I Can't Make You Love Me

At the age of 19, after becoming bored with Los Angeles City College, I went on an extended journey with my brother, visiting our parents in Rio de Janeiro and, later, joining them upon their transfer to Guatemala City, the latest post in my father’s career as an American diplomat.

There, my father, insisted we both pay rent and wasted no time securing each of us an interesting job at the Guatemalan American Institute, a binational center operated by the U.S. government in Guatemala. Not only did I have a job teaching English as a second language, I also acquired my first job in graphic design.

One day, my father called me into his office. With grim faces, two other men stood in his office, one was introduced as a CIA officer, and the other was from Interpol. Neither shook my hand as was customary in the foreign service—something serious was up.

My father handed me a shocking piece of paper with a message spelled out in little, glued-on, cut out letters. It looked like the kind of ransom note you’d see in movies. In Spanish it read: We have our eye on your son and daughter…first we will take you son and kill him… then we will take your daughter and kill her.

It’s the only time in my life where I felt my knees go weak and I had to sit down. Kidnapping and murder were common in Central America, and guns for hire were happy to pocket a couple hundred dollars to bump someone off. This was no joke.

Immediately, arrangements were made for my brother to be airlifted out of the country and whisked home to America where he’d be safe. But no one arranged such an evacuation for me, and no one explained why. I would be staying in Guatemala, come what may.

That decision, painful as it was, reiterated something I suspected all along while growing up. My father, who made all the important family decisions, placed more value on his son’s life than on mine. On this day it couldn’t be more clear.

The consequence of his decision was instantaneous. I made a decision of my own. If my parents didn’t value me, I would have to find a way to value myself. And, as if by storm, something took over and set me in motion—and I made a plan.

I stumbled upon a summer study program at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California, an arts college founded by the Disney family. I believed I could qualify, and despite having no savings, I took all necessary steps without hesitation. I started to save money for a flight home. I put together a portfolio of artwork, sent it to the Dean of Admissions, and waited for my imagined letter of acceptance to arrive.

Three months later, I packed my bags and boarded a plane home. And at the conclusion of the summer program, I was accepted into CalArts as a full time undergraduate student in the fine arts program. My father’s rejection led to a prestigious art school’s acceptance.

I don’t believe in accidents. I still believe this was a heavenly intervention and I happened to be up for it, pushing every single doubt aside. Besides, I missed all the fun I had with family and friends back home. But what mattered most was how I was able to establish in my heart and mind, despite the view my father held, that I truly did have value and could one day offer something worthwhile to the world. Whatever took over me believed in me. It was another father’s voice…one that spoke quietly and with assurance, one that loved me, one that took pride in me, and one that would see me through.

None of us can have peace on earth if we don’t feel truly valued or loved by somebody. If you find yourself in such a place, remember my story and the storm from heaven, or call it serendipity or good coming out of bad. No matter how one interprets it, it got me onto that plane and put things right after a devastating rejection from someone I loved. So don’t wait for others to believe in you or love you. Let true love reign.

Today, in keeping with my pledge, “Listening for Peace,” I am sending this song out to anyone who feels slighted, rejected, or unloved by anyone. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is one of my favorites, and here it is beautifully reinterpreted with Bruce Hornsby’s piano playing, accompanying Bonnie Raitt.

The soul is masterful. It loves deeply and purposefully. We can all love deeper yet, knowing there’s a greater love within, something more giving and unhurtful that mends broken hearts and brings peace and joy if we allow it.

TranZen Homestead

Thank you so much for your sharing your story. That was truly terrible what your dad did and I am so happy to know that you did something about it and thrived! Good on you and thank you for sharing such an amazing life lesson of honoring yourself and respecting your self worth! Have a blessed day and thank you again for sharing your light... and your might!!

Evangel

Thank you for such a beautiful and empowering comment. I so appreciate it.

Well Street

I can't imagine the heartbreak and emotions you had to work your way through from that experience. Rejection from a parent in any form can send one's self-perception and ability to accept themselves into ruin.

Your ability to stand up and feel your worth and value in the face of that rejection, and to take actions that led to a life of new business opportunities and fulfilling relationships is remarkable and so admirable.

Thank you for sharing this moving article. I'm grateful you pushed all doubts aside and followed your other father's voice who loved you and was proud of you. I feel blessed to be a beneficiary of that decision.

Evangel

Thanks for your heartfelt thoughts. It was so long ago, and yet the insult went deep and has echoed back throughout my life. I feel blessed to have somehow gained the inner voice of pure loving-kindness. It accompanies me, is a part of me, blesses me, and inspires me to be true to myself.

Slipstream

The incident you described was crushing to read, and yet, your valuable message for this holiday season is one of faith and strength — have faith in your inner loving voice and have the strength to carry on with your shoulders back and your chin up. Bravo!

This rendition of “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and your story go hand in hand; both are heart-wrenching.

Bless you...

Evangel

Thank you for your response. If I could give everyone on earth a gift, it would be the gift I've been given. I know everyone already has it, but for most it's like an unwanted, undervalued gift that sits unappreciated or unopened in a dark closet.