Sometimes we set ourselves on a path and walk so slowly we don’t even notice we’re moving at all. So it’s good to have landmarks and road signs, and maybe a compass to make sure you’re still headed where you intended to go. This year, I have walked with intention toward conquering my fears and gaining my own voice. There have been a few roadblocks, but I have just hit a pretty major milestone.
I’ve been terrified of reading my own words out loud, alone, to friends, to strangers. I knew a year ago, really well before that, that I wanted to stand up and speak my own words at least once in my life. All this time I’ve been telling myself how scared I am, how I lose the breath from my lungs, how my throat squeezes the words back down into my belly. And it’s been true. So I decided to aim for it, attack it slowly, carve out small pieces, look at things from all the angles, and get through it somehow.
It was slow work. It took months before I could even admit to what I wanted to do. But the act of saying it out loud helped tell my feet where to point, and the rest of me followed. I set a goal. I would read at least one poem out loud in a public setting before the end of 2014. This may sound pretty feeble, but I really didn’t know if I could do it. Of course, there’s been a lot of other goals going on in my life at this same time, a lot of work on myself, my journey, living an authentic life, coping with grief and anger, and hey, actually writing the poems too… And I’ve been working through Brené Brown‘s The Daring Way program with a great group of people on their own journeys. There is a lot of work on the arena, and those who enter it. The arena can be anything you are daring to try. It can be as simple as a conversation.
When I think about speaking my words out loud, I think very often of my old college friend Gabe. We weren’t really close, but she kept appearing in strange and seemingly unrelated parts of my life, and she was so strong and we had a lot in common. I hadn’t seen her in years, and when I found her again, she was active and amazing, and doing things I only dreamed about. She was running poetry slams and working on burlesque shows, writing poetry and loving life in spite of the crap it had dumped on her. And then suddenly she was dying of a rare form of cancer. She was my age, it was beyond crazy and horrible. She didn’t usually do the actual speaking at the poetry slams, but she had something to say, and I’ve never forgotten it, and it’s here for you too. And I knew as soon as I found her again, months before we had any idea she was dying, that I wanted to speak my words out loud. Someday.
So yes, this has been calling me, longer than I want to admit. And last night I answered, and I went to a poetry gathering and I read not one but three poems in a room with somewhere between 15-20 people, only one of whom I knew at all. They were poets, and kind beyond words, and they clapped, and they made me want to sing with joy. All it took was months of work, and then the realization last night that the only one in the room who was looking forward to me failing was me. And so I realized I didn’t want me to fail after all, and the only way to fail was to be silent. And then I got up with my heart in my throat, and opened my mouth and my voice came out.
And yes, I’m going back next month.