’m not going anywhere until her heart runs free!

Would anyone miss you? You tell me.

Hugs,

Don

*image credit: frasesbonitasweb

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI

A Note, A Dinner, and A Dusty Book

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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!

The Note

“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

The Dinner

“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 Book

“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.

There’s A Princess In The Tower

Rapunzel Forgotten Sarah Schloss

I have a friend who . . .

in the darkness left behind by years of

neglect,

disrespect,

physical and emotional abuse,

broken relationships,

infidelity,

belittling,

self-doubt,

breaches of trust, and

abandonment,

has lost sight of just how beautiful she is,

of her worthiness,

of all the things that make her unique,

of the preciousness of her giver’s heart,

of her capacity to love and her lovability –

of the playfulness and fragility of her tender, child-like spirit.

Maybe you are my friend or maybe you know someone like her.

Either way, know (or let them know) this . . .

I see you.

I see the truth about you.

I hear “her” gasping for air buried beneath a lifetime of lies and distortions.

It’s as clear, pure and refreshing to me as a mountain stream.

And I plant to stay in your life until you to see it, believe it, embrace it, and begin living it – again – the way you once did as a little girl.

You matter too much – are too valuable – to continue playing the role of invisible.

Your 4-year-old, bad ass self is counting on you to unlock the chains and set her free.

You’re the only hope she has – you and the God who created you.

Now is the time!

 

*Image Credit: “Rapunzel, Forgotten” by Sarah Schloss

“You Were Never Meant To Be Here”

qctimes

Several months ago, I had the unexpected privilege of sharing my heart with a room full of folks battling and in various stages of recovery from drug, alcohol, and other addictions at a treatment facility in the Mountain West. It was the last place on earth I ever expected to find myself, which likely was evident from the freshly pressed khaki pants and button-down Polo shirt I was wearing and the fish-out-of-water body language that I’m certain was oozing out of every pore of my skin. But, I’d promised someone I care deeply about that I’d be there to witness their graduation from the program and so there I was – in the front row no less – feeling quite content to mind my own business. Unbeknownst to me, however, the staff had very different intentions. Apparently, it had become customary for invited guests of program graduates to speak (or at least be given an opportunity to speak) in support of their loved one at the end of the ceremony and, as I found the microphone being passed to me, I realized that night would be no exception. I also realized, from the tightness that immediately took my chest hostage and my racing heart, that I wasn’t prepared to speak.

“You were never meant to be here,” I began, wondering where those words had come from and then surrendering to the Spirit that gave birth to them as a hush fell over the room. “You were never meant to stick a needle in your arm, hold a spoon full of crack or meth over an open flame, put a rolled up $20 bill in your nose, pour alcohol into your body until you passed out, cut yourself, or starve yourself until the distortions only you see in the morning mirror match the “perfect” image of self your eating disorder voice demands. And those things were never meant to become the centerpiece of your life, your reason for getting out of bed in the morning, the objects of your “affection”, the things for which you’d “gladly” sacrifice everything and everyone you once held dear – your friends, spouses, partners, siblings, faith, freedom, employment – even your self-respect. And yet, that’s exactly what happened and here you are – some for the first time, others likely for the second or third – searching for answers, trying to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘what’s next’, and hurting. I know, because I don’t even know you, and I hurt for you, as I’m sure do those who do know and love you”.

“I want you to close your eyes for a minute,” I continued. “I want you to think back to a 4-year-old ‘you’ playing with your friends at the neighborhood park. I want you to try and remember what that looked, felt, and sounded like – the smell of the freshly cut grass, the wind in your hair as you chased your friends from one play station to the next, the feel of the sand against your skin, the sound of laughter, the warmth of the sun, the fear and exhilaration of going down ‘the big slide’ for the first time. That ‘you’ didn’t even know what drugs or alcohol, or eating disorders, or addictions were. You didn’t give a second thought to the past or have a moment’s anxiety about the future. You were engaged in the moment and fully alive. It wasn’t that you didn’t experience the full range of human emotions (e.g., joy, sadness, anger, love, hate, frustration, pain, comfort, kindness, etc.). You did – intensely – often all in the same day! It’s just that, perhaps intuitively, you knew that they were just feelings, that they would come and go, so you didn’t get stuck in them. That uniquely beautiful, carefree, innocent version of ‘you’ is the reason I can say – with confidence – ‘you were never meant to be here’ – and yet here you are. So, what happened?

Life happened. S*#t happened. I know because it happens to all of us. Sometimes it happens thru no fault of our own and no matter how careful we are in trying to avoid it (e.g., a traumatic event, a breach of trust, the unexpected loss of a loved one, a radical change in circumstances, a sense that life is hopelessly spinning out of control, etc.). Sometimes we pile it on ourselves. We don’t do it intentionally. We’re human. We make bad choices. Those bad choices have consequences. Some are really harsh and hurtful. But, regardless of the source, the end result is the same: Before we know it, the playground version of us gets buried under a mountain of ‘adult’ debris and begins to suffocate. Sometimes the weight of it all is too much to bear and we make even worse choices. We try to run away from the pile and hide, rather than commit to digging ourselves out – one shovel (or spade) at a time. We isolate. We numb. Eventually, we forget that little boy or girl gasping for air is even there, let alone what their love of life, quest for adventure and curiosity feels like, and we end up here – lost, ashamed, afraid it can’t be undone. But, it can. That “you” is still in there,” I said through tear-stained eyes.

“Look, I’m not a doctor or a therapist or an addiction specialist. I can’t tell you how to get from Point A to Point B. I’m also not suggesting for a minute that anything about the journey is easy. Truth is: It’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But, I believe this with every fiber of my being: You were never meant to be here. This is not the fullness of life you were called to. That’s out there,” I said pointing to the door. “It’s on that playground. And, I encourage you to do whatever it takes and spend however long is required to get back there.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbCVcPst6J4

Image credit: qctimes

Rewrite The Rules. Retire The Cape

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I suspect, at one time or another, all of us have donned The Cape.

You know the one I’m talking about – the one with the big “S” emblazoned on it; the one we use to first try and convince ourselves (and then others) that we’re fully in control at all times; the one that whispers in our ear that there is no power in the Universe, let alone on Earth, so great that it won’t bend, if not break, before our will; the one that assures us there is no mind so sharp or clever that we can’t outwit it; the one that makes us believe we’re tough, that there’s no “boogie-man” so devious that we aren’t able to defeat it; and, perhaps most delusionally, the one that lures us and those “fortunate” enough to be within our sphere of influence into a false sense of security (i.e., that as long as we’re in the area they are out of harm’s way, insulated from the adversity and uncertainty that is so much a part of others’ lives). In short, it is The Cape, which, worn long enough and with just enough “good” results, makes us believe that we (and through us those we love) are invincible!

Maybe you’re one of the ones who put theirs on in the parking garage at work, where, in a misguided effort to prove your “worthiness” or, better yet, your indispensability, there is no hour of the morning too early for you to arrive or hour of the evening too late for you to leave, irrespective of what you have to give up or what compromises you have to make to accommodate that level of commitment; there’s no project too big or too complex for you to handle on your own no matter how much more expeditiously, efficiently, and expertly it could be handled by properly delegating aspects of it to a willing and trustworthy group of colleagues; and there’s no amount of supervisory (or co-worker) neglect, criticism, or “abuse” you’re not willing to endure in the hope of future advancement or out of fear of losing your job no matter how unfounded, misplaced, hurtful, disrespectful, or inappropriate that criticism or abuse may be.

Maybe you put yours on at the bus stop or in the parking lot en route to school.  Maybe your cape is the one that simply won’t allow you to tolerate even the slightest academic misstep no matter how inconsequential it may be to your future; the one that insists you not only take a full load of, but excel in the hardest courses your school’s curriculum has to offer, so that you will be uber-competitive when the time comes to apply for college; the one you rely on to enable you to put on a “brave face” so that you can appear to be unfazed when your peers bully you, bombard you with demeaning, even dehumanizing comments and slurs or ostracize you from the “in group”; the one that demands that you not only participate in, but fight for a leadership role in every available extracurricular activity, so that you scarcely have time to catch your breath, let alone have a life outside of school.

Maybe you quickly put yours on before you step through the door at the end of an undeniably long day and assume the role of parent, so that you can create the illusion that you have unlimited stamina and strength; that you don’t tire like normal people; that your energy knows no boundaries; that you not only are desirous, but fully capable of being all things to all people at all times; that, unlike most, you have the seeming ability to be in several places at one time; that there is only one speed in the life of a super hero (full out, 24/7); that normal human emotions which might distract mere mortals from the task at hand (e.g., sadness, frustration, anger, hurt, discouragement, moodiness, etc.) have no place in the world where super heroes roam and, therefore, are to be “fixed” rather than felt. In short, The Cape that enables you to create the illusion that you’re perfect – or at least a perfect mom or dad.

Or maybe you put yours on first thing in the morning, while you’re still wiping the sleep out of your eyes – before you get to the bathroom mirror to make that critical first assessment of “you”.  Maybe your cape and the expectation of superhuman perfection that comes along with it are what “prompt” you to look past the multitude of visible and invisible characteristics that make “you” inherently beautiful to the rest of the world and, instead, demand “answers” as to why your hair, your eyes, your complexion, your teeth, your nose, your lips, the shape of your face or jaw line, your neck, your figure, your smile, your eye brows or lashes or some combination of the above haven’t magically “adjusted” or “corrected” themselves overnight so as to more closely resemble the “super image” you (all of us?) have in mind for ourselves – The Cape that makes us oblivious to the reality that NO ONE meets that standard.

Don’t get me wrong: Having worn The Cape in all of these settings over the years, I’ll be the first to attest to how intoxicating it can be, particularly when you actually appear to be performing at what by most objective measures is a “super human” level.  But, even on its “best” days, wearing The Cape is exhausting and, more often than not, it’s downright unhealthy.  Inevitably, we are reminded of our humanity (and all that goes along with it) – as well we should be – and we’re forced to let go of the illusion that The Cape instills in us.  Sometimes those reminders come in subtle, almost imperceptible ways – other times we are hit over the head with the Life-equivalent of a boulder of Kryptonite.  In each case, however, the message is the same:  There is a reason Superman/Superwoman have been relegated to fictional, indeed comic book, status – they’re fun to imagine, but no “fun” at all in real life.  Trust me on this one.

From here on out, “Clark” will be just fine – thank you!

Image credit: screenrant.com

A Letter To A Friend Who Misplaced Her Heart*

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I recently received an email from a young colleague in my firm. I’d given her and her precious 4-year-old daughter, Briella a gift, the cornerstone of which was a delicate, ruby red glass heart. “Thanks for the gift, Don. It was very sweet of you to think of us. Briella loved the heart. In fact, she’s hidden it in a very special place (so “special” that she can no longer remember where she put it!!!). Good times!” That’s cute, I thought as I headed out for my morning walk with a smile and certainly something all of us can relate to: the putting of special things (e.g., keepsakes, photographs, love letters, etc.) in secret places and the frustration of later forgetting where we put them. But, after six (6) miles of walking, I realized that “misplaced hearts” are another matter altogether. The following morning, I left this note on my colleague’s chair – for her, her daughter, and all the “Briella’s” in the world:

Dear Briella,

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret:

At one time or another, everyone (even your mom and dad!) has misplaced their heart.

Some do it by choice – by entrusting their heart to others who don’t deserve it, fail to care for and nurture it, don’t value its unique beauty, use and abuse it, badly bruise it with unwarranted guilt and shame, ignore or abandon it, and, in the process, violate that trust.

Others decide as a result of subtle or not-so-subtle messages they receive at an early age that their heart is unworthy of being seen, that it’s not only not beautiful, it’s ugly (imagine that) – and they hide it far away from the world, where even they have trouble finding it.

Still others, who once proudly displayed their hearts for all the world to see, one day decide theirs isn’t pretty enough, funny enough, engaging enough, desirable enough – and they bury it beneath layers and layers of what they perceive to be what the world values.

And then there are those whose hearts are being held hostage (under lock and chain, in seemingly impenetrable fortresses) by insidious diseases, alcohol and drug addiction, anxiety, depression, the venomous and unrelenting voice of an Inner Bully, or loneliness.

But, here’s the thing:

While they may have been misplaced for days or months or even years – and have the scars to prove it – nothing about these hearts is lost. To the contrary, when they’re eventually found, their owners discover that their essence hasn’t changed at all, that their hearts are as uniquely beautiful today as yours is (and theirs was) when they were four.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that, let alone to find your way back to that heart and allow yourself a second (or third) chance to more fully explore and experience just how beautiful it is, especially when you get older and you start to forget the way it “looked” the last time you saw it clearly, playfully, magically – unadorned by all that other “adult” stuff.

With that in mind, maybe today you (or your mom) could jot down a few of the things that make your heart smile and tuck the note away just in case your heart too goes missing someday and you need to be reminded where to find it. In the meantime, please accept this “second chance” heart from me to you as a symbol of this important truth.

Your friend,

Don

 

*Image Credit: Hidden Heart by Millsy Art https://www.saatchiart.com/art/Painting-HIDDEN-HEART/807242/3107790/view