Returning To the Scene of One of the Worst Moments of My Life (Sort of)

“Come to my apartment. It’s getting harder to meet in the city and you obviously hate phoners.”

But I hated the idea of going to her apartment more. Fear. Crushing anxiety. I’d feel them each time my therapist suggested we meet at her apartment. Why? It’s just an apartment, right? Not really. To me it’s a symbol. It’s a symbol of one of the worst moments of my life. My second nervous breakdown and my therapist’s home intricately link in my brain to form a site of horror and embarrassment, of uncontrollable stuttering, gasping for breath, sweating, shaking, and tears. So many tears.

And the craziest thing is that my therapist moved a few years after my breakdown, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still HER apartment. It’s still the idea of where I was at my weakest. It’s still a frozen, miserable moment.

But last week I did it. I went back. And it was scary. It was so damn scary.

As I sat in traffic my skin prickled from the memories of sitting in the car with my mom. 35 years old. Slumped and crying. The outside darkness matching my inner gloom. We were early. We waited. I don’t remember if my mom said anything. It doesn’t matter. This is one of the few times when I can recall the feeling of utter loneliness, helplessness, shame. 35 years old and I’m sitting there parked at the curb, my mom in the driver’s seat, a desperate last-minute meeting with my therapist looming. They would determine if I needed hospitalization. I knew I was bawling, but couldn’t understand why. All I comprehended was the oppressive humiliation.

The clocked hummed along and soon it was time. I stumbled to my therapist’s apartment building. Once inside I broke down. Wailing. Hyperventilating. Arms locked around my torso as if already in a strait jacket. How long did I wait in the lobby? How many people passed by trying not to stare? How did I get from the lobby to my therapist’s apartment? I have no idea.

I don’t remember much from the emergency session. I was far away, buried deep inside this shivering body. There was a consultation with my psychiatrist, I think. Discussions about hospitalization. Me screaming against such a thing. Someone calling my father. My abashment at my dad learning about my state, but an underlying anger at him as well, anger at everyone. I can’t remember exact words, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what to say. I’m pretty sure he said everything wrong that night. My therapist coaching him on how to talk to me, explaining things, I think.


What did her apartment look like? Where did I sit? Where are the details???

Gone. All that’s left are tendrils of guilt and self-disgust and the apartment as the embodiment of it all. And that’s why I wouldn’t go back for a long time even though she’d moved. That’s why I wouldn’t go back until last week.

But I did. I finally did even though all of those awful memories returned. I sat there clutching a pillow to my chest, my legs wrapped around each other. Twisted. Tight. Anxious. My therapist has a small dog and I watched (him? her?) gnaw on a bone thinking it’s so easy for dogs. It’s so easy.  My therapist showed me pictures from her life trying to break me out of my head, trying to show me she was a person, trying to kill the connection between her apartment and my breakdown.

We spoke a little. Not much. I mostly stared at the dog. She knew my fears of coming to her home. She worked with them. She worked around them. I did my best which wasn’t good enough. Or was it? Was just going there enough? Slicing through the thick web of panic and symbolization? I have to try to think it was for how else will I grow?

And so I’ll go back. I’ll conquer this fear. And one day maybe my skin won’t prickle; my chest won’t tighten; my breath won’t catch.

Maybe one day it’ll just be an apartment again.

Could A Tire Blowout Cue The Dawn Of Positive Thinking?

I was loving Utah’s 80 mph speed limit when our rear back tire blew and I mean BLEW, like a small explosion, our car suddenly lopsided and dragging. As I slowed down and pulled to the shoulder, we watched the full rubber ring roll by our window until it settled a ways away. We were 130+ miles away from Sandy, Utah, 130+ miles away from my friend, John Kinnear’s of Ask Your Dad Blog home, the place where most of our stuff remained. We had a flight the next morning. We wouldn’t be taking the Kinnears out for dinner tonight as thanks for letting us crash at their house as promised. Instead we sat at the side of the road, a bit stunned, but safe,  in the middle of nowhere, Utah.


Elaine poses w/ our tire ring













As I talked with our rental car company and discussed our options (the closest rental car place stood closed 100 miles away, and driving back to Sandy on a donut was out of the question, especially since we’d have to go 40-50 mph) and Elaine used her phone to figure out nearby places we could stay, a Good Samaritan stopped and put on our donut. He refused the $20 bill we offered and instead said, “Pay it forward.”

We drove 15 miles to Fillmore, Utah, where we found ourselves at a Best Western hotel/restaurant. And there we waited 2 1/2 hours for a taxi to come get us and then drive another 1 1/2 to John’s house.

As we sat in the restaurant waiting and waiting and waiting, Elaine expressed her worry that like usual, I’d internalize this maddening experience and let it sour things, allow it to damper our vacation to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park. And it was at this mention that I, a heavily depressed and anxious person with warped views, an insane ability to take everything personally and a man whose glass remained perpetually empty, not even half empty, but barren, realized I’d somehow…grown? I registered that my first thoughts upon pulling to the side of the road were:

At least it happened AFTER we’d visited Bryce and Zion

At least it happened while the sun still shone

That’s not me. That’s never me. I’m the one who curls into a ball of anxiety at the slightest inconvenience. I’m the one who rails against the gods for raining on my parade without even considering anyone else. I’m the one battling a selfish, narcissistic disease. I don’t look on the bright side. But I did. Somehow I did. And somehow it came naturally and I can’t explain why.

Maybe it’s because Elaine and I had already done a 3 1/2 hour horseback ride through Bryce Canyon, one in which the cowboys seated me incorrectly leading to so much pain that I felt my knee would be wrenched off, one that caused the tops of my hamstrings to scream at the slightest touch or movement later that evening, but one that blew my mind and I’d do again in a heartbeat.


Horseback riding through Bryce Canyon



My beautiful wife on “Sweet Pea” with the famed Bryce Canyon Hoodoos in the background

Maybe it’s because we’d already hiked through Zion, one a sharp and steep incline that led to Weeping Rock, a beautiful rock face that naturally dripped water, another a 2 mile stretch through the darkness during which I got to give my “city girl” wife (born and raised in the Bronx, NY) the stars. At one point she lay down on the path and marveled at all the celestial bodies she’d never seen, at their infinite number and splendor. Was it because during that night hike I moved my headlamp to the right unwittingly illuminating a tarantula (A REAL, WILD TARANTULA) that stood waiting for its venom-filled prey – a large, black, still-flailing beetle – to fall still so it could feast? Was it because I witnessed a large fox cross our path in the night, it’s eyes aglow from our headlamps? Was it because I’d already seen this:


Native American petroglyphs at Zion National Park

Was it because Elaine convinced me to drive back through Zion which padded our return trip by a couple of hours but allowed us to see these:


A desert long-horned ram and mate at Zion National Park


Closeup of a desert long-horned ewe Zion National ParkWas

Was it witnessing and experiencing the majesty of nature I’d craved for so long that filled my glass? Was it sharing my love of these things with Elaine? Blowing her city-raised mind again and again?

Even when things went wrong during the trip, something seemed to go right. I wanted to give Elaine the stars at Bryce which has the darkest place in the continental U.S. I wanted to look through telescopes and see Jupiter and the Milky Way, but a rainstorm killed all of that. So we went to a local steakhouse, enjoyed a fine meal and a sinful Oreo cream pie despite the severe pain from our earlier horseback ride and then, there it was, right outside our window:


There was so much beauty on this trip. A picture everywhere you turned. It was exactly what I’d wished for. So how could I complain? How could I wail and moan after we’d been so lucky to see so much? My brain knew it…even the irrational part…and it naturally thought about the positives following the blowout instead of the negatives – possible costs, the hassle of the taxi, having to wait for hours. Normally I’d shake and quiver at having to arrange for service. I’d be lost. I’d let my wife take over. I’d call my parents. But instead I was so full of vigor from experiencing Bryce and Zion and so many amazing things that my depression and anxiety never reared their ugly heads.

None of this hit me until Elaine told me she was worried about my mental state and when she did I sat bewildered but strong. I talked to my therapist yesterday and she told me I now have a muscle to strengthen because I have proof that I can fill my glass. The water might evaporate over time if I let it and to be honest, I’ve been a bit sad since we returned. I’ve been afraid to look at Facebook. Would I be forgotten? Abandoned? I’ve been scared to write. But on the flip side I have all of these pictures and more so, I have life experience to conjure if I can. I lived through a blown tire in the middle of nowhere, Utah, and my reaction was one of humor, lightness and positivity, because nothing could take back what I’d already seen and done.

So is this the dawn of Lorne Jaffe, positive thinker? I don’t know. I might fall back into pits of depression as I return to the normality of life as a stay-at-home dad. I might suffer anxiety attacks over ridiculous things. My judgment might be clouded at times, my thoughts muddled, my self-loathing beastly.

What matters is that I fight through it all, that the dad blogger friends I’ve made around the world continue to support my battle, that my family and friends keep loving me, that I keep loving them, that I look at Sienna with wonder and joy. That I remember that just because this vacation is past, it doesn’t mean another one won’t be in my future. And I will fight. And I will remember.


Elaine and I at Zion National Park

Depression Hits During A Father’s Day Week of Success, Envy, Pride and Guilt

I held the book in my hands and turned to the table of contents. My name in black and white. Twice. “I’m published!” I thought. “I’m really published!” A little electric jolt awoke my stomach’s butterflies. But lurking beneath the jolt like a cancerous cell was envy and self-flagellation and the irrational side of my brain yelled, “So what? You’re not on The Today Show! You’re not on Good Morning America! This is nothing! You’re nothing! You’ll never reach that pinnacle!” What exactly is that pinnacle? I have no idea. But my depressive brain seems to know or at least claims to. The butterflies fell ill, calcified, settled in my chest and belly like stones.

It didn’t matter that the same day I saw my stories printed in Dads Behaving Dadly: 67 Truths, Tears and Triumphs of Modern Fatherhood (available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble), I debuted on with a paid story about the first time it hit me I was a dad and was listed on Mike Reynolds’ awesome site as an important dad blogger to read. It still wasn’t good enough because I still haven’t hit Huffington Post or appeared in a commercial or sat next to George Stephanopoulos on a talk show set.


I held my book and despaired and screamed at myself to “STOP!” I pinched myself hard enough to leave a welt.

This is such an important week. For the first time I can recall, fathers are being celebrated across the country in a way they never were before. Dove Men+Care debuted a tearjerker of a commercial showing dads as real, significant, beloved, responsible people:

Today Moms changed its name to Today Parents. My friends and fellow dad bloggers attended the first ever summit on working dads at the White House. Friends and fellow dad bloggers, people who have been so kind and supportive to me, have appeared and will continue to be featured on The Today Show and Good Morning America throughout the week. A great friend nabbed a job writing for Friends and fellow dad bloggers took park in huge brand campaigns about the changing views on fatherhood. Andy Hinds wrote about how 2014 is the Year of the Dad. And I’m so happy for them. I’m so proud of them. And I feel so damn envious that I’m NOT them. And coupled with that envy is this corrosive guilt, something my therapist constantly reminds me serves no purpose except as ridiculous self-castigation.

I’ve been blogging for less than a year. In that time I’ve created some sort of presence in the dad blogger community that I don’t understand because I feel my work sucks. I’ve spoken at the 2014 Dad 2.0 Summit. I’ve seen my writing appear on The Good Men Project and at the National At-Home Dad Network. I’ve been on the Life of Dad podcast and the NYC Dads Group podcast. The NYC Dads Group blog has shared my blogs as well as original work for their site. And each time something happens I feel that jolt of pride and joy followed almost immediately by that acidic, destructive jealousy and shame.

My brain, my ludicrous, hateful, powerful brain refuses to let me enjoy these successes and realize that having near 290 Facebook likes just weeks after launching my Raising Sienna FB site and near 270 Twitter followers is enormous, that it took some dad bloggers years to reach those numbers, because I’m too busy comparing myself to those dad bloggers with 95k likes. I’m too busy measuring myself up against the “big boys,” the ones that have sweated and worked for 3, 5, 7, 10 years to reach the levels they’re at. I’m too busy telling myself I’m not good enough because I’m not them.

I become obsessed with symbols, be it getting on a big website or television show or having a former teacher promote my work on her site or be picked to participate in a big campaign. Right now that symbol is getting on Huffington Post. Nothing compares to getting my work on HuffPo. I’m desperate to get on the site and each time I see a friend of mine share one of their HuffPo pieces, I’m so proud of them and so so covetous. I’m also extremely thankful to my fellow dad bloggers for lobbying HuffPo to print my work and because I’m so jealous, I don’t think I’m deserving of their kindness. But regardless, the point is that should I somehow reach the HuffPo level, I’ll feel that similar jolt of excitement and then it will be buried by whatever becomes the next symbol. I’m as yet unable to enjoy the present, the gifts I’ve received, the things I’ve accomplished. That’s what depression can do. That’s how strong and insidious this disease is.

I’m working so hard to get out of this treacherous, sickening mindset. I scream at myself. I physically slap or pinch myself to bring me back to rationality, but so far the irrational side of my brain is as imposing as the 700 foot ice wall from Game of Thrones and seemingly just as punishing to conquer.

But I’m not giving up. I REFUSE to give up. I’ll continue to go to therapy. I’ll continue my regiment of meds. And one day I’ll climb that wall. One day I’ll be able to look back at all the things I’ve done as successes instead of thinking about all of the things I haven’t done. One day I’ll be able to hold my next book and enjoy it for more than a few minutes. I’ll bask in my triumphs for days, weeks, months, years. The present will hold deep meaning. And I’ll no longer covet my friends’ feats thus eliminating that horrible guilt from my life. I’ll virtually jump up and down with them and revel in their accomplishments. One day there will be no despair. Nothing but pride and happiness.

One day.

Now I’m off to go sign Dads Behaving Dadly for my parents.

Preventing A Depression Spiral By Taking My Daughter To The Movies

I hate and fear my birthday. Yes it’s just a day like any other, but it’s one that so clearly marks the passage of time, one that depression sufferers such as myself tend to use to focus more than ever on the “failures” of the past and of time “running out” than on the now. Normally I feel sad on my birthday, distraught that I don’t have the money, the elite job title, the house, and I obsess over my life’s crossroads. What if I accepted the cool girl’s party invitation in junior high school instead of chickening out? What if I’d taken that film publicity job I’d been offered following my junior year internship instead of imagining my parents’ wrath at not completing college (I learned years later that the secretary during my time there became a vice president)? A few blogs ago I wrote about how I especially dreaded my birthday this year because it would be my 40th and how since Elaine would be at work late into the night, I felt intensely apprehensive that I’d spiral into such narcissistic despair that I wouldn’t be able to be there for Sienna, but I never wrote about the day itself and how I met that challenge.

On the morning of my 40th birthday I decided to take my 22-month-old daughter, Sienna, to the movies. I wasn’t sure if 22 months was too young for a child to go to movie theater, but I didn’t care because I knew if I didn’t get out of the apartment, I’d dwell until misery swallowed me. There was, of course, only one movie for us to see (cue Miss Idina Menzel):


Elaine’s not a big Disney fan, so I saw Frozen alone when it first opened, but since that day Sienna and I have probably watched the ”Let It Go” clip on YouTube about a quadrillion times, so I thought seeing it on the big screen would blow her mind; plus it was the sing-a-long version so I knew if my daughter yelled at the screen or ran around I’d at least be surrounded by similarly frazzled parents with their rambunctious children. In hindsight this was also a massive undertaking since I’m anxious any time I take Sienna outside, always imagining people talking about and judging me for being a stay-at-home dad, but on my birthday, a clear, crisp February morning, I bundled her up, strapped her into her car seat and told her it was adventure time.

As we entered the multiplex Sienna looked around and took in everything, particularly the luminosity of the theater lobby, big white bulbs overhead, red blinking lights announcing theater times. “Lights!” she repeated on a loop. “Lights!”

LEGO Movie?” a fiftyish man with a bushy red mustache asked when we reached the counter.

“Nope. Frozen,” I said. “Taking my daughter to her first movie.”

“Good choice.” He smiled and gestured towards Sienna who wore her most serious expression. “And in that case we have something special in store for this little cutie. Just head over to the concession stand and let me know she’s a first-timer.”

I did so and after many congratulations, we received a free children’s popcorn. We walked down the hallway and passed a huge cardboard advertisement for Muppets Most Wanted and Sienna quickly ran up and touched Animal’s face. She LOVES Animal, especially his solo during the Muppets’ rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I had to sneak in a quick shot.


The theater was packed and by “packed” I mean crammed with empty seats. Seems 10:25 AM on a Monday is a perfect time to take your kids to the movies, especially if a film’s been out seemingly forever. I chose an aisle seat behind a wheelchair area giving us plenty of legroom in case Sienna needed to run around. I had no idea what to expect from her. Would the movie’s volume scare her? Would she sit for more than 10 minutes? As I said: adventure time.

I placed her in a seat and made sure I could access everything: popcorn, water, Cheerios, diaper bag, Elmo doll (wish she’d lose that thing! Not an Elmo fan!). Then I had to snap a pic because she looked so darn small and cute and befuddled!


The lights dimmed and we sat through ads and previews (“GREEN!” Sienna yelled happily whenever a preview card appeared) and then it was magic time.

First a clever, Oscar-nominated Mickey Mouse short in which Mickey, Minnie and the gang break through the screen and into a CGI, 3D world. “MICKEY MOUSE! MICKEY MOUSE!” Sienna announced, pointing at the screen. I told her it was indeed Mickey and ran my fingers through her hair. Then it was time for the main feature.

I don’t know how she did it, but Sienna sat through nearly the entire movie as if she were a film critic (or maybe she’s just like her mom who gets distracted and sucked in by any type of moving image, including commercials—she could be talking to you while walking into a room, but upon noticing the flickering TV, she’s an instant zombie and you actually have to snap your fingers to get her attention. Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating…you don’t always have to snap your fingers). Getting back to Sienna, she stood up once and nearly fell through the space between the seat back and cushion, but then she resettled on my lap. She got a little antsy near the end of the film and ran around for maybe 15 minutes, but most of the time she looked like this:


We sang along to “Want To Build A Snowman?” and she pointed out all sorts of things like “SNOW!” and “HORSE!” and “WOLF!” to which she gave an accompanying, ”A-wooooooo! Wooooo-woooo–wooo!”

And when those opening, almost hypnotic notes of “Let It Go” began she jumped up and squealed, singing along as best as she could and mimicking Queen Elsa’s movements, arms thrust in the air in triumph. I sat there not thinking about my birthday, turning 40 or the past or future, but concentrating only on my daughter, on our special time together.

When the film ended we stayed through the second rendition of “Let It Go” and headed back into the lobby. I thanked everyone for being so kind and then decided I needed to get Sienna a plush Olaf to mark the occasion of her first movie. We drove to 4 stores, but no one had anything Frozen-related leaving me highly disappointed, but Sienna none the wiser. I think I wanted that Olaf doll more for me than for her. I think I wanted it to salute my taking action against my anxiety and depression on a day where they’re often incapacitating. At least I have the pictures and memories.

While seeing the movie with my daughter was incredible, I’d like to say that I was able to completely avoid my usual birthday doldrums, but I can’t. By the time my mother took Sienna and I out to dinner, I felt deflated and downcast. When Elaine came home after I’d put Sienna down for the night, my chest was tight and I felt sad and alone and near tears. She asked me if I’d seen all the hundred+ birthday wishes from people on Facebook, but I hadn’t checked because I knew I’d concentrate more on who DIDN’T wish me a happy birthday than on who DID; just another evil aspect of depression.

But then I recounted the morning: the empty theater; Sienna checking out the ad for the new Muppet flick; our daughter getting that first taste of movie popcorn and, like a pro, grabbing fistfuls without taking her eyes of the screen; Sienna standing on my lap, our arms raised, our voices nearly drowning out Queen Elsa’s. I broke into a grin thinking of how proud I was of Sienna and how happy I am to be a dad and how although I couldn’t completely shut out my demons, I stunted them by taking my daughter to her first movie, and how for a good portion of my 40th birthday I was able to just let it go.

My Coffee With Peter Shankman


Not the best pic of me, but here’s me talking with Peter Shankman at Dad 2.0

Ok. The title of this blog is a bit misleading. I didn’t have any coffee. Peter (if I can call him Peter – I completely forgot to ask, but I think he’ll be okay with it) did and he did offer me a cup, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so I passed. Plus I was plenty nervous so I think I would have passed on any beverage he offered.

When I spoke with Peter, the final keynote speaker at Dad 2.0 (you can read Michael Moebes’ recap of Peter’s speech here), at the conference, I mentioned that his references to needing to limit technology when it comes to parenting reminded me of Neil Postman, the late father of Media Ecology, creator of the master’s program I attended at NYU, and author of plenty of revered books including the brilliant Amusing Ourselves To Death. When I said this, Peter responded, “You know, so many people say I sound a bit like Neil Postman, but I’ve never read any of his work. Do me a favor, send me a list of books I should read. Better yet, here’s my number and e-mail. Let’s meet up for coffee sometime in NY.”

Stunned, I took the info and wondered if I’d ever do anything with it. I mean, we’re talking about a man who travels the world as a consultant for Fortune 500 companies and government agencies, an author of 3 books, the founder of the Internet sensation, Help A Reporter Out (HARO), not to mention the father of a 9-month-old. Why would he want to spend any of his precious time talking with me?

So I debated and worried and worried and debated and finally about a week and a half after leaving New Orleans, I sent out an e-mail and soon enough we set a date, time and place.

We met at a Starbucks but then quickly went next door to Peter’s apartment building. Peter, looking comfortable in jeans and a blue sweatshirt (thank God I didn’t dress up!) offered me coffee and then immediately began cleaning up bottles and toys and all sorts of kid paraphernalia. I gave him a copy of Amusing Ourselves To Death and he thanked me saying he couldn’t wait to read it. Then he offered me a seat and said, “So what would you like to talk about?”


I had no idea. I figured based on our conversation at Dad 2.0 and me giving Peter a copy of Postman’s book that we’d discuss media, but what came out of my mouth was, “How do you deal with failure?”

SIDE NOTE: This is where I’m going to have trouble. I don’t know if it’s because of my depression or my meds or letting things build up so long that they eventually led to a severe nervous breakdown, but my short-term memory isn’t wonderful, so I can’t repeat things verbatim. I’ll paraphrase and write about the conversation’s themes, but I so wish I could write exactly what he said.

Peter talked about how many times he’s failed at business and in life and how each time it happens it angers him and at times he misplaced that anger, though he’s learned no longer to do that. Unlike me who’s crippled by failure, by even the THOUGHT of failure, Peter’s able to learn from his mistakes and move on. Naturally this led to a discussion about fear because I’m so afraid of, well, everything, but especially of failure. Peter, who continued to pick up a stray toy here or there and put it away leading me to think this man is just a dad like any of us dads, talked about how fear helps us learn and move, that when I got up on that stage at Dad 2.0 (and I was touched to know he saw me speak), he knew biologically that my pupils dilated and blood rushed to my legs because it’s a natural fight or flight instinct. He said he needs fear to keep going. That’s why he skydives. He needs to feel that fear and he needs to overcome it. He talked about how fear, if you let it, can imprison you, but it’s not worth it because life is so short. Not trying because you’re afraid makes you a self-fulfilling prophecy (something my therapist’s tried to drill through my skull about a zillion times). I told him how I had to be taken into a back room because I was hysterical after my reading and he said it makes sense, that it was the adrenaline pumping through my body and it needed release.

“But what about everyone else?” I asked. “How do you not worry about what they think of you?”

“What’s the point of worrying about what people who could care less about whether you exist on this planet think? Look, some people think I’m a douche. Sometimes I AM a douche. But who cares? I’m me.” He’s right. So’s my therapist. So’s my wife. So is everyone who’s ever told me this.

I sat curled up in a ball on a chair in Peter Shankman’s living room. Toys littered the floor. A playpen stood in one corner. Every once in awhile Peter’s phone or computer beeped as he got a text or e-mail.

“You’re giving too much power to other people,” he said. “The power needs to come from within. You have to like yourself even if you don’t believe it at first. Eventually you will.” Again echoing my therapist.

We swapped stories about our pasts, our troubles, bullies, depression. Peter was self-deprecating and down-to-earth. His eyes blazed with triumph when he talked about how he’s taken up cross training and iron man to help get the good chemicals flowing in his brain. He urged me to do the same even if it’s just walking on a treadmill at home…just get those good brain chemicals flowing.

He also advised me to start enjoying the little things.

“You see that cat over there?” he said, looking towards a a small white porcelain cat waving at us from the windowsill. “I bought that for 2 bucks in Thailand. It’s supposed to bring good luck. I love that thing. Probably the best thing I ever bought. I just smile and laugh every time I see it.” I thought about an episode of The Amazing Race where teams had to search through hundreds of little waving porcelain cats to find a clue. The little things.

He also said, and this I love, “I don’t understand why people can’t just be nice.” I couldn’t agree more.

That’s something I never expected to hear from a person in his position, someone I imagined to have wealth, fame and power and I said as much. He explained that that’s all an illusion, that if we went outside and asked 30 people who “Peter Shankman” is 30 people would have no idea, that he has no real power to change the world and that he lives comfortably, but he’s no billionaire Wall Street guy and he feels like he doesn’t even belong in their company.

“Look,” he said. “You did something big just by coming here. Plenty of people came up to me at the conference and asked to meet, but you’re one of the few who followed up. That impressed me.”

But did it impress me?

As our time neared an end, Peter brought out this sweet-looking grey-black cat and talked about how much he loves him, how the cat loved him unconditionally and I choked up a bit thinking about my own love of cats, my lost Zeeb who died when he was just 9. Again, the little things. And let’s not forget the big things like our wives and children. We have people who love and depend on us. We have a lot to live for.

I stood up, put on my jacket and Peter walked me to the elevator saying that he’d be more than happy to meet up again. I thanked him profusely and said I’d definitely send him another e-mail.

The elevator door closed and my chest began to hurt. All of a sudden anxiety flooded my body. Or was it anxiety? I thought back to what Peter had said about the adrenaline rush after my reading and how I did something big just by going to meet with him, how it impressed him.

Perhaps I did indeed impress myself as well.