"it takes courage to be who you really are” e.e. cummings
The above words providentially graced the promotional postcard for my first public book reading last Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wow! It took more courage than I ever dreamed I had to put myself out there and LEAP into a wild new world! It only seems appropriate that on Leap Day I choose to commemorate that magnificent jump into the public limelight.
Even now my heart beats quickly and tears form in my jet-lagged eyes as I think of my precious time away. The fullness of the whole experience resonates deeply and I know that for a few moments in time I was a shining star spreading my magic into the world.
Leap Day 2008, I sat solo in a Paris café (surprising even myself) and this year I recall perching on a bar stool in the spotlight and glow of my own dreams surrounded by a rapt audience (yet one more surprise). Saturday night was amazing – terrifying – exhilarating – complete. It was absolutely perfect with the finest spectators I could imagine. This shy girl who has been known to sprout hives just thinking of speaking in public loved being on that raised stage. Woohoo! As I entered the coffee house and took my place on the platform flashes of failure and stage fright flew through my mind and body. Freeze? Flee? Or become FREE? Those seemed to be my choices... To free myself, I turned to As I Lay Pondering and offered Anyone There?—one of my most vulnerable pieces.
Will you read my work? Hold my hand? Laugh at my jokes? Kiss my lips? Notice my hair? Anyone there? Are you paying attention? Do you see me? Is it possible I still carry the look of a 1-year-old standing in her crib, reaching and searching for connection? Anyone there?
With a deep breath, I read and they were hooked. I was fully present as I slowed myself to the pace of thoughtful words. My pulse began to steady as my heart connected to my soul... and theirs. Courageously I sat all sassy in my red crocheted dress and cowboy boots surrounded by friends, family, and strangers listening to my story, and as the evening magically flowed on, “my” story became “our” story. It was an iconic event.
Who could have known I was destined to perch on a coffee house stool in Tulsa Oklahoma and launch a book that touched the heart of everyone in that room... especially my lovely sisters-in-law who became so mesmerized in the moment that they forgot their assigned tasks of photography and time-keeping, as well as my young nephews who sat tucked behind electronics? The friend I had known for over 50 years was to my right and various acquaintances and newfound soul mates filled out the audience. Even the barista offered his accolades when I finished.
It was a LEAP comprised of steps bigger than anything I could have imagined earlier in my life. One – that I would (or could) write a book; Two – that I would develop the nerve to speak in front of a crowd and become thoroughly entranced by the magic of it; and Three – I would return to the Oklahoma roots I left nearly a quarter-century ago to begin this new phase of my journey! Poet David Whyte writes, “What you can plan is too small for you to live.” How right he is!
In this special year of the Leap, what do you plan for yourself? What would you do if you had the courage to be who you really are? What does bravery look like in your life? My personal plan is to strap my parachute on tightly, ‘cuz it feels like this leap is a giant one... and I don’t want to miss a moment of it fearfully flailing away!!!