The pressure was relentless. I had already made several trips to Japan, and it was only February. I had been on the road nonstop. There were days when I woke up and wasn’t sure where I was or even what day it was. There was no time to think. Jet lag was beginning to take its toll. I never felt quite right, always headachy and increasingly irritable. When I was not traveling I left the house at 6:00 a.m. and was booked solid with meetings all day until 5:00 p.m. I would commute and get home about 7:00 p.m. I had nothing left for my family. I had a job to do and a family to support. Failure was not an option. I could not allow myself to show any weakness at work. I was pushing myself harder and harder.
Every February, the largest consumer auto show in the U.S. is held at McCormick Center in Chicago. It’s a big show for automakers, and the automotive press turns out in big numbers to cover the show. It would be my first time to attend and my first real exposure to the automotive press. I was schooled by the PR department on what to say and what not to say, what questions to answer and what questions to sidestep. Bob McCurry and Jim Perkins would answer the most difficult questions, they told me—I was to listen and learn. Be very careful what you say. Don’t make headlines!
Cynthia was also being pushed harder and harder at home. She was showing signs of chronic fatigue. She was having trouble sleeping, suffering with physical and mental fatigue and the blues. She was trying to handle Spencer (14), Trevor (10), Blair (nine), Greer (six) and a new baby, Emily (four months). She asked me over the weekend not to go to Chicago. I ignored her. She asked me again on Monday to please not go to Chicago. I told her no. I was trying desperately to detach myself from Cynthia’s problems and those of my family. I was struggling at work and falling behind. I had my own problems.
I was to fly out early that Wednesday morning to Chicago from Long Beach on the company plane with Jim Perkins and Bob McCurry. I was restless, uptight, and needed to get going to meet the plane. Cynthia, holding Emily on her right hip, was in the kitchen getting Cheerios for the boys. She had the look of exhaustion. She started pleading with me not to go to Chicago. She was asking for help, but instead of giving her help, a twinge of anger twisted inside me. I told her in no uncertain terms I had a job to do and was going do it. My jaw clenched and pulse started to pound. I had five kids to feed and a family to support! The dam broke. I started yelling wildly, my voice on the edge of hysteria. She didn’t understand. I was going to Chicago for my family! I was going for her!
Spencer fidgeted uneasily and stared into his bowl of cereal. Trevor, Blair, and Greer started to cry. I grabbed my suitcase and headed for the front door. Cynthia chased after me holding the baby in her arms. Emily started to cry. I stormed out the front door and angrily threw my suitcase in the back seat of the car. Cynthia stood in the driveway, clutching Emily. I drove off and didn’t look back.
“As I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless-like chasing the wind. So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest.” Ecclesiastes 2:11,22-23
What kind of a man leaves his wife standing in the driveway alone with five small children? I was scared, driven by the need for success, and had lost my balance. This happened 28 years ago. Counting research, writing, and editing, these blogs normally take about five hours each to write. It has taken 28 years for me to write this blog and the next.
(To be continued in “Balancing Act: God, Family, and Lexus”)