Monday, August 13, 2012

What Can I Say

This past weekend Heather and I went to Lexington, Kentucky to do our keynote speech to help raise funds for St. Agnes House.  I've talked a lot here about their mission - to provide a comfortable and affordable place for patients and their caregivers to stay while undergoing treatments of all kinds, but mainly cancer - but to see it firsthand was very moving for me.  Each room appointed like a bedroom in a home, not in a clinical, medicinal way.  Lovely, inviting common areas, where people can connect, console and share their journey together.  

The doors each have a dry-erase board with the name of the person staying there. I couldn't help but notice several of them had drawn smiley faces under their name.

It is a hopeful place. I wanted more than ever to do it justice, raise funds and awareness for such a worthy cause.


I'm not sure what to say about the keynote itself.  I'm still processing it all, really. 

The Ego is a fragile thing, oh so easily cracked and bruised. Heather and I wrote the keynote not from our heads, but from our hearts, infusing it with humor, truth and faith and not holding back. I won't speak for her, but I'm proud of it. 

So when we realized the turnout for the event itself would be lower - a lot lower - than expected, my Ego threw a major toddlery tantrum, and then curled into the fetal position and felt sorry for itself.  Heather and I sat on a bench outside the hall looking at each other with a kind of glazed expression - did we fail?

We hadn't even started, hadn't uttered a word, and I was grappling with the voice in my head that tells me I'm small, insignificant, that I'm not interesting/talented/compelling enough to draw a crowd.

Thankfully, Heather and I were there together, and we took a deep breath, reminded each other it was God's event - not ours - and that sometimes the Universe has plans you can't see.  Maybe there was one person in there who really needed to hear our message.  Maybe that one person was me.  

By the time we got rolling, I was fine.  I put my Ego into a time-out, and reached into my heart, my soul, with abandon.  We shared our truths, got the audience members to share some of theirs, made some new friendships. 

After, as I was thinking it all through, I realized that it didn't matter if we were talking to one person or one thousand.  Just the privilege of being there to speak our truths, to deepen my connection with Heather and meet new and interesting people was enough.  More than enough.  

A part of me still felt sheepish, small, in that insecure place in my brain - that mad, drunken monkey that I can never really get rid of and who cackles at me, makes me feel badly.  I've stopped pretending I'll ever make that monkey completely go away.

The Ego is a fragile thing.

Holli, Me and Heather
Thankfully, we were going to a Brandi Carlile concert that night -Heather, Holli and me.  Holli is someone who was a complete stranger to me (other than tweets and emails to plan this event) before Kentucky.  Over the course of three days we became friends - had a soul-clink that resonates right through me and makes me smile.  She is a rabid Brandi Carlile fan, and emailed us beforehand to say she could get us tickets.  I remember thinking:  I think I like Brandi Carlile?  I kept meaning to go to You Tube and listen to her songs before I left, but never got around to it.

It didn't take long into the concert (first song, in fact) for me to realize exactly who she is, and marvel at her extraordinary talent.  

It was a stunning, clear night, and we were sitting in an amphitheater under the stars. I took deep breaths of the of cool evening air, felt the music pulse through my chest, and felt such gratitude to be in the company of such soulful, funny, lovely women.  

Brandi Carlile Concert

It wasn't until she played her third song 'What Can I Say' that I felt my chest crack wide open, and the tears came pouring down my face. Pent up tears of two weeks of stress, fun, missing my family, going on adventures.  But also? This song makes me think of my Dad and how much I miss him.  What a blessing to be with safe people to hug.  

Look to the clock on the wall,
Hands hardly moving at all.
Can't stand the state that I'm in 
Sometimes it feels like the walls closing in

Oh lord what can I say
I am so sad since you went away
time, time ticking on me
Alone is the last place I wanted to be
Lord, what can I say?

I cried and I let it all go, at least for that moment.  I wallowed in the gifts of friendship, of souls clinking together under a starry Kentucky sky. 


If you haven't already done so, will you please consider donating to St. Agnes House?  Not to preserve my precious ego, or make me feel less sheepish, but because it's a very worthy cause.  I promise - this will be the last time I ask. But after having met these incredible people in person - Holli, Laurie, Susan and so many others - I want more than ever to help them keep St. Agnes House going.  

OH - and please go read Laurie's post about the evening.  Laurie is the Priest at St. Michael's - the church that hosted the event - and she is a wise, insightful and oh-so-funny woman.  Hers is one of the most powerful posts I've ever read on Beautiful Messiness (the theme of the evening), truth, and God.  


  1. Oh Ellie - Tears. Beautiful. Beautiful. All these things you do. All these things you touch. Everything. xoxo

    1. Thank you, my friend. Can't wait to see you in September! -xo

  2. I'm so proud of you guys. I just KNOW you made a difference to the people who were there.

    Don't be so hard on yourself with your ego--of course when you agree to speak, you hope for listeners!


    1. Thank you, my friend. Heather and I kept wishing you were there to whisper wise words in our ear. So instead we just kept asking each other "what would Ann say?"

      You were helpful, in absentia, even.

      Thank you and xoxo!

  3. Sounds like a beautiful trip. So happy for you!

    1. It was really beautiful. As usual, expectations tripped me up. Stupid expectations...... :)

  4. Sounds wonderful :) Good for you! May I say you look gorgeous?!

  5. What I like about you is that you are always taking the "stuff" that happens in your life, reflecting on it, learning something from it, and growing. The growth may come days or weeks later. And then you take the time to share your insights. Thanks.

    The impact of a talk is never a function of the number of ears listening. In fact, sometimes the relationship is inverse. I agree - the numbers are just for the ego. I'll have to remember that. Perhaps the reward for your faithfulness in doing the talk was that you were able to be in the safety of friends, and allow a release of tension and a sad and tender connection with your dad that was still locked away to come bubbling to the surface. Those moments are painful, yet healing. I'm sure it takes a certain vulnerability combined with a certain sense of safety for that to happen. Maybe that was God saying "Well done, faithful servant! Now, we've taken care of some get back to Brandi Carlile!"

    1. This is beautiful, Steve. Thank you. Your words are like a balm to me.


  6. Donated :-)

    1. THANK YOU! I appreciate it so much!!!!