Painted my picket fence all morning on Sunday. Painting soothes my nerves, and my nerves are frayed. I'm nervous about the NEDA conference this week. As much as I look forward to it, and I am honored to get the opportunity to go represent F.E.A.S.T., I'll be honest: I'm nervous.

I can't blame anyone but myself for this, but I'm a speaker three times this week, throwing a party for 40+, doing a book signing, meeting several people in person who I know well on the phone and on the Internet but have never seen, pulling together a team of a dozen volunteers for the F.E.A.S.T. table, plus two planned meetings and talking with dozens and dozens of new people each day. Be careful what you wish for, my friends.

I'm terrible at packing (matching up shoes with clothing confuses me - is there really a rule about brown and black accessories? why can't I wear flip flops? is this too matchy-matchy?). Travel is filled with details to drop (have I forgotten anything? how do I get there? have I left enough time?) under pressure. I am sooo not smooth on this stuff. I'm a writer, for goodness sake: I spend most days in my pajamas! My commute is downstairs to the coffee maker!

Then there's the conference itself. Although I have developed many friendships and alliances in the ED world there are people who simply don't like me or my message - that's no fun. There are factions and politics and other tomfoolery brewing that one runs into even if I avoid them, and this year some prickly ones. (Mantra: We are all on the same side. We all have the same goals. We are all nice people. May I buy you a drink?)

And here's the thing: I'm shy. It is no longer paralyzing, and I know I no longer come off that way, but I really am. What gets me through this, and public speaking, and all this advocacy work, is that I feel so strongly about what I'm doing. I really do. I don't know that I could work up the courage to gather volunteers and give speeches and walk up to strangers the way I do now if not for the feeling that it is important and that people like my daughter benefit from the work F.E.A.S.T. is doing. Dreaming of some day helping change things is what got me through some dark, dark days of my daughter's illness.

My daughter taught me something recently. I'm notorious for looking ridiculous in photographs - awkward, tortured, blinkingly ill at ease - it is a family joke. She noted that I do fine if either of my children are taking the picture, probably because I'm looking at THEM and not the camera. I'm a sucker for my kids. It is the thought of the two of them that steadies me to pack up and do this stuff, despite the butterflies.

Neither of them will join me in painting the fence, I must note, but they helped me anyway today, just by motivating me - I love you guys!


  1. Anon Mom/The_Timekeeper (on Twitter)8:43 AM, September 07, 2009

    Best of luck to you ... sending some virtual empathy, too :) Do the first thing first; the next thing next ... it will all work out somehow, and however that is will be OK. Your belief in your advocacy will come through, and you will have a network of support people there to prop you up when things seem overwhelming.

    Good lesson for future planning and self-regulation/self-care, however ... reminds me of the Mary Pipher book, "Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the World's Worst Buddhist," where she talks about losing herself in the demands of her book schedule and the attention from "Surviving Ophelia."

    On the up side, plenty of mental-health professionals on hand to reinforce mindfulness, stress-management, and coping skills :) You'll be great!

  2. Think of your kids and all of us here in the virtual world and the ATDT world who are cheering you on! And if that doesn't help calm you, just picture everyone you meet in their underwear! ;)

  3. I always have a problem with the suggestion about envisaging people in their underwear and, should I be tempted to do it at any meeting around here would either be physically sick or get a strange far away expression on my face depending on who turned up for the meeting! However if it works for you....

    I'm really sorry that I can't be there at the conference. Next year perhaps. And in March 2010 if you're feeling nervous before the B-EAT conference here in the UK you are welcome to come and paint at my house - I'll save some jobs for you!

  4. Laura, I can't imagine what my outlook on life would be right now if it hadn't been for you and your work. You have influenced me and my family in so many positive ways. Multiply that times thousands and realize that what you have already done and continue to do outside of conferences is what counts to those of us who can't go to them.

    Yes, you have taken on many responsibilities, but you wouldn't be human if you didn't have some trepidation, shy or not! I wish you the best of luck that all of your preparations will make things go smoothly for you. But, as we all know, "stuff happens." It'll be great no matter if some "stuff" happens.

  5. That was "Reviving Ophelia," not "Surviving Ophelia" ... though that's how Pipher described experiencing her book tour/press engagements/speaking, etc. :)


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