my heroes of 2014

VFshootThis year has been kinda crazy.

When I take stock of the year, what comes to mind first is the calendar of all the events of 2014.

The paperback version of my memoir The Invisible Girls came out.

I had the opportunity to speak all over the country, hopping on and off planes, driving rental cars and sleeping in hotels once or twice a month.

I traveled to Arkansas, Kansas, California, Oregon, Washington, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Washington D.C., Texas, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Illinois, Mississippi, Ohio, France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland.

I gave the convocation at Mississippi State University in August (HAIL STATE!)  I did an interview with Vanity Fair Lingerie’s Women Who Do campaign.

I wrote for magazines like Huffington Post. I gave talks to thousands of people.  I signed hundreds of books.  I had lots of amazing conversations with people after events, and gave (and received) lots of hugs.

On paper, my year was awesome.  I loved all the opportunities.  I discovered that writing and speaking are not just a hobby or a side vocation; they’re more like a calling.

And yet.

I learned that life is like an atom -- 99% of which is empty space. Only 1% is occupied by electrons, protons and neutrons.  Even with amazing opportunities, venues with thousands of peoples, big book orders, etc., the majority of 2014 was not lived on the stage or behind a book table or on an airplane or in a hotel.  It was vast, empty spaces.

I learned that while I love being with people and using my gifts in public, there’s way more life to that.  Living in the spaces was disorienting.  I literally didn’t know what to do with myself when I wasn’t speaking on a stage or signing a new book contract.

Behind the scenes, 2014 was a hard year.  A year of wondering what to do in the spaces.  Of who to be.  Of how to not just survive, but thrive, even when no one else was around.

After living the dramatic story of surviving cancer and meeting a Somali refugee family on a train in Portland and starting a college fund for them, I wondered how anything else could compare to that.  I wondered if anything so stunning would ever happen to me again.

After having such an emotional “high,” I had to finally give up and admit that I was miserable doing “normal” things like folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom and reading a book.  99% of the past year was completely, well, ordinary.  Downright boring sometimes.

Who writes a book about standing in line at the DMV? I wondered.

Reflecting on 2014 is really humbling.  And I realize that as much as I'd like to be the hero of last year's story, I'm really not.   The people who have supported me are the real M.V.P.'s


I’m so thankful for the people who bought The Invisible Girls, came together to raise money for the girls’ college fund, and encouraged me to keep dreaming and speaking and writing.

And I’m really thankful -- no, more like indebted, to my friends and to my family.  I’m grateful to the people who picked up the phone when I called at odd times, the people who patiently let me think out loud, the people who gave me a hug when I was crying, the people who made space in their homes for me to come and stay with them, the people who loved me and listened to me even when I didn’t make sense.

Looking forward to 2015, I’m hoping to not only continue to experience the love of these people, but to become a person who loves like that.

A person who shows up in the spaces of other peoples’ lives.

A person who sits on the edge of the stage with them once the spotlight is off and everyone’s left the building.

Who picks up the phone.

Who is present.

Who listens well.

Who loves without agenda.

Who cracks a joke at just the right time to bring others relief from their pain, a rainbow in their tears.

Who creates space.

Who listens and laughs and gives and prays and shows up.

I hope to become a person who’s not only good at doing, but at being.  A person who not only is loved well, but loves others well in return.  

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