Let me tell you a secret: I shouldn’t be here. Except that I kept fighting for myself, and I found family who kept fighting for me.
As the youngest in a crowded house, you could say I was born to be overlooked. Forgotten. Left over and left out.
I know how trauma feels, and how it can stop you feeling anything. I know what it can do to people and families. I’ve watched my siblings model many different ways of handling it.
I know what it is to hunger in both body and soul – both for physical sustenance and for fulfillment, for approval, for success, for meaning. I’ve found great success, and I’ve gained the approval of others time and again. And as for fulfillment and meaning? I have learned, finally, how to feed and take care of myself. Helping others find their own way to that place will be my life’s work.
Because I’ll be the first to point out how unlikely my life has been. There have been many moments in my life that I had no reason to expect I’d see, much less survive. But I not only survived: I succeeded. I soared.
There is no reason I should still be here.
Those who circle around you, for whatever reason, in whichever season, and help you move forward – they’re your family.
Life and Family
We hear a lot about family these days. People know it’s important, and that families are core to how we find out who we are. But what family means to us or looks like is different for each of us. Myself, I’m the youngest of eleven children. For many people, that’s a big family.
But it’s nothing to the crowd of great people I am honored and proud to call my family now. I don’t exaggerate when I say it’s taken me a lifetime to gather them, moment by moment.
The Fatherhood Connection
When I became a father, for the first time in my life I experienced unconditional love. Loving my children was like breathing – almost involuntary. And no matter what adult problems were happening, my boys just wanted to be with me: to shoot the ball or just roll around on the floor. They reconnected me to my capacity to love – to that inner reservoir we all have – and I gave them what I had always longed for myself.
The Real Gino
This photograph captures what I would describe as a lifelong battle: me versus myself. There’s the guy on television: strong, powerful, and very much ego-driven. And then there’s this shy midwestern guy in a bowtie staring back at him in childlike awe. The relationship between the two is fraught, and layered, and often antagonistic. Their struggle – the only struggle that matters, I’m learning – is the story of my life.
Breaking Free of Fear
Not long ago I took a trip to Thailand that transformed me. I went to tackle my big demons: fear of being alone, fear of not connecting, fear of just being with myself. It was there, alone in a small fishing village where no one spoke English (and I spoke no Thai!), with silence my all-day companion, I learned that the real work – the path to personal peace – lay inside me. I’m not afraid now.
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