Photo of blind-folded statue in a pond, with ducks swimming just beyond the figure's handsI was in the middle of the quarterly leadership forum my team puts on for 500 leaders when the text came from my wife:

You missed a good presentation ….

My heart fell. What was I doing HERE and not THERE?

My daughter had worked most of the school year preparing a presentation that will help her explain her learning disabilities to her high school teachers next year. She and her classmates at Havern School were proudly walking their parents through their journeys of self-discovery, complete with PowerPoint. It was the crowning achievement of Kai’s three years at this special school that has prepared her for return to public school.

And I wasn’t there.

I was angry that my job had once again won the work/life tug of war. I stewed about it on the drive back to the office, and then decided to more closely examine what I was feeling.

And it dawned on me that it was only when I got the text that I fully appreciated the magnitude of my choice to attend the leadership forum instead of Kai’s presentation. In the weeks preceding, I had weighed the forum against “some presentation.” I don’t know how I had not connected that this was THE presentation.

And so I gently probed further.

Could it have been that my wife and assistant had shielded me from the choice? They had compared calendars and concluded that I would have to resolve the conflict in favor of the forum. I recall Kai asking earnestly, “aren’t you going to see my presentation,” and Karen jumping in quickly to explain I had an important meeting.

But how could I have not put two and two together with all that evidence?

And so I gently probed further.

Why was it that I knew instantly upon receiving Karen’s text that this was THE presentation? Because I always knew. My brain had fuzzed the details so I wouldn’t have to face the choice.

If my thoughts had matched reality, I don’t know what I would have chosen to do, but I do know it would have been painful. So my conniving mind created an alternate reality. It had felt so real not to feel.

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