Someone once said that you should do at least one thing that scares you every day. As we approach Halloween, it strikes me that I did a very scary thing last Saturday.
Last Saturday, I celebrated the launch of my newest book. Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is the story of my mother. It is the story of a woman who made her own choices and built her own joy. It is the story of my relationship with her. It is the story of maturation and change. It is the story of relationship, aging, support, and grief. It is the story of living with loss. This book is the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It exposes the most tender parts of me. As part of the event, I planned to read a chapter from the book. The thought terrified me.
I thought my anxiety and nerves and general busyness in preparation for the event had to do with worry over things like having the right amount of food, the right flowers, and a good internet connection for Zoom. I did notice that the overplanning and overworry turmoil that I have worked so hard to overcome with my life coach came roaring back over the week prior to the launch party. As I journaled out my feelings, I could sense the pitch squeaking ever higher and the volume shrieking ever louder until I reached a crescendo on Thursday evening. I texted my little group of helpers with a minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow schedule of what I expected to happen on Friday and Saturday. I had my furniture set-up, my decoration set-up, my cake delivery, my food and drink presentation, the Zoom initiation, my welcome, my reading, the door prizes, the toast, the cake, and book sales all slotted into convenient artificial timeslots. It was clear to me that I was certifiable. My friends were charitable enough to ignore the insanity and just follow the plan to the best of their ability.
Everything turned out beautifully. Just as I knew in some deep, dark, muted place in my brain- there was no need to sweat the small stuff. However, sweating the small stuff enabled me to avoid thinking about the big stuff.
Reading a piece from my book that discussed a facet of my mother’s long journey towards death was the big stuff. The book is me. The emotions are mine. The longing and the wistfulness I experienced at the time the incident in the piece happened is still blistering, even though the incident happened over five years ago. As I read the words I wrote, my voice broke, and the terror monsters kicked the inside of my gut with cleated feet. I had difficulty looking up from the page of swimming words. In some ways, I felt like my audience did not exist. I was reading for myself- as if I had not already written and felt the words. In other ways, I was acutely aware of the audience. I knew they were prepared to love my work, but I also knew they might hate it.
A few days later, with Todd’s help, I realized that my panic before the party and the piercing emotions during the party had nothing to do with the food or the flowers or any of that silly stuff. It had to do with my very unsilly fear of rejection. The way I write, the way I feel, and the way I conduct my relationships pretty much defines me. As I offered my words, my love, and my relationship with my mother to this group of people, I was asking them to accept who I am. The people listening could very easily have said no. Intellectually, I realized that it was unlikely that the people in the room listening to me would reject me. After all, I’d stacked the deck. The people who came to the party love me and accepted me long ago. They would not have come otherwise. However, a huge part of the scarred heart I carry around in my chest was sure this was going to be the time when those people did reject me. My brain occupied itself with silly stuff as the party approached out of fear that the party guests and other readers would decide that I was the silly stuff.
Nobody thought I was the silly stuff. I think the people listening were genuinely moved. I think people who came from far and near believed the time they invested in the launch event was time well spent. Even more importantly, I felt it was time well spent. I commemorated my mother with some people who knew her and introduced her to the people who love me but never got to know my mom. I dedicated my book to everyone who loved my mother and everyone who loved me. That would include all the people in the room on Saturday. We commemorated the woman my mother was on Saturday, and we celebrated the woman I am becoming.
Celebrate you today!
Puppies, Guppies, and Letting Go is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback editions. If you would like to purchase a signed copy, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will arrange to send you one. The cost would be $15, plus $4 shipping.