The Gift of a Name: A Special Guest Post by Mark B. Saunders

Earlier this year, my friend Diane Israel asked if she could put me in touch with Mark Saunders—a friend of hers who had launched an online health publication. Flattered, I welcomed the introduction. I soon learned that his publication’s tag line, “Enliven the body, Awaken the mind, Free the spirit,” suits not only its content, but Mark’s personal philosophies and how the venture came into fruition. It seemed a no-brainer that I’d not only contribute articles, but remain a fan.

Today I’m thrilled to bring you a special post by Mark Saunders—an editor, publisher and human being we can all learn from. I hope you find his story as inspiring as I did.

*****

The Gift of A Name
by Mark B. Saunders

My business partner and I were less than a month away from launching this super cool health and wellness website when my partner received a long-term consulting offer that was too good to turn down. Suddenly, months of preparation went right out the window with the baby and the bath water.

Now what am I going to do?

Shortly after receiving the news, I did what I usually do when things feel overwhelming: I went for a bike ride. I honestly don’t remember much about the ride other than repeating optimistic platitudes to myself like: Don’t fight the river; there’s a reason for everything; something wonderful will come from this; there’s a lesson here; no effort is wasted. But most of that inner monologue was designed to keep me from pulling over during the steepest parts of the hills and just sitting down by the side of the road and staring off into the distance while the cars whizzed by.

When I got home, I made a half-hearted attempt at yoga—my other major stress reducer —then crawled into the hottest bath I could stand. Some of my best thinking happens in the bath, frequently in the company of the New York Times. As I sat there, sweating in the near-scalding water, I realized that I wanted to go ahead with this business idea on my own—even though I knew nothing about the technical aspects of creating and maintaining a website.

OK. What are you going to call it?

I didn’t have a clue. The old name just popped out of my former partner’s mouth when we were brainstorming about what separated us from similar websites. “Wait! That’s it. That’s the name!” As I stepped out of the tub, pink from my chest down, a voice inside my head said, Name it after your dad. Call it Bartlett’s Integrated Health Journal.

That’s too easy, I thought. But after a week of pondering other potential names, I couldn’t come up with anything I liked half as much. Then it was a matter of calling my dad and asking him if it was all right to use his name.

Although my relationship with my father is great these days, that hasn’t always been the case.

Delving into the details of my family’s dysfunction isn’t necessary to get across the idea that our family was profoundly screwed up. Like most people, my father did the best he could with the tools he had at the time; unfortunately for both of us, the trauma I experienced as a child was beyond my dad’s skill set. Like the doctors and therapists my father sent me to, he lacked the necessary tube of “Humpty Dumpty Superglue.” (Although he could recite “Humpty Dumpty” in German, which made my sister and I fall down with laughter when we were children.)

Our father-son relationship suffered the kind of collateral damage that doesn’t heal easily or overnight. There were years where we didn’t speak to each other; I was hurt; he was disappointed and we were both angry. Not exactly the sort of environment that fosters the resolution of deep-seated emotional issues.

It has taken decades of therapy, failed marriage (both of us), a cancer diagnosis (mine), and a very messy dis-engagement (mine), during all of which my dad had my back. Slowly my hands have unclenched; slowly my daily experience has shifted from a steady stream of self-hatred to memories of a very painful time; slowly forgiveness has seeped in.

Despite our emotional travails, one of the gifts I inherited from my father was his orderly scientific way of thinking. He’s a doctor, after all. Thinking logically, systematically was something his trade required and something I’ve wanted to emulate. Though I wanted him to be proud of me, I also just thought that sense of organized mental mastery was cool.

When I asked my father for permission to use his name for my website, I wouldn’t say I was surprised that he said “yes,” but I was definitely pleased. When people ask about the site’s name, it feels good to say I named it after my father. It’s also a great icebreaker for conversations about why I decided to undertake this project. Now that Bartlett’s is six months old, I can actually say I’m proud of it.

***

It turns out that everything I told myself on that bike ride was true: fighting the way things unfold is futile; it appears that larger forces were at work; something wonderful did come of this string of events (www.bartlettshealth.com); the lessons learned were many and my persistence was rewarded in the end, with almost no wasted effort.

Best of all, my dad and I have an ongoing dialogue about health-related issues, which consistently spills into everyday chats about life, people we care about and our favorite sports teams (of course).

Does he like the site? Is he proud of it? I think so, and it certainly gives us plenty to talk about in a very logical and orderly way.

*****

What about you? Have you given the gift of a name? Overcome challenges that could’ve been deal breakers? Any insight to share with Mark? I always love hearing from you. (And psst! Don’t forget to pop by next week for Goody Goody, Part II… ;))

Leave a comment

20 Comments

  1. Excellent post! I am glad that you have made amends with your father. it sounds like you went through a terrible time. Life is short and it is easier to go through it with a “light load.”

    Reply
  2. The part of this post that speaks to me at the moment is keeping a strong positive attitude in the face of crushing disappointment. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Those unsignalled left turns life sometimes throws at us can be so tough to navigate, but it’s funny how they oftentimes lead to something better in the end. Congrats on the website!! And I love, love, love stories of family reconciliation. So happy for you and your dad!

    Reply
  4. This is an amazing post! How wonderful that you had the wisdom and wherewithal to trust the direction life was taking you and that it turned into something so productive and healthy. Congratulations!

    Reply
  5. Coleen Patrick

     /  December 9, 2011

    Inspiring story–thanks for sharing!! I think what Diane said about attitude rings true for me too.

    Reply
  6. A great story beautifully told, Mark. Thank you. I love it when great names come up out of nowhere.

    Reply
  7. Ah, don’t fight the river. I like that. For most of my adult life I was determined to fight the river. I strived to go upstream while everyone else went downstream. Then one day I realized I was too tired and exhausted to keep fighting it. Once I turned around I have found a greater place. I very happy to hear the father/son relationship is healed. Nothing worse than having that remained fractured forever. No one wins.

    Reply
  8. Mike

     /  December 9, 2011

    Great inspiring post, thanks to both of you!

    Reply
  9. Bartlett Saunders

     /  December 9, 2011

    Very satisfying post. As a father (the father) it is wonderful that healing does occure and that we all are better of for the healing and reunion.

    Reply
    • So honored that you stopped by, Mr. Saunders, and grateful for both of your healing. You must be a remarkable person to have helped shape Mark into who he is. Thank you!

      Reply
  10. Shannon Esposito

     /  December 9, 2011

    Great site! I just subscribed. I love hearing stories of success, especially ones that could have been derailed. Thanks for sharing Mark with us, August!

    Reply
  11. Super inspiring post – thanks for hosting August! We can all stand to read more stories like Mark’s that highlight forgiveness and healthy living in all aspects.

    Reply
  12. August, you just have the most awesome posts! So inspiring and encouraging!

    What a blessing that Mark and his father could put things in the past and forgive and move on. Unfortunately, so many are not able to do this. Mostly because of pride. But it is so healing when pride is taking out of the equation.

    Thank you August and Mark for sharing his experience. I wish all the best! 🙂

    Reply
  13. Mark Saunders

     /  December 9, 2011

    August et al,

    I am touched by all the compassionate things everyone has said here (including my dad). Thank you. You guys are are the ones who are encouraging. I appreciate your generosity of spirit.

    Namaste,

    Mark B. Saunders

    Reply
  14. Chiming in a bit late, but I just want to say thank you, Mark, for such a moving post. Both my parents are gone, and I know how important it is to resolve as much as possible before it is too late. Look forward to reading Bartlett’s!

    Reply
  15. What an inspiring post. A great reminder to keep going and have faith when things seem to be tough. We all need that from time to time.

    Reply
  16. Very cool post – both of you!

    Reply
  17. So nice to meet you, Mark. Your post is very inspiring and heart-warming. I’m glad to hear your relationship with your dad grew stronger with time and that you both welcomed forgiveness into your lives.

    August, thank you for introducing Mark 🙂

    Reply
  18. Mark,

    I enjoyed it! A nice relaxing read.

    Wayne

    Reply

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