Words of affirmation

I’ve been trying to write at least 1,500 words every day, and I’ve reached that goal most days the past two weeks. Sometimes I have evening plans that keep me from writing, but for the most part, I’ve been writing a little every day.

I feel like I’ve fallen back in love with writing, I can tell because I prefer to write instead of read right now. I still love reading, but I feel like I have a lot pent up in my writing head, and I want to get it out.

Before I started writing so fervently, I wrote a blessing for a high school senior from our church. His parents organized a party of sorts in which his adult mentors wrote and then spoke blessings over him. I wrote mine as soon as I was invited.

The party was on Sunday, and I had a feeling I should redo my blessing. I thought a second attempt might be better than the first one I did. So, after church on Sunday, I wrote it again. I kept the same core structure, but I made it funnier and sweeter. Overall, the second draft was more well written.

I practiced it that afternoon in my room. I made myself cry, but I recited it several times, and I felt confident I would do well that night.

I was one of the first people to the party. It was a good size when I got there, but there ended up being close to forty people there.

Forty!

I freaked out a little. Forty people were going to listen to my blessing. Mine was a letter more than anything, and I was scared to share some deep feelings with forty people.

I’m a crier under the best circumstances, so I knew I’d be a mess at the end of everyone’s recitals. Therefore, I tried to arrange it where I’d be one of the first people to go. Plus, I felt like I’d be able to pay attention better after I’d gotten mine out of the way.

When I write and give speeches, I have found it’s very helpful for my nerves if I can make people laugh right off the bat. This speech was no different. Everyone laughed at my opening line, which set me at ease.

I read it sitting down, and I didn’t look up at all, afraid I’d cry if I looked at this kid who I started babysitting when he was nine. I got emotional during one section, but his mom, who is a close friend, was sitting by me and she put her hand on my back reassuringly. I typically don’t go for that stuff, but I know she meant well.

I got through it, and I got uproarious laughter at all the right spots. It felt so good. And I felt like I did a great job. I love making people laugh, and that group laughs long and they laugh hard.

I listened to the rest of the blessings, and they were mostly touching and somewhat serious. Some were funny, but honestly, mine was the funniest.

After everyone was done, I hung around and talked to people, which is a bit unusual for me. I was feeling good about myself, though, so I wanted to socialize. I was met with high praise for my blessing.

Some people talked about how well it was written, others said I delivered it well. That affirmation was meaningful, but a discussion I had with the kid’s mom was even more so.

I often feel like I’m not even on her radar as a person. She’s our preacher’s wife, and she’s an introvert, so I know Sundays are taxing for her. I get that, but sometimes I feel like she doesn’t give me the time of day. I’ll walk over to her after church, and she rarely engages me in conversation unless I’m intentional about telling her a story about her boys. Not saying that’s the only thing she’ll talk about, it’s just hard for me to pin her down and get a conversation going.

This being said, anytime she pays attention solely to me, I feel extremely honored and like I’ve won the lottery. It doesn’t happen incredibly often, especially when there are a lot of other people around.

That was not the case the other night. She found me, and she spent seven minutes giving me affirmation. She said she had no idea I was such a good public speaker.

I did communion at our church a few weeks ago, and she referenced that and my blessing for her son. She said I have a gift, which is high praise from anyone, and it was even more special coming from her.

She said she wishes I could find a way to use my oration abilities in tandem with my writing skills somewhere in the church. I told her I’ve thought about being an advocate for people with mental illnesses, and her face lit up. She is incredibly animated by default, and when she’s passionate about something, that animation grows exponentially.

She said the church needs advocates for mental health. People need to know they aren’t weak or faithless or unloved because they have a mental illness. Taking medicine is not shameful; it is sometimes necessary to remedy altered brain chemistry.

I couldn’t agree more, and the thought of being a vehicle through which that message is shared is exciting. I actually quite enjoy public speaking, which is shocking given my past failures and embarrassments.

That conversation lit something deep in my soul, and now I’m trying to figure out exactly what being an advocate would look like and how I can get started. This blog is good, but I have meager followership at this point.

I’m involved in Toastmasters at work to improve my public speaking abilities, but I’d like to try to get on a bigger stage literally and metaphorically. I just don’t know where to start.

My therapist said something the other day about the people who speak at mental health conferences, and she made it sound like it’s something I’d be good at. She said therapists need to laugh, and I’m funny and good at telling humorous stories. Who knows?

I just don’t know how to get my foot in the door. I’m rather shy and timid by nature, but if I truly want this, I’ll have to jump in feet first and get it started on my own.

I’ve never felt like I’ve had much purpose, which has always been demoralizing.

But now.

Now, I feel like I might be headed towards my calling.

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