My dream in my thirties was to be a motivational speaker. I had attended a presentation in which a woman spoke on the title, Be a Pepper! She was a scintillating speaker who had the whole auditorium in her hands! No one was fidgeting, and everybody had their eyes on her. But, what made the greatest impression on me was her message of hope and possibility. I still today can feel the energy and hope that she unleashed in that arena. I left there determined to one day be like the speaker, someone who convinced other people through my words and stories that the impossible was truly possible.
My ambition was to speak words of possibility and encouragement every opportunity that I got. I attended workshops and conferences on how to motivate people with words and stories, money so well spent. I joined Toastmasters International, and I won speaking contests in my area and division, seeking every opportunity to clew, an idiom that means to present an impressive appearance, to people who might be willing to recommend me to other people.
I became a member of the speakers’ bureau for my employer, BellSouth, and I was invited to speak to people on topics as diverse as the importance of teaching children how to dial 911 and how to take back one’s power after surviving domestic violence. I loved it! I was on top on the world, working and serving, for I considered my speaking as a calling from God. But, no one taught me about self-care and doing all things in moderation, even the activities you love and that give meaning to your life. So, the inevitable happened!
I faced a decade of mental illness, mainly depression, anxiety, and severe panic attacks, and I could not find the courage or the joy to stand in front of people telling stories of hope, when I felt such hopelessness. I nearly lost my faith in God. During this period, I spent 28 days in a mental hospital, with a darkness in my mind that threatened to extinguish the little light I clung to with all my strength and might.
I cried so many tears that it felt as though I was floating down a river of my own making, in a boat with holes in it, about to drown at any minute in my sorrows and shame. At first, I resisted efforts to help me to find my way back to shore. Instead, I went around and mothered the other patients, assuring them that they would be fine, even as I struggled not to lose my own tenuous grip on life.
I finally came to understand that if I were to ever speak words of hope and possibility again, I had to confront the hurts and pains of life, working with the doctors and not against them. So, I rowed on my river of tears. As I passed the people on the shore who had called me names and laughed at me in high school, I forgave them, and the pain of bullying slipped under the waters.
Then, I rowed further and passed the men who had beaten me, and as I came to realize that the problem of violence was theirs and that I had value and worth, the hurts that had stole my joy sank to the bottom of my river of tears, and I was free. After much talking and letting go of stuff, I found my way to shore and sanity once again.
As I sit here about to write a sermon for next Sunday, I marvel that I am once again standing and speaking hope and possibility, using God’s words and my stories. We all have stories of hurt and hope, of triumph and defeat, of fighting our way from darkness into God’s marvelous light that others need to know and hear, so be a scintillating speaker or a scintillating writer of blogs, using what you know best to give people the world over hope and possibility.
Daily Addiction’s prompt is ambition.
Fandango’s Prompt is scintillating.
Ragtag’s prompt is clew.