I cried twice on the day of my book launch. (Three if you count during my reading!)
I was sitting at my dining room table making notes on printed out pages of my poetry. Each page had one poem on it and the notes I was making were about the poem – how it was born, what it meant, why I wrote it.
I cried because I was scared to read the poems. I was scared to tell the birth story of each poem. I was worried that I hadn’t chosen the right poems to read. So I cried. Like, hands to face, shoulders shaking, sobbing kind of crying.
And I felt a little better. A little braver. I did a lot of deep inhalations. I felt waves of anxiety pulling on the nerves in my legs making them feel disconnected. But I knew I had to keep my body and mind connected. I meditated.
Being scared before a big reading or literary event or conference panel, well, it’s all part of my process. My heart knows that everything will be okay, but my brain and body decide to tell a different story, and they pull focus from my heart keeping me feeling safe and ready to having to exist to pump to keep me breathing!
And so it went. The day went by smoothly and slowly. I had time to prepare decorations and books and bags, and to make notes about the poems, make a thank you list. In fact, I was ready to head to the theatre an hour early.
Some other things happened during the week that’d I’d like to mention. My appetite was completely bonkers. I couldn’t eat my usual fare. My body wanted comfort in full force and that included in food. It wanted to sleep, read, run…which I did. But it also wanted French fries, burgers, pizza and chocolate. Oh, and pasta. I really wanted to eat a salad but when I looked at it, my gag reflexes vibrated. I let my anxiety motivated what I ate as a kind of gift to it…to help keep it under control. Does that sound weird?
I did my best to keep calm, but it was hard. The hubby was in Montreal so I was home with the kids solo, and I told them that I needed to work on my book launch. It’s highly likely that my busy-ness factor wasn’t much different than other weeks, but because I announced and requested that I be given the time to focus on my launch, it changed the energy and the kids seemed to get extra…needy. We had some challenges, but we made it through. I think it’s important to communicate with my kids what I’m doing, what I’m working on and why. That they understand the importance of things like book launches/major literary events because they’re for my career – this career of being a writer – that looks and feels different than other careers they are familiar with.
No matter what, we did the homework, made the lunches, and ended up in full snuggle-mode each night. Come Thursday morning, my list of things to do was small and focused. The kids had a sitter. I could finish my mental prep in a quiet home with only the worries for the launch to deal with.
I stopped at Wendy’s for dinner. Got some salty fries and a kid’s burger. And a chocolate frosty, I mean, what is more comforting than fries and ice cream? I ate in my car. Alone. (Like the poem in my book! Too funny.) It was a hot, sunny day. I parked at the university, and began the first of six trips to the theatre, lugging gear and supplies and signs. I got sweaty!
By the time everything was in the theatre building, it was around 5:15pm…less than two hours to show time. And time does what it does when it’s less than two hours before a major career event – it flies.
Each moment was filled. I didn’t have time to think about being nervous. I had to set-up, change, welcome friends and family. The jazz trio arrived and we prepped the lights and the sound. I felt like a total…what? Las Vegas performer?! Singer? Rock star? I don’t know why ‘singing’ comes to mind, but I feel like performing poems is like performing songs…I felt like I was on off-off-off Broadway – both the producer and the star…the publicist and the worried the mom. Did I feel like a writer? A poet? I don’t know…Yes. All of the above.
The seats filled. I hid backstage watching family and friends tentatively walk into the theatre space, look around, be surprised at what they were seeing and hearing. It made my heart so very happy. I wanted people to feel like I was feeling – like we’d stepped into a special, intimate, jazzy, artistic space to be entertained. Except…GULP…I was the entertainer.
While Marty (Gervais) my publisher was speaking, I was standing backstage listening…trying to hear his words above the banging of my heartbeat against my skin. I wanted to pay attention and be present. I had to shake my head in disbelief as I heard him compare me to Michael Ondaatje. Wait, what? Me? The critic voices in my head were silenced by the joy of the moment. I took it in. I received the compliment. I held in my tears and I walked onto the stage with Marty’s kind words moving my feet.
I just kept screaming to myself in my head BE HONEST. BE YOU.
And with a shaking voice, I read the first poem – Look At Me. I knew I had to start with that piece precisely because it was a call to the audience to do just that – look at me. I had to be the force that wrote the poem. To be the empowered woman who wants to engage others to look….
After that poem was finished…I can’t tell you how I did anything! I felt hot – like, literally, I was sweating from every pore. I felt floaty – like my feet never really touched the stage. I felt rooted – to the words, to the music. I felt relaxed and meant-to-be. The fear…the nerves…it was there, but not controlling me. I felt emotional. Raw. I felt part-actress, part-poet, part-stand-up comedian. I felt magical.
I gave in to my self…if that makes any sense. Like, if I thought for one second about what I was doing, it wouldn’t work. I trusted the musicians. I trusted the audience. I trusted the energy. I trusted what I’d written on the pages – the notes, the poetry, the honesty. I trusted my brain to be witty and honest. And, by golly, I had a freakin’ blast!!
I felt like I was home.
Then it was over…I was throwing the last page of my notes on the stage…I was hugging the band, posing for photos, stumbling off the stage into friend’s embraces.
I know who I saw…I can kind of remember what everyone said. I felt…like I was still floating, but this time on the love of the people. On the high of knowing that poetry, my poetry, evoked such emotion…and comment…and reaction. One of my high school English teachers was there! We reminisced about being in class together and how much fun we had, how inspiring it was to learn together. I was overwhelmed with…everyone…and everything.
Words to describe it are difficult to find…it’s like, put your hand on your heart and press…close your eyes and feel the heat of love – that’s what it felt like. The whole evening.
And even though my mom wasn’t there in body, she was 100% there in spirit. Everyone was – and I appreciated the love that came from all directions!
After I signed the last book, and hugged the last hug, I looked around and the place was cleaned. The hubby and my stellar volunteers had cleaned and organized and put everything away. It was just me who needed to gather her self. With a stuffed car, a friend and I drove to McDonalds for chicken nugget combos. Yes. We. Did. It was a perfect ending, really. Satisfying for my belly and heart. I felt floaty and exhausted and grateful.
Then, on the way home…family life scooped me into her arms and I had to put my mom hat on. Yank it down and lean into it…
I slept like a rock – solid and dark on the inside. I awoke very early even though I could have slept in. I wanted to write about how the launch went. I stared at my computer and I felt the words brewing…but I couldn’t do it. I needed a day. And another.
Two Thursdays have passed since my launch, and now I it all feels very far away. I can still feel the excitement…but it’s only in the tips of my toes and fingers. When I look in my office and see some decorations and my poster still hanging around – I get zaps of remembers. But…mostly, I’m moving forward. Onto the next reading…the next family event…the next poem to write.
I feel relief that I did it. That I did it to the best of my ability. People are still talking about it. That makes me blush and smile. And it reignites the gratefulness trundling in my chest.
It’s like I have a special place in my centre (not that one, sheesh) overflowing with joy and gratefulness from the launch. I can reach into it and stretch it over me when things get tough…or when I forget that I did it – I wrote a book, got it published, and celebrated its birth with a launch. Because…that happens. My confidence forgets, you know?
In this moment, I feel peaceful. Grateful. Hopeful.
THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO ATTENDED – IN BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT!
*Photos by Christopher Lawrence Menard. Thank you BFF!!