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I Called My Father, despite ...

I called my father despite...: How to Life

not wanting to call. He left me when my mother died. I was one. He returned about a year later with a new wife, who didn’t want me. And he left again. Over 40 years later, I hired a private detective and he gave me a telephone number. My father was an expat still living in Japan, and had been living at the same address all those years. I put the telephone number away in my desk.

My Father's Contact: How to Life

A few months later, Thanksgiving Dinner was done and the TV was off. Everyone had gone to bed. The house was quiet except in the kitchen sink as I washed every dish, fork, spoon, knife, glass, cup, pot and pan. My mind wasn't quiet though. It was racing with the thought of pulling out an international number and dialing. My stomach was in knots. I kept washing and drying. I put away every dish, fork, spoon, knife, glass, cup, pot and pan. I turned off all the lights downstairs and was about to head upstairs to bed. I looked in the office. I looked at the phone on my desk. I sat down and looked at the phone on my desk. I pulled out a folded piece of paper and opened it. I stared at the number on the paper. I got up to check on the clean kitchen several times.

I was suffering from what I call “my father is going to desert me again” FEELING. It’s the feeling I get when faced with doing anything that might hurt me. You know that FEELING. It’s that FEELING I have when I fear that by doing the IT, something not so good is going to happen to me. Sometimes that “something not so good” is in fact bad, like serious bodily injury or death. But other times, IT just FEELS like it’s going to be as bad as serious bodily injury or death. You get the same FEELING when faced with a variety of IT’s:

  • standing on a cliff looking down at a 50-foot jump into the ocean;

  • having to go to work to answer an angry boss;

  • going to the doctor when you think you might have cancer;

  • having to write a report on something you know nothing about;

  • returning a phone call from an angry client;

  • returning a product that you may have broken to the store;

  • balancing a checkbook for an account you think is overdrawn;

  • saying no to someone because you just don’t want to say yes anymore.

All these “ITs” get lost when bundled up with FEELINGS. But when I separate the IT from the FEELING, I learned I’m able to move when I was otherwise frozen.



First recognize the FEELING. Look at it without trying to fix it. Notice it and smile inside and say to yourself “A-ha! There it is."

Second identify the IT – the action that you were about to take that made you have the FEELING.

Third, if you need to, write down the IT on one card and the FEELING on another card.

Then what, you say? Well, here’s my “Decision Tree.” Take a look at it. OK, so this tree just leaves me hanging out on a limb. MY POINT is

Decision Tree: How to Life

that simply separating the IT from the FEELING gives me something to work with.


Just knowing that I CAN separate the IT from the FEELING has, somehow magically, allowed me to face and deal with more and more small things in life that can freeze me. And with practice, I learned that the same process has helped me get through some of those big things that freeze me, too.


Proceeding with caution took me to most of my “S” Activities that I love so much. Looking deeper, taking a deep breath and doing IT brought a lot of good things into my life.

And, I am reminded to at least look at my Decision Tree when I suddenly and urgently need to do #27 on my to-do list, when I haven’t touched #’s 1-26; when I suddenly and urgently need to clean out the junk drawer; when late on Thanksgiving night, I find myself checking on the clean kitchen for the third time.

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