He offered to send me to Dayton this April to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop. He did this despite the fact that all I had to show for my "career" as a writer was a silly little vanity blog with a following of friends and acquaintances and a renewed interest in my writing. I had not shown such interest, though, since I was a maudlin teenager punching out short stories that read like Catcher in the Rye soaked in peach Schnapps and abridged for Tiger Beat. Maybe this is what caught his attention.
My Dad believes in me. He has many fine qualities, and this is one of the nicest. Especially when you consider that, in his lifetime, I have done things like have more than one child out of wedlock, change career paths as often as my underwear and become a practicing witch.
Truly, I have done lots of things which have kept both of my poor parents on their toes all these years. It's nice that they still choose to see me in the fond and admiring terms that they do. (My theory is that they have no other children, so they can't really shun me, being the nice people that they are.)
But I digress.
I think my point was that my dad paid for me to attend this conference. Which is way cool. I get to travel all by myself to a real event. Unlike everything else I attend, this is neither going to be put on by child actors or be mandatory for all church members. The purpose of the whole event is to further my writing "career," and I get to stay there all weekend.
It's February now, which is very close to April. There is but one month between them, in fact. I have to go to Dayton by myself. It may irritate many of my readers, but this is somewhat problematic for me. Not that I have never flown alone before. I have. But this time, I have to change planes both ways, get a shuttle to and from the Marriott, and survive a conference all weekend despite my weird new physical limitations.
Recently, the only way I can sit through church, which lasts one hour, is to have my husband brace the back of my head with his hand the whole time. (I don't think they will let him come with me to do this at the Writer's Conference.) I get cold. I get migraines. I get debilitating cramping. I get mental fog. I am not sure I can sit for an hour and a half at a time–much less hours at a time, whether I will need help if I become really ill, or how the stress of the travel will affect me.
The worse my symptoms are at any given time, the more I become like a sort of penurious orchid, requiring constant care and maintenance to subsist on a basic level. Any change in temperature, light or humidity could be disastrous for me. Travel requires constant adaptation, something a normal organism does with relatively little effort, but which for myself, the orchid, and various exotic frogs, is terribly troublesome. I do not wish to end up a puddle of decomposing amphibious goop stuck to the bottom of a Delta seat.
I don't especially like orchids, and I don't like feeling like one. My deepest fear, I think, is that I will end up hating the whole experience of the Conference, and that by hating it, I will have disappointed my dad, who had the blind faith to believe in me for no good reason.
I am not great with taking care of myself. I tend to want to control things, to do things myself, and not to miss out on anything. I have adapted to life with the understanding that Serious Shit is relying on me, and I had better deliver, or there will be Hell to pay for it. This has made managing my chronic illness difficult. My personality is great for being depended on, but not for depending on myself. I'm lousy as Hell at that.
Luckily for me, I have great friends who help me work things out by listening to me in a magical kind of way. This kind of magical listening is so rare and special that hardly anyone can do it. But my friend Amy can. She knows how to listen to me be upset, and just let me be. She doesn't try to fix me, give me advice, shush me, or get me to be positive. She listens to me, but she listens not to the me that is the complainer but to the me that is the commitment that I have. And then she says whatever there is to say. I talked to her for some time about the problem of this conference, she listened magically, I talked some more, and here's what we worked out:
I will take everything in my arsenal–every medication, every pillow, every strategy to get me through. I will have it be OK to take breaks, even if I have to miss things. I will rest if I need to rest. I will make my well-being the number one priority of the whole adventure. I am going to get something fabulous for my writing from being there. The place will be jam-packed with excellent humor and human interest writers, so I can't fail to garner some gems of wisdom.
But, if I can get through the upset to my system and still take care of my body and soul, that will be an even larger victory for me. That would be worth the whole damn trip.
Upset can wrap my stomach in knots, give me heart palpitations like a rabbit with an aspirin overdose, sour the flavor of an entire day. Some upset I just don't know how to resolve. But upset can also be an opportunity because I am lucky enough to have friends that can examine it with me, as if entering a cluttered room together, where they help me sort out the contents of my emotions, separating the usable from the waste.
If bravery lives inside of fear, then transformation lives inside of upset.