Tag Archives: BlogHer14

That Woman Inside the Mirror

What is it about hotel bathrooms?  They have MUCH better lighting than my bathroom at home, and more mirror angles.  I am quickly met with an image of myself that I don’t normally have to deal with. Last Wednesday, I checked in to my room at the Fairmont San Jose for BlogHer14 and discovered a serious design flaw–the full length mirror on the bathroom door and the shower stall line up perfectly if the door is left open.  I had to WATCH myself shower.  Good GOD.  I hung a towel over the glass shower door so I couldn’t make eye contact with myself while I was so exposed.

The next day, when I was getting dressed for the first day of the conference, I sat at the mirror over the dressing table.  My hands shook with anticipation and adrenaline as I powdered away the shine, lined my eyes with black creme, outlined my lips just so.  I scrunched my hair only to smoothe it out then scrunch it again.  I didn’t want to look like the fat old woman I saw in the mirror.  What would people think when they saw me?  Would they even bother with me if I looked…wrong?

That night, after an exciting day of meeting new people and sharing with them the beauy of my best self, my generous self, my abundant self, I returned to the room and that same bathroom mirror. This is the surprise I found:  a pink heart that told me “You are enough.”  I stood in the bathroom and cried.  That word I use so much–enough–isn’t a word I associate with mirrors.  But there it was-ENOUGH. 10549251_10203441253065033_2633416593343239598_o Friday was The Big Day.  The day I gussied up in my new dress to claim my place on stage as one of the Voice of the Year (VOTY) readers.  I skipped the afternoon sessions so I would have mirror time before rehearsal.  The mirror and I were on better terms, what with that pink heart up there still.  I scrunched the hair and left it that way.  Put on a little makeup.  Gold earrings.  The gold bracelet that Big Gay gave me. The necklace made from Richard’s wedding ring.  I thought about Spanx but decided to wear my authentic waistline.  I slipped into the green dress.  Once I finished dressing, I turned to that mirror and liked what I saw.  Facebook friends responded with lots of love and encouragement so I strutted down the street to the Convention Center.  Look at me, out in the world.  Not hiding in black and drab.


Wobbly Selfie in New Shoes

Things were going great between me and the woman in the mirror.  Until I got to rehearsal.

That’s when I met August MacLaughlin, novelist and award-winning health and sexuality blogger…and stunningly beautiful woman. One look at her and I felt an instant dislike for her.  Why?  Was she being bitchy?  Nope.  She was sitting there reading through her notes and fighting nerves, like we all were.  She joined in the small talk.  She laughed at the right moments, just like an actual human being.  She rose from the table and poured herself a plastic cup of water. But she was doing all of this while being everything I’ve always wanted to see in the mirror. Naturally, I didn’t want to be anywhere near her. Which pretty much guaranteed that when we were assigned our places backstage, she and I were seated next to each other.  The chairs were jammed together and I was afraid that my ass would lap over my assigned space.  At least, I told myself, I got to go first in the lineup and no one would have to look at my tatty self after seeing August.  I could say my piece then get off the stage and go back to being plain.

(Pause for a deep authentic breath. I know this is all bullshit.  I knew it at the time but I had to process it all in my way, which passes through CrazyTown along the way.)


Pre-VOTY Smiles, Before the Ugly Crying Started

Once the show began, I got a handle on myself and decided to shut up the nasty voice in my head.  Both of us had earned a place in that lineup.  I asked August if I could read her story, “My Big Brindle Heart: A Love Story.” I’m not going to tell you what it’s about because you need to click that link and read it in her own words.  But I will say that by the time I finished it, I reached over and gave her a side hug.  I finally started treating her like a human being. It’s a beautiful story by a great writer, and a great story by a beautiful writer.

The next day, I woke up with a party hangover and dragged myself back to the mirror.  I smiled.  Scrunchy hair, smeared eyeliner, wine puffs under my eyes.  I looked like MYSELF.  And that’s when it hit me. I spent so much energy fearing that someone might discount me and not listen to me because of how I look.  If I’m not pretty enough or thin enough or nice enough, I don’t get SEEN.  And that’s exactly what I was doing to August.  I discounted her because of how she looked.  Because she was too pretty, too thin, too nice–I wasn’t open to listening to her, to seeing her.  My snap judgement of her came from that awful, stingy place that I stumbled into in my anxiety.

On Saturday night, I bumped into August at the Reverend Run party and confessed all this mess that I had projected on to her.  She thanked me for being honest with her.  And she gave me a hug.  Because she is enough and I am enough and I’m so glad I met August this July.  10535671_10203441251905004_9079957571851257617_oBlogging is one way that I am cleaning this poison from my mind and my heart, this idea that people, including myself, have to be judged and measured before they can be heard.  And going to events like BlogHer14 is like immersion therapy, where I surround myself with astonishing women of every walk and shape and style–in order to realize that I have a place, too.

A Rising Tide

rising tide

I had an ugly mental moment this morning.  I’ve been cultivating a sense of abundance this week.  Trying to focus on all that I have.  Chanting, “I am enough, I am enough.”  Rowing my little boat and keeping it low in the water, right in the middle of the channel.

This Voice of the Year thing on Friday is a big deal for me.  I’m claiming that.  Some days, I numb myself from the excitement so that I don’t confess that I am thrilled to have wanted something and gone out and gotten it. I’ve been trying to stay in a positive, happy place with it instead of moving straight into “I hope I don’t screw this up” territory.

This is not a left-handed plea for y’all to say, “You’re going to be fine!”  I’m just telling you where my head went because I learned something from it.  I learned that it’s really hard for me to accept attention for doing something well.  I crave that kind of attention.  I seek it out.  But when it comes, I am afraid that the rug will be pulled out from under me.  I am afraid that someone else will come along and take what I wanted so much just because I admitted that I wanted it.  I am afraid that the “You’re OK!” store will be empty by the time I get there.

I am afraid.

That’s the gist of it.  At the heart of perfectionism is fear.  At the heart of my anxiety is fear.  At the heart of my depression is fear.  It’s always fear that I won’t be enough.

I am enough.

And here’s where the ugly mental thing came in.  I saw that another blogger, who’s very creative and clever and funny, will be doing an event the same time I will.  My immediate reaction, instead of, “Oh, wonderful!  I can’t wait to spend some time with her!” was “Seek and destroy.  If you get near her, you will be less.”  Suddenly, I wanted her to fail so that she wouldn’t take any of my success.

What the hell????  I’ve never even met her.

Luckily, I’ve been reading Brene Brown’s book, “The Gift of Imperfection.”  I recognized a shame reaction as I was having it.  And even luckier, I had a therapy appointment already scheduled for today!

I made myself sit with the fear.  I checked my evidence and it proved that I have a right to be there, regardless of who else is around me.  I talked it through and realized that this once-in-a-lifetime event is also a big package of every inadequacy trigger I have, all rolled up into one.  People will see that I am old and overweight.  I might cry.  I might get short of breath and look like I’m panicking.  I might not be that good.  I might be good, but not the best.  I might ask for too much.  Maybe it’s arrogant of me to walk out on stage.

I’m reading a story about Richard and it might not be good enough to honor his memory.

These are my triggers.  Maybe they will make me sing and I’ll just black out altogether.

Part of going to therapy is letting these feelings come up.  Sitting with them.  Saying hello, then moving ON.  Even when they are scurrying to catch up to me.

I did my work with my therapist and I came back to the knowledge that there is enough of enough for everyone.  I don’t have to scrap with other writers for a limited number of readers.  I can be good.  She can be good.  You can be good.  We can all be wonderful together.

The creative life is not a competition; it’s a tide.  A rising tide lifts all boats.  When I occupy a space of abundance in my own heart, I can share it with others.  When I’m stuck in fear, I have nothing to give.  I am going to loosen my grasp, let the tide take me.  A rising tide, lifting all boats.

I’m not even going to reread this because I might chicken out on publishing it.  Just remember this:  fear doesn’t have to stop you.  It won’t stop me.