Twenty-some years ago, a reporter interviewed me for one of the trade publications. Later he told our PR director the interview went well, but the whole time we were talking, he couldn’t take his eyes off my head. She asked him why. He said, “It’s the size of a beach ball.”
After the last few weeks, my head probably is approaching blimp size. I’ve often said that if you want beautiful women to tell you how good you look, get cancer: they’ll start every conversation telling you how good you look. Apparently, if you want people to tell you you’re some combination of Gandhi, Shakespeare and Bernbach, tell them you’re dying of cancer.
The emails, the Facebook posts, the personal letters, the notes and the comments on this blog have been over-the-top kind and generous. I’ve read each one at least two or three times. The messages have buoyed me every day.* I’m surprised and humbled and proud of the way you see me. It’s undoubtedly good that it’s not the way I see myself.
I hope I’m keeping all this in the right perspective. I know how lucky I’ve been my entire life and even now. From the day I was born, I was destined to be a tall, white, American male with a reasonable head of hair. All of that stuff shouldn’t matter, of course—and there’s nothing fair about it. But it does make a difference. (It would have been nice if my DNA had also made me slim, handsome, musically gifted and athletic—but you can’t have everything.)
I grew up in a great and supportive family—and later a great and supportive family grew up around me. I had wonderful opportunities in my brief career as a journalist—and even better ones in my career in advertising. I never struggled to find a job; I never had one I hated; I was never fired. I worked a lot of hours—way more than 60 or 70 a week—but since I enjoyed the work, I never resented the lost nights and weekends—except when they threatened my marriage, which they sometimes did. Ginny was right to be worn out by my unpredictable workdays; I should have found ways to get on top of them. I never did. But even when she was barely tolerating my workaholism, she never stopped loving me. She’s a remarkable woman and I was born under a lucky star.
I have been fortunate in many other ways. More than 20 years ago, Ginny recognized signs of depression in me—signs no one else suspected at all–and encouraged me to be tested. It turns out I had a severe case with symptoms I’d been suppressing for years. It also turned out that medicines could cure my symptoms almost overnight. (What a relief! What a gift!) It also led me into long-term therapy programs with a very helpful (and patient) psychiatrist. Every minute with him was well spent.
My personal wheel of good fortune spins on and on. My whole career I’ve been surrounded by smart, imaginative and creative people who let me share in their accomplishments. I’ve had adventures in every part of the world—and I’ve known how fortunate I’ve been all those times in all those places. (When Ginny and I are abroad, our most common conversation begins with, “I can’t believe we get to do this.”)
There have been hard times, of course. We will never, ever recover from the loss of our older son Preston in 2001. Parents are not meant to outlive their children. There are times for both Ginny and me that memories of Preston will creep up on us and leave us in tears. (It happened to me about eight weeks ago, while Ginny and I were talking to a filmmaker outside a movie theater in NYC. One minute I’m OK, then I’m not.) Overall, though, a few awful times don’t erase the joys of the good times—including many good times with Preston.
So I see myself as very lucky. But the notes I’m receiving these days tell me others see me differently. I’m pretty sure I’m right, but I’m at least going to linger for a while in the glow of your correspondence. Thank you. You’ve made this typically insecure copywriter feel a little more confident. Maybe I’ll even pick up a little swagger.
*Forgive me for not replying directly to each of you. I’m not sure what the etiquette is here, but I just don’t have the energy to address all the messages. I hope everyone understands.