Today I was a quitter
Fight or flight was strong with me somewhere around 2:00 in the morning. I woke up from bad dreams, and I tossed and turned for the remaining hours leading up to my 5:00 alarm. Over and over as I lay in the dark, I told myself I was losing sleep for nothing, that it was silly to stress over something I was choosing to do, not even something required of me. I had elected to make my life more complicated. If only I could stop striving, if only I could stop dreaming.
At 4:37, I awoke again and quit; I quit it all. No more learning to be a better public speaker, no more writing the book that never ends, no more job or gigs or fighting for awareness. I was just done. I was worn out and convinced life would be easier without all the hoping and dreaming. I don’t want to play big — I want to be small. I don’t want to share a story — I want to be quiet. I don’t want to hope anymore — I just want to put my head down and get through.
I drifted back off to sleep and woke again shortly after to the whimsical tunes alerting me to get up and at ‘em, and I rolled over slowly, giving the darkness outside my window the stink eye. I’ve come far enough in my journey to know that decisions should not be made at 4:37 in the morning. Might as well get on with the day.
Today I was brave
In general, I cannot sleep the night before a speech. As it turns out, it’s even worse when I’m preparing to participate in a contest. This week, I signed up to compete in the Table Topics competition in Toastmasters. The winner will go on to compete at level after level, according to if he or she wins at each level. But as much I love to compete (I think…), I really just needed to do something brave.
The last several months have been a little hard. While there is beauty that lives in the space of every day, the hard has been dark and heavy. I feel the weight of so much on my shoulders right now. I needed a win. Not a competition win, but rather a personal win.
Yet, before the sun even came up, I was opting out, trying to flee. Even as I sat in the room before the competition began, I plotted my escape. But instead of running, I breathed, I reminded myself how much I want to learn to be a better speaker, and I talked kindly to myself: “It’s only 2 minutes. You are good at this. You can do this. And even if you don’t do it well today, that’s OK. But you WILL do well. You’ve got this. It’s OK.”
And then I did it, and it was over, and I wore my courage back to my seat, thankful that I am stronger than fear.
Today I was loved
As it relates to this speaking journey, this is the third time a loved one has come along at dark o’clock in the morning to support me. The first time, my precious and talented friend Kelley came with me because I was giving a hard speech (Why I Stayed, Scars and Tiaras). The second time, my beautiful daughter came to learn from us and to be with me as I was giving my third speech after a “failed” one in December. And today, my co-worker/boss/amazing mentor/friend – a former Toastmaster herself – wanted to come support me when I told her I was competing for the first time.
People who love you show up. That’s been an interesting lesson for me. “You don’t have to,” I usually say, and they lean in and say, “I want to.” And I want them to also because I need cheerleaders just as much as I love to be a cheerleader. I need to be loved as much as the next person. It is this need that led to so much pain in my past, but now I am open to healthy love from this side of healing.
Today I was light
I’m in a season of receiving love and gifts from others. I’m learning to ask for help. It’s a long and humbling journey, but today — after being brave and loved myself AFTER I wanted to quit — I sat across from another who needed to be reminded of how brave and loved she is, that quitting is not an option.
Upon meeting her, she essentially introduced herself as a horrible person. But I saw before me a hurting person. I saw before me a young lady who looked suspiciously similar to the girl I’ve seen in the mirror throughout my life, and even in recent days. Maybe as early as 5:05 this very morning.
Ah, I recognize you. “I understand,” I nodded as she shared with me. We spoke for a while, two women on a similar path toward healing, toward learning to be loved and brave, toward learning not to give up and quit, no matter how much fear whispers deceivingly into our hearts. There are so many things in this world we cannot control, but we can choose to be loved and brave and hopeful. We can deny fear and push through when we want to quit.
“You’re OK,” I said to her. “You can do this. You are brave, and even if you don’t get the answers you need today, you can do this. You’ve got this. It’s OK.”
Today I rode a rollercoaster of emotions, of highs and lows that left me weary at the end, but I also drifted off to sleep content that I fought the hard fight and won again. That was the win I really needed.
We’re not on this journey alone. Sometimes others show up for us, and sometimes we get to show up for others. It’s a beautiful circle of giving and receiving, it’s a beautiful circle of love.