A Few Thoughts About Misplaced Hearts


A few days before Christmas, I sent the following break-of-dawn email to all of the lawyers in our firm’s Miami office with young children:

“Good morning!  Just wanted to let those on the “To” line know that they will arrive to find Santa Don’s 2016 Holiday Gift, “Heart Talks” on their chair.  When you read the Instruction Sheet inside the box, you may surmise that it’s a family exercise and ask yourself, “Why would Don give it to me, when he knows my kids either are too young to talk or just beginning to talk and, therefore, too young to play?!?” And you would be wrong. You see, “Heart Talks” aren’t just for kids anymore!  Adults (especially spouses) can benefit from them too. In fact, it will be good to get in some practice before the kids are old enough to play!  Hopefully, by the time they’re able to join in mom and dad already will have discovered the art and benefits of speaking the truth AT dinner, rather than having it FOR dinner.  Enjoy!  Don”

I think most of the recipients were rather intrigued by the concept and the gift, which had, as its centerpiece, a shiny glass heart similar to the one pictured above.  But, it was a thank you note I received from the mom of one of the youngest, 5 year-old Briella that inspired this post.  The note read simply:

“Thanks for this, 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; and certainly something all of us can relate to – the putting of special things (e.g., photographs, keepsakes, love letters, etc.) in secret places and the frustration of later forgetting where we put them. But, after 6 miles of walking, it occurred to me that misplaced hearts are another matter altogether:

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 five.

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 – unadorned by all that other 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,


P.S. I love your name!


“What Does She See?” #ABirdTale


Maybe if you walk long enough, often enough, with eyes and heart wide open, and in the right places, it just happens. You see some remarkable things. And I have: a young girl learning to ride a bike for the first time and celebrating the accomplishment with her dad; a weekend duffer finding the sweet spot and watching in disbelief as his perfectly struck iron shot soars through the air and settles within inches of the cup; the special bond between an old man and his dog; a pair of 80+ year-old lovers still holding hands; a child taking their first steps; a little boy with skinned and bleeding knees mustering the courage to get back on his two-wheeler and try again; breathtaking sunrises, sunsets and rainbows; a father hugging his teenage son with intention and compassion;  the magic of a game-winning goal; a single mom teaching her son how to throw a football; a friend drying another friend’s tears; orchids in bloom; the kindness of strangers; Santa Claus riding on the back of a firetruck; and (only in South Florida!) rain falling on one side of the street, but not the other; to name only a few.

But, it’s the things I sometimes see in the ordinary, in images I’m certain I’ve seen a thousand times before, but, thanks to insights gleaned from my daughter, I now see differently (perhaps as they were always meant to be seen) – that inspire me, resonate most deeply in my soul, and often stop me in my tracks.  And so it was last Saturday morning, as I came across a young bird picking up a tattered piece of fabric on the sidewalk and carrying it to a perch in a nearby tree, where she quite obviously was in the early stages of building a nest.  I really hadn’t planned to give the moment a second thought and didn’t, until several steps later when I felt that now familiar stir inside of me.  Uncertain of its source, I continued on, making the nearly 2 mile circle back and then I saw her again, this time sifting, with the determination and enthusiasm of a holiday shopper, through a small pile of brown leaves at the base of a tree.  It was then that tears started trickling down the sides of my face and I hurried home to put them on paper:

What does she see . . .

in the tattered piece of cloth torn from a since discarded blanket?

in the fragile twig convinced it lacks the strength to survive, let alone contribute?

in the delicate feather left behind by a recently departed friend?

in the scrap of paper torn in anger from another letter of rejection?

in the fallen brown leaves certain that their life was over?

in the tender reed bruised and buffeted by one too many storms?

in the straw, the piece of string, the remnants of an old cotton ball, the low hanging moss?

What does she see . . .

in the brokenness?

in the discarded?

in the misshapen?

in the ill-fitting?

in the left for dead?

What does she see . . .

that we can’t or refuse to see – that we walk by, dismiss, disregard, trample upon?

She sees beyond.

She sees missing and essential pieces.

She sees the blueprint of a home.

A home that is uniquely hers,

that woven together with tenderness, patience and care will one day provide her and those she loves with warmth, comfort, security and shelter,

that is beautiful –

and she is (rightfully) proud.

Maybe today, we can resolve (dare I say commit?) to stealing a page from my new feathered friend’s songbook.  Maybe today we can honor her by allowing ourselves to look beyond what may, on their face, appear to be the mistakes, the brokenness, the missteps, the ill-fitting pieces of our past (or our present).  Maybe we can see them through her eyes for what they are: pieces of something bigger, something stronger, something more life-supporting, something that woven together, tenderly, patiently, lovingly, with all the good is our “home”, what makes us uniquely beautiful.  Maybe in the process we can replace the shame and guilt that we have associated with them with rightful pride for having survived them, for overcoming.  Maybe, for just a minute, we can entertain the possibility that those who love us most and know us best have been right all along:  We are all of that – the beautiful and the broken – and still loved and worthy of love.


“I’ll Have The Spaghetti And Goosebumps, Please!”


My travel woes have become legendary.  I get that, once in a while, everyone who travels with any degree of frequency has experienced a hiccup or two – an unexpected mechanical or weather-related delay, a carry-on bag you were certain would fit in the overhead compartment above seat 42B that wouldn’t cooperate, a three year-old in the seat behind you with titanium vocal cords capable of screaming for an entire cross country flight – even an occasional cancellation or lost piece of luggage when you could least afford it.  But, I take travel issues to a whole new level and somehow manage to “elevate my game” seemingly with each new trip.  A few examples should suffice to illustrate the point.  I once arrived for and boarded a 5:30 a.m. flight only to learn that the overnight crew had “forgotten” to fuel the aircraft for our trip to LA! Then there was the time when, needing to make a tight connection, I and my fellow travelers on what was to be the originating flight were advised by gate agents that the jetway being used to deplane the aircraft we were to board had jammed 3 feet short of the exit door, making it impossible for those on board to get off!  Or the time when, moments before we were to push back from a gate, the pilot embarrassingly announced that the caterers had mistakenly taken all the food and drinks off the aircraft and were nowhere to be found!  Still not convinced that I’m the Joe Btfsplk of travel?  Imagine being at a nice resort and having the desk clerk accidently grant you early check-in privileges to a room that already was occupied! Fortunately, the 5″ stiletto heels and lingerie strewn across the room that greeted me when I opened the door immediately alerted me to the error in time to make a hasty exit before its occupant(s) got out of the shower. Suffice it to say, friends, family, and business colleagues demand to know my travel itinerary well in advance of trips so they can be certain to make alternate arrangements.

Last week, however, I outdid myself.  I was covering a deposition for my partner, who had a last minute scheduling conflict.  The deposition was being held at a hotel in a VERY remote part of Florida and was supposed to last the entire week.  In fact, my office had reserved a room at the deposition site with a Friday checkout anticipating that schedule.  But late Wednesday, the group I was with expressed certainty that we would finish a day early (i.e., on Thursday).  So, in an effort to avoid a bill for an unused extra night, I checked out of the hotel early that morning only to discover several hours later that the deposition would not conclude until Friday after all, due to an unexpected shift in the witness’ health. “Well, that’s inconvenient, but no big deal,” I thought to myself, as I headed to the front desk to rebook my room only to learn that, in the intervening four hours, this hotel – located in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE – was SOLD OUT for the night! After several emails, my assistant advised that she had found a hotel 18 miles away that had a room. What neither of us realized at the time was that it was located in an area that was EVEN MORE REMOTE than its predecessor. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have minded a change of scenery, but after four long, contentious days on the road, I was hoping for a much shorter commute and a good meal. You can then imagine my surprise (and frustration) to be told by the front desk at check-in that, aside from a Waffle House less than a block away, the nearest restaurants with any name recognition were those found near the hotel I’d just left – 18 miles away. Disheartened, I headed to my room to unload my stuff and make a quick call to my office to get caught up on the day’s events – convinced that, when I was done, I’d be heading back to restaurants I’d already eaten at the three nights before and whose food and service I’d found less than inspiring.

It was then that I remembered seeing a roadside billboard for a local Italian place about 5 miles down the road, a place I’d passed a short while later, but dismissed as a possibility based on its side-street location and appearance.  When I shared my day with my legal assistant, she was adamant that I give the Italian spot a try, “You’ve got nothing to lose,” she insisted, “and, who knows, you might just run into some friendly people.”  I took her advice and headed out.  She was right!  As I walked through the door of the quaint, beautifully Christmas-decorated neighborhood restaurant, I was greeted by the friendliest hostess you’d ever want to meet as if I was a longtime favorite customer.  She escorted me to a seat at the small bar just steps away from a large manger scene that illuminated the front of the restaurant and introduced me to one of two bartenders, who, it would turn out, couldn’t possibly have been any nicer, more attentive or more engaging. I went with my go-to dish – spaghetti and meatballs – which just happened to be the “Thursday Night Special” and the three of us spent the next hour and a half exchanging stories.  I told them about the series of events that had brought me to their doorstep and had to smile when one of them, a spunky young woman, whose effortless sense of humor and engaging personality reminded me of my daughter, cast her gaze to the manger and with a wry smile asked rhetorically, “Oh, so you’re here because there was no room at the inn?!?” They, in turn, shared stories about the restaurant – how it had burned to the ground a few years earlier and only recently re-opened after the owner had generously taken financial care of the entire staff during the rebuilding – and pieces of themselves.  One is a working mom of three, including a recently born little girl – the other, aptly described above, was playful and a bit on the eccentric side. The food was amazing, but it was the connection made between three complete strangers, under the most unlikely of circumstances and in the most unlikely of places that took me by complete surprise and warmed my heart. Still, it was what happened next that took my breath away.

Moments after the check arrived, I shared that, while I was a lawyer, writing is my real passion. “I wrote a book,” I blurted out – not entirely sure why. “I don’t know if I have a copy in the car, but if I do I’d like to give it to you as a gift for being so kind.  I set the check down with my credit card and headed to the car.  Buried in the back of the trunk, I found a copy of “Dear Ashley” I didn’t think I had, hurried back to the restaurant, and presented it to the mother of three.  Soon my other new friend and several curious servers gathered to look on. One by one, they smiled broadly at the cover photo and commented on how “priceless” the picture is. Then, with the exception of mom, they all returned to work.  “It’s not just for people who have daughters,” I volunteered as I focused on signing the check and, at her request, the title page of the book. “It’s also for people who are daughters.” “Oh, and one more thing,” I continued, sliding the signed check in her direction.  “It’s not really a light-hearted read.  You see, several years ago, our daughter nearly died battling an eating disorder.  Her courage is what inspired me to write it.”  Suddenly, her eyes became soft.  She leaned in, reached across the bar, placed her hand on mine, and said quietly so as not to be overheard, “Don, God brought you here tonight. This book is going to save the life of someone in this restaurant. Thank you.” And with those words still hanging in the air, she turned, put the book in a safe place next to the register, and walked away.  I paused for a moment reflecting on just how many things had to go “wrong” at the same time to create a moment so “right”.  As I, too, turned to leave, with goosebumps racing up my arms and tears welling up in my eyes, I passed the manger and smiled – suddenly grateful for another day of deposition, a random rebooking, a billboard, my legal assistant’s insistence, a buried copy of my book – and that “inexplicably” there was no room at the inn.

“Oh, We’re Not Doing THAT Here . . .”


Recently, one of my favorite people on the planet, Glennon Doyle Melton appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” to promote her new (and might I add exceptional) book, Love Warrior.  During the interview, Glennon recalls showing up at a play group shortly after the birth of her third child and being asked by one of the other moms, “How does it feel to be a stay-at-home mom of three kids?” Glennon remembers thinking, “Awesome, we’re actually going to talk about how we feel” and then proceeding to enthusiastically share a metaphor she’d been developing to describe the experience. “You know how there are two kinds of volcanos,” she exclaimed. “The first is an active volcano and the second is a dormant one. The dormant one looks calm on the outside, but on the inside it’s bubbling with boiling hot lava that at any moment could just explode and kill everything in the vicinity! That’s how I feel as a stay-at-home mom – ALL DAY!” “It was a perfect metaphor,” Glennon recalls. But suddenly there was complete silence in the room and wide-eyed stares of disbelief among her fellow moms and she thought to herself, “Oh, we’re not doing THAT here.” So she immediately said, “What I really meant is that I love every minute of it! I hate it when they sleep. I just stare at them. And, I think if there is one word that would describe how I feel as a stay-at-home mom it would be ‘fulfilled’.  And then we ended the moment and I thought, ‘Well, we’re not going to be honest at play dates. That’s a shame’.”

It is a shame and yet, as the humor of Glennon’s story-telling wore off, I realized how infrequent it is that any of us are afforded an opportunity to fully and honestly unpack our hearts, that, while we all profess to want others to “be honest with us” – whether we’re the boss in the boardroom, the teacher in the classroom, a lover in the bedroom, the judge in a courtroom, a preacher in the sanctuary, a classmate in the lunchroom, a sibling in a chatroom, or a friend across the table at a local coffee shop – our spoken and unspoken reactions to truth, not unlike the crickets and ashen faces that greeted Glennon’s, tell a very different, often truth-stifling story.  Don’t get me wrong.  None of us struggle to embrace truth when what’s being dispensed is the ego-stroking, joy-producing variety, let alone truth that mirrors our idea of how whatever’s being spoken about (e.g., politics, child-rearing practices, lifestyle choices, relationships, etc.) “should” look. It’s the truth that’s just a little too honest, too real, too thought-provoking – that is soul-bearingly raw, that makes us uncomfortable, challenges our beliefs, casts a light on things about us that we’d rather not spend too much (okay, any!) time dwelling on – that makes most of us want to run and hide.  I know, because I’m no stranger to wanting to stay on the platform when that line of the Truth Train is pulling out of the station.

But, why is that?  Why are we so afraid to be honest with one another?  Why can’t we accept the fact that others’ truth (and the feelings attached to it) are just as real as our own – and not only provide a safe space for it to be spoken, but validated?  Why, instead, are we so quick to take another’s truth, especially when it pertains to the way our behaviors or words have affected them, so personally?  Why in the face of such truths do so many adults react like the moms in Glennon’s play group or, worse yet, like children who’ve been caught doing something they shouldn’t be?  Why do we grow angry, rush to disavow responsibility, slam things, storm out of the room?  Why, rather than listen with gratitude when entrusted with a glimpse into another’s soul, even one belonging to a loved one, is our first instinct upon hearing their truth to shut down, strike back, become defensive or, even more hurtfully, seek to prove that the truth-teller is anything but? Why, when confronted with another’s truth, do we often try to shift the focus, if not the blame for the underlying act or omission, by reaching into the past for a truth of our own that we can wield as a both a sword and a shield?  Why do we repeatedly play the shame, guilt or “you’re breaking my heart” card?  Why is it so easy for us to be dismissive of someone else’s truth, while simultaneously insisting that they not only listen to, but embrace ours as their own?

I confess I don’t fully understand the “whys” of it all.  In fact, truth be told, I’ve been as guilty as the next person of engaging in many of the behaviors described above.  But, I’ve also been on the receiving end of them enough times to know that much of the way we deal with the truth (or don’t deal with it as the case may be) is terribly unhealthy and, at times, profoundly hurtful.  I get that truth has weight and because it does it’s sometimes difficult for the recipient to saddle up next to it and share the load.  But, what’s the alternative? To ask wannabe truth-tellers to bear the full weight of their truth alone?  I also get that truth takes time – time to share and time to sit with.  But, is there really a way to better spend our time than searching for or in the presence of the truth? It goes without saying that it’d be a lot easier on all of us if everyone really was as “fine” as they say they are and pretend to be.  But the reality is there are lots of folks who are not fine at all, whose world is falling apart around them, who continue to feast on their truth out of fear that if they speak and stand in it instead they will be judged, shamed, misunderstood, disrespected or, worse yet, met by indifference or rejected.  And so they suffer in silence – and we and the chorus of life of which all of us are meant to be a part suffer for lack of their voice and their truth.

We need to do better and we can, but it will require INTENTION (and patience) on the part of the teller and the listener, because feeling sufficiently “safe” to speak your truth – at any age – is an acquired skill and it takes practice.  I believe the family dinner table is a good place to start and that a dear friend (Carolyn Costin) offers a simple strategy to light the way.  She calls the exercise Heart Talks.  Here’s how it works: Find a heart-shaped piece of glass (like the one pictured above) and place it in the center of the table. When a member of the family wants to share a piece of their truth (big or small), they simply take the heart in hand.  As a sign of respect for the heart-holder and their voice, the others at the table become silent and listen attentively until the speaker finishes what he or she has to say.  The speaker then has the choice to invite others to comment on what they’ve shared or simply thank those present for listening and allowing them to speak their truth (Yes, dads, sometimes they just want you to listen!).  The heart is then returned to the center of the table.  NOTE: There’s no obligation to speak, nor any limits on the number of times or length of time a heart-holder can speak – just a space where truth can be spoken, rather than swallowed as it too often is, and will be respected.   By the way, expect some awkwardness at first, but, over time, the rewards will be great.

And here’s the good news: The heart is portable!  It fits neatly into a purse, shirt pocket, lunchbox, backpack or suitcase and is ideal for road trips, field trips, date nights, coffee outings – yes, even play dates!  Heck, if you really want to live a little, bring it to work! And, oh, be sure to let me know how it goes.  (P.S. There’s a reason it’s made of glass).


A Letter To The Child I Never Met


Writer’s Note: It’s estimated that 10 to 25 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage – a term doctors use to describe any pregnancy that ends on its own within the first 20 weeks of gestation. While a specific cause of a miscarriage seldom can be identified, some suggest that as many as 70 percent of first-trimester miscarriages are caused by some form of chromosomal abnormality. I suspect these relatively high percentages are why couples often wait until after the first trimester to share the joyous news of a new pregnancy. It’s also why so many suffer in silence when they and their child become part of this heart-breaking statistic. In 1984, we were one of those couples.

Dear Sarah,

I don’t know why you were on my mind on this morning’s walk or why you’re still there several hours later. It’s been years since I last thought about you.  Maybe it’s all the talk of late about a woman’s right to choose, about whether it’s ever too late in a pregnancy to terminate it, or whether it’s moral or ethical to decide to terminate one at all.  Maybe it’s my recent willingness to revisit old wounds, to sit with the unprocessed grief that surrounds them, and to allow myself the grace to gently and lovingly apply the few missing sutures necessary to fully and finally bind them up and let them go.  Maybe, as I stand at yet another crossroads in my life and think about all of the important people who have come and gone, the relationships that were and weren’t, the moments that affected me most profoundly, it’s only natural that you would come to mind.  Maybe it’s a little bit of all of these things – and so much more.

Still, I’m not entirely sure why, more than 30 years later, your visits still bring the spontaneous outpouring of tears they do. Is it because I allow myself to wonder what it would have been like to meet you for the first time, to hold you in my arms, to see you smile, to kiss you goodnight, to read you bedtime stories, to watch your personality unfold, to listen to your laughter coming from another room, to hear the sound of your footsteps, to dry your tears, to comfort you, to play with you and watch you play, to share your schemes and dreams, to watch you shine and be there to help you up when you fell – to have the privilege to be your dad?  Or is it because I realize how fundamentally different it all might have been with a family of five – breakfast and dinner table conversations, sibling rivalries and relationships, morning and bedtime routines, summer vacations, school and extracurricular activities, photographs, and memories. Likely, it’s because of all of these things – and so much more.

I’ve called you “Sarah” for purposes of this note, but the truth is: I don’t know whether you were a girl or a boy.  You and I didn’t get that far.  I picked Sarah because I like that name – and the people I associate with it – and because I realized today, among other things, that I always envisioned you being a girl.  Perhaps that’s why, while I didn’t want your mom to know, I was terrified when I first learned you were inching your way into our lives.  I had no clue how to be a parent, let alone how to parent a little girl. I was still trying to figure out what it means to be me, but I was eager to learn and committed to being a good dad – the best dad – no matter what it took.  It’s just that I never got the chance to show you that (and so much more), because, seemingly as soon as I started to get my head around it all, around the thought of two becoming three, you were gone.

As has often been the case in my life, I felt the need to be strong (mostly for your mom) and, consequently, held as many of my tears at bay as I could, because I knew that she too was heart-broken by your loss. In time, we moved on, as life demanded.  We started a family the following year with the birth of your brother and, two years later, your sister.  Each has a very special, other-centered heart and lots of gifts that make them engaging, uniquely beautiful, and fun to be with. You would have enjoyed and loved each other – immensely.  What I most want you to know, however, is that I loved you (and still do); that, given the choice, all of us would have chosen life with you, rather than to live it, as we have, without you; that I’m sorry we never had the chance to meet; and that I live in hope that maybe someday we will.

With All My Love,

Your Dad

Image credit: http://www.atlantabirthcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/miscarriage-sculpture.jpg

The Lucky One


It’s difficult to put into words what it’s like to be in a room with a few hundred like-hearted people who are willing to embrace their truth (even though that truth might be a bit messy, uncomfortable, and painful); who feel safe and have been given permission, by the warm tears and nodding “me too” heads of those around them to be authentic and transparent; and who understand the transformative power of vulnerability. I was in that space a few weeks ago at the National Eating Disorders Association’s 2016 Annual Conference in Chicago, where I was invited to be part of a panel discussion exploring the complex relationship that exists between dads and daughters, and it was of the one of the most beautiful and humbling experiences of my life. What made it doubly special was the fact that I had the privilege of sharing it with my fellow panelists, Drs. Margo Maine, Michael Berrett and Beth Hartman McGilley, who I have long admired and respected for their selfless dedication to bringing hope and healing to others, and three front row friends, Joanna Mercuri, Alison Smela and Dr. Angie Viets, who not only get it, but get me. If ever there was a recipe for unforgettable – for what it’s like to feel fully human – the events of that Friday afternoon were it.

When the session was over and the last of those who had approached me on the dais to exchange a hug or offer words of appreciation had moved on to my fellow presenters, I settled back into my seat, emotionally spent, and tried to take it all in. I thought about the man and the father I was when this most improbable of journeys began ten years ago. I thought about how hyper-critical and judgmental that guy was, how intolerant of mistakes and impatient he had become, how much emphasis he placed on doing at the expense of feeling, how confident he was in his ability to fix things and others, how little time he devoted to listening, and how badly he had missed the mark where loving his daughter the way she needed (and deserved) to be loved was concerned – all despite his best intentions. I wondered if, in the midst of the fear, anger, confusion and denial that surrounded him in the days after learning of his daughter’s illness, that guy would have been able to hear the message of hope I’d just delivered, believed that it was possible to learn how to be a better listener, to be more patient, to tolerate, if not celebrate his and others’ imperfections, to allow empathy and compassion to take the place of judgment, to let go, to trust, and, in the process, achieve greater emotional intimacy.

And then I thought about how far that guy had come in those ten years – and the paradoxes that made that growth possible. I thought about how it took our daughter “losing her voice” for me to find my own and our hearts to learn a new language that now allows them to communicate with each other more honestly and lovingly; how it was the pain caused by the swallowing of her truth and the strength it took to later speak it that gave me the courage to stand in mine; how it was her insistence on isolation and, at times, defiant pulling away that taught me the importance and power of closeness; how it was the walling off of her heart that served as a catalyst for me to finally start unpacking mine; how it was her reluctance to communicate that re-kindled my long dormant love of letter writing; and how it was the seemingly impenetrable darkness of an insidious disease that shown a light on all that, unbeknownst to us at the time, was in such desperate need of healing. “That’s an awful lot of life to squeeze into one decade,” I thought to myself. Do I wish all of it could’ve happened without someone I love more than life itself having to suffer so much? You bet. Would I trade the man I am today because of it for anything in the world? Not a chance.

 As I got up to leave the meeting room, a young woman approached me with tear-stained cheeks and said simply, “Your daughter is lucky to have you for a dad.”  I smiled and thanked her for that, because it was the right and polite thing to do. But, the truth is: I’m the lucky one. What happened in that room, the gifts and lessons learned that made it possible (i.e., the humility, the courage to open my heart to a group of strangers, the empathy, the vulnerability, etc.) exist only because I have been blessed to have her as a daughter.

“What if . . .”


One day, many years ago, my then teenage son, who is a talented and competitive golfer, was in a funk.  I don’t recall the source of it at the time.  Maybe his game wasn’t quite where he thought it should be.  Maybe it was “terrible”.  Maybe it had nothing to do with golf and everything to do with something going on at school. Maybe it centered around friends or family or a combination of both. Maybe it was just one of those days – or maybe it was a little bit of all of the above.  As often is the case when we find ourselves stuck, however, the source of the “glue” is really secondary.  What matters is how we respond to those circumstances and, on that particular day, my son’s response was to stay in bed rather than face what, I’m sure in his mind, was likely to be little more than much of the same of what had come before.

I took a different approach.  I entered his room, sat at the end of the bed, and asked whether he planned to go to the course to practice and play, as was his custom, especially on days as beautiful as that summer afternoon.  Not surprisingly, he responded with a barely audible, but firm “no” from under the covers. “Well, what if I told you that today’s the day you’re going to break the course record,” I said, knowing that the prospect of setting a course record is high on every competitor’s bucket list and certainly was on his. “If you knew that,” I asked, “how fast would you get to the first tee?” “Pretty darn fast,” he said, unable, even in his blue state of mind, to control the grin that the mere thought of it brought to his face. “But you can’t tell me that,” he hastened to add – “because there’s no way for you to know that today’s the day.”

Then it was my turn to smile, which I did, broadly, as I started towards the door, pausing to look over my shoulder. “You don’t know that it’s not,” I replied.  And with that I was off and, shortly thereafter, he was up and out the door.

It’s in that uncertainty, of course, that both the magic and the terror of Life reside, leaving us to choose which we will embrace.  The older I get the clearer (notice I didn’t say easier!) the choice becomes.  For me, the uncertainty that is an inescapable part of all of our lives isn’t supposed to be a paralyzing force, though, God knows, it has been for me more times than I care to consider.  Instead, my sense is that it exists to inspire and motivate us to leap out of bed with an adventurous spirit eager to see what each new day holds in store.  Perhaps it will be a moment in which we catch a glimpse of the gifts that make us unique – of our truth – and we will rejoice in it.  Other times, it may be moments of disappointment, discouragement, loss or heartache, which, in themselves, may serve as opportunities for growth or simply have to be endured.

But, make no mistake: The choice must be intentional and it must be made daily.  Because it is by no means intuitive, particularly on days, like that summer day, when fear is standing guard at the front door and our Inner Critic is loud and hell-bent on doing his/her dirty work.  It’s a choice borne of our willingness to believe in what is possible and our commitment to live with an attentive and playfully expectant heart, not unlike that of a curious child.  The good news is: We get to define that intention, to write it down if necessary and to return to it as often as needed until its pursuit becomes habitual.

What does this “look like” in practice?  Well, at various times, my “intentions” have included the following:

What if today you decided to just show up, that you are enough – just as you are?

What if today you entertained the possibility that those who know you best and love you most have been right all along – that you are courageous, compassionate, creative, resilient, loving, and worthy of love?

What if today you decided, at long last, to come out of the shadows, stand in the light, and be seen as you are – uniquely beautiful?

What if today you believed that “you” actually are worth living for, worth fighting for – worth going the extra mile for?

What if today you resolved that enough is enough – that you’ve beat yourself up enough, lived small long enough and are enough?

What if today you let love in?

What if today you loved “you” differently than yesterday – a little more tenderly, a little less critically, and a lot more generously?

What if today, instead of throwing in the towel, you picked up the “pen” of believing it’s possible and began writing the first (or the next) chapter in your comeback story?

What if today you focused on a singular goal: To reclaim and honor your authentic self?

What if today, instead of judgment, you finally offered your thirsting heart the forgiveness and grace it has been longing for?

What if today you began letting the world in on one of its best kept secrets: You?

What if today you turned the page on the story with the unhappy ending you’ve been telling yourself all these years and wrote a different one?

What if today is that day – the day you begin rewriting the ending, living a little more intentionally, replacing what you perceive as the certainty of a given outcome with the possibility of a different one?  What will your intentions look like, feel like . . . live like?