Still in my pajamas as I paced back and forth on the frost-bitten front porch while running the dogs, I wasn't focused on where my feet were.
One moment I am watching a thousand thoughts run through my pain, and the next - I must have looked like one of those inflatable air dancers as I ungracefully failed at the splits.
My left leg went forward, my right knee banged into something non-existent, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
I have never been flexible enough to do anything more than a wide-legged squat. And I haven't attempted one of those since before the pandemic.
Contemplating how I always get myself into these positions, the dogs came running up to see what the heck kind of shenanigans I got myself into this time.
Out of the five, one didn't want to leave my side, one thought this was the best time to get all the belly rubs, and the other three could care less as they took off running after laughing in my face.
Tonight was the big night. The night I had been waiting for, dreaming of, planning, envisioning, and catastrophizing over for the last month.
This night was about me and yet I couldn't formulate a coherent sentence if I tried.
I am a writer. Not a speaker. I live behind the screen, behind the camera. Not in front of either.
Give me a pen and paper and I will write a novel.
Give me a microphone and a stage and I will word vomit over everything.
After scrapping myself off the slick as snot porch, at least the dogs followed this time as I walked inside.
It was only 10 AM. The event wasn't for another 8 hours. I barely had the spoons to figure out my speech, let alone get anything productive done.
After taking some ibuprofen for my impromptu splits and being given the wonderful reminder that I am not young anymore - I took a nap.
Or at least I tried.
I tossed and turned so much I ended up more exhausted.
I knew what I needed to do. I just didn't want to do it.
That was a comfort zone I didn't want to push.
My mind played out the different scenarios. Either wing it and end up completely embarrassed on that stage, ruining any chance at further success and tarnishing my name.
Or suck it up and throw my comfort zone out the window to practice the speech I needed to make, with the goal of showing up confident and ready to own that stage. And my speech.
Both options left a rotten taste in my throat.
Baby steps. Just need to take baby steps.
Reminding myself that when I reach this stage of analysis paralysis, it is my signal that I need to break the task at hand into smaller steps. Or not. Depended on the mood if I actually listen to the flashing red light.
I put in the work that brought this opportunity to me. I can't flounder before I fly.
Taking a deep breath, I abided by the incessant flashing red light and did something to make it disappear for just a moment.
Grabbing my journal and a purple ink pen that I use for special occasions, I started writing. At first - just bullet points of what I wanted to remember to cover:
- thankful for
- my background
- why I do what I do
- oh and my name
- and the project that brought me here of course.
Each word I wrote unlocked another one.
I don't know why I didn't think to do this earlier. But "procrastinator" is my middle name so...definitely on-brand for me to wait until the day of, when I had known about this event for the last month.
Sometimes I wonder why I force myself to experience unnecessary anxiety and dread over a situation that I have full control over. Or rather, over a situation that I can have full control over and passively-aggressively choose torture would be easier.
I don't understand myself sometimes.
I have been battling imposter syndrome and feelings of unworthiness for years. It was only recently that I started confronting these negative feelings head-on.
Clearly, I still have some work to do.
Only, I don't. It's not my imposter syndrome dragon named Petey who is holding me back this time.
Heck, I am proud of what I created.
Am I afraid of success? Is that what is happening?
As my brain pushed the idea around, I finally just said screw it.
I grabbed the notes I had written, went to the bathroom, closed the door, turned on the light, and stood in front of the mirror that my husband hung awkwardly high.
So high that our girls have to use a footstool to be able to see themselves in it.
Looking at the face look back at me, I didn't recognize it. The one in the mirror had a warm glow beaming from her smile. Like the person in the mirror was excited, happy, ready for what comes next.
The one looking into the mirror on the other hand felt cold, anxious, confused, and ready to throw up.
Averting my eyes, I looked down at my scribbled notes. I could barely read them. Once I figure out what I want to say - I will have to rewrite them.
Without moving my eyes from the pages I held in my hands, I started talking.
"Um, hi, hello, my name is Kelly and I um, am here to, uh, to um," I was shaking just trying to read off a paper. How was I going to stand in front of a crowd with my family and friends and strangers tonight?
Taking a deep breath and letting go of the pages, but still not looking in the mirror, I started again.
"Hi, good evening, my name is Kelly and I am here to launch my um, uh, I have been working on this project for so long that I can't wait to see my um, no. I poured my heart and soul into this and I can't wait for you all to uh," I couldn't even finish a single sentence.
Maybe I should just cancel the event. I am the guest of honor. I can do that.
Staring at my hands that were starting to tremble with anxiety, the door opened behind me and I jumped. Gasping so hard I was hoping a heart attack wasn't close behind.
"Oh hey mama, I didn't know you were in here. I will go use the other bathroom," my youngest said.
"Oh it's OK, I am done in here. Go ahead," I would have used any excuse to get away from that mirror.
I haven't looked in a mirror in maybe two decades. I mean, I have looked in the mirror to look in the mirror. But I haven't looked in a mirror to look at myself.
I haven't looked in a mirror to just look at myself - at the body, my soul inhabits - in nearly two decades.
Too ashamed, too embarrassed, too angry at whom I have become externally.
Looking in a mirror reminds me that I am not the person I have always dreamed I'd be.
But that isn't true anymore.
I poured my heart and soul into this project to help people like me. To help people who battle every day to fight and not just survive, but thrive.
How can I help people when I can't get out of my own way?
It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. Seeing as how that was the whole premise of my book - I just need to remember that.
Filling my lungs with the biggest breath, letting out an audible sigh, my youngest left the bathroom and asked me what I was doing in there.
She isn't one for personal boundaries. And I am not one to lie. So I told her.
"Mommy is practicing her speech for tonight and I am struggling. So I thought I would speak to the person in the mirror and pretend they are my audience," I told her.
"Oh OK. I love you, mommy. You got this," she said and walked back to whatever she was preoccupied with before.
You got this.
Her words lingered in the air as I repeated them. "You got this. YOU got this. You GOT this. You got THIS."
I got this.
I have come a long way in my healing journey over the last couple of years. At times I felt I wasn't making any progress. But if the event tonight is any indication - I am right where I am supposed to be.
I got this.
Walking back to the bathroom, I left the scribbled notes on the washing machine and planted my feet in front of the bathroom sink. I pulled my shoulders down, straightened my neck that I didn't realize was so far forward I must have looked like a humped whale.
I closed my eyes, and I started speaking.
"Good evening! My name is Kelly and you are all here for me. Which is a slight bit awkward and a tad bit embarrassing. But I am so glad I have all of you to support me in this journey."
Ok, that was better.
With a slight smile on my face, I opened my eyes and kept going.
"I wrote this book to help others feel less alone. I wrote this book because I was stuck on this road to getting to the end as quickly as possible that I missed out on what was right in front of me."
"I bared my soul in this book and shared my truths because sometimes we just need to know how someone else keeps moving when our days get darker."
Closing my eyes again, I didn't think I could watch myself as I talked about my deepest hurts.
It didn't even occur to me that I would end up ripping my heart out and putting it on display tonight. Maybe that's for the best.
"Sometimes, we need to feel like we are not alone, even if our struggles are different. We are all still humans living on the same chaotic planet. I wrote this book in the hopes that I would help just one person find the light again."
Before I realized what happened, I was staring back at myself, the person in the mirror. I was staring back at the body that helped me survive through some dark moments. At the body who birthed two beautiful humans who care endlessly for one another.
With a brand new understanding, I continued.
"Apparently more than one person read my book, because look at this crowd." I chuckled. I am not a speechwriter, but if I could get at least one chuckle from the crowd - that would put me on cloud 9.
Continuing to rehearse whatever I was going to say, as I was taking ownership of my strength, I looked at that person in the mirror who looked back and me, and we smiled.
We smiled because we knew that tonight was our night.
Tonight was the night I would be recognized as an up-and-coming author at a special event hosted by my hometown.
An honor that I never dreamed would come true even though I took a leap to follow my dreams 6 months ago.
As I practiced my closing remarks in this awkwardly placed mirror - I took a deep breath, and I remembered what my youngest said earlier: you got this.