You Are Braver Than You Believe

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” 

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Back in December, a Facebook friend sent me a link to an Elizabeth Berg writing workshop she thought I would be interested in attending. When I opened it up, I was excited, but then spied the price: $300. How could I justify that amount of money? So I sat on it for a week. At my book club Christmas party we exchanged favorite books and one woman received Berg’s The Day I Ate Everything I Wanted. I then told the group about this workshop and, of course, they encouraged me to go for it. The next day I talked to my husband about my reservations about the cost, but he also told me to sign up. “Think of it as a Christmas present to yourself,” he said. So I immediately got online and luckily there were still openings for the workshop. A bit of serendipity then followed. The one day event was to be held up in Oak Park, three hours from my home. I knew I had to spend the weekend up there, but that would accrue more cost. I then discovered I had enough Holiday Inn points to spend two free nights at a Staybridge Suites in Oakbrook Terrace. It was a gift, wrapped in clean white sheets and tiny bottles of shampoo and lotion. 

As the weekend approached, I began to hyperventilate. What if all the other participants were published authors? What if I was the worst one there? What if it was awkward and uncomfortable? Who was I kidding here? I’m just a hack with a pink laptop and a few silly blog posts. What right did I have sitting at a table with these talented women? 

So I practiced my yoga breathing. Breath in. Breath out. I can do this. Breath in. Breath out. Think of the amazing women I will meet, including a published author. Breath in. Breath out. I have written one article for a local magazine AND I got paid for it. Breath in. Breath out. I can be brave. Breath in. Breath out. Okay, I’m ready for this adventure.

On the morning of the workshop, I pulled into the tree-lined neighborhood full of stately old homes. I was early. I couldn’t go in yet; that would be wrong and rude and I was nervous and I didn’t want to be the first one and my hands were shaking and I was having trouble catching my breath…so I planned to sit in my car until I saw someone else arrive. As I reached for my phone I heard a tap. I rolled down the window. “Are you here for the workshop?” the woman asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Which house do you think it is?’ “I believe it’s that one.” “Well, I’m going in,” she said. I already was impressed with her determination, so I followed.

After I knocked on the door and was greeted by Elizabeth and her two dogs, I grabbed ahold of my nerve and attacked the rest of the day with tenacity. Elizabeth elicited trust in the seven women who sat at her table. All of us had divergent writing goals, but there was no judgment, no hesitancy, no criticism. The day was bursting with sharing and food and laughter and tears. I was inspired by the stories and healed by the offerings of tissues and hugs. The writings were personal, some hilarious and others heart wrenching. We agreed all of us were brave, because writers had to be brave. Writers share their souls with others, and that is one of the bravest acts of all.

At the end of the night, we exchanged emails with promises of staying connected. After we said our goodbyes and I was two blocks away, I realized I left behind my favorite sweater.  I knew I had to retrieve it. Elizabeth seemed relieved I had returned, and as she handed me my pink sweater she hugged me tightly. I said to her, “Thank you. There is a lot of power in a group of women.” (She later quoted me on her Facebook page. I’m honored and flabbergasted.)

Women are a powerful force in this world. We share joy through our stories, anger through our connections, and sorrow through baked goods. I am lucky to have many different tribes of fabulous women in my life. They have held me up, talked me down, and encouraged my dreams. I am grateful for them every single day, and now I can count seven more, a new circle of writing warriors whom I now consider my friends.

Elizabeth Berg was a gracious and generous host. I will forever treasure her gifts.

Elizabeth Berg was a gracious and generous host. I will forever treasure her gifts.

“You had the Power all along, my dear.” Glinda, the Good Witch