Have you ever had something happen to you that made you go weak in the knees? Have you ever thought that your legs were going to give out beneath you? I had not, until my luncheon talk for Guide Dog Users, Inc. at the American Council of the Blind convention earlier this month.
Michelle Laramie started reading back in the days when my book was a blog. At first she offered encouragement and appreciation. As time passed she began to offer her opinions and insights. Soon, I found myself running ideas and very early drafts of my blog posts by her before publishing them. In what seemed like no time flat Michelle became my greatest sounding board. She offered me more than feedback on my writing. She began to make suggestions, good suggestions. Michelle taught me one very important skill. She taught me how to take criticism. I’ve never been very good at that particular skill, usually preferring to shoot the messenger or else curl up in a ball and have a pity party. But if you’re going to put your writing out there in the world, criticism is going to come your way.
Tens of thousands of words have passed between us. There’s nothing better than going back and forth, head to head, so to speak, tweaking this phrase, trying that word, until it all comes out right.
Michelle also loves music, all kinds of music. I shared my life in words. Michelle shared her life in music. Instead of just sending me a song, she’d take the time to tell me a little bit about each song, where in the world she was when a song became part of the soundtrack of her life, who she associated with each song, why that song caught her ear. When Michelle began to share her music with me our friendship blossomed. We started referring to each other as, “The best friend I’ve never met.”
The week before I gave my talk in early July, Michelle recorded and sent me a wonderful piece of writing called, “I am me.” It’s an exquisite piece of writing, full of affirmations about being unapologetically, with equal parts pride and humility, the creator of your own identity, and of being comfortable with who you are. She also sent me a handkerchief embroidered with tactual daffodils telling me that a good southern lady should always have a lace trimmed hanky and that this was for the times when I got emotional as I told my story.
When I started speaking publically about my life and my book, Michelle began her tradition of sending me a special note on the day of each talk. On the morning of my talk at the GDUI luncheon, I awakened, sure enough, to one of Michelle’s notes of encouragement. I replied to her message, telling her she’d be with me in more ways than one as I delivered the talk. We had a good laugh about that one later!
When I finished the talk, folks lined up to say hi and to buy my book. The very last person in the line said, “Hi, it’s Michelle.” I didn’t think, “Laramie,” but, having heard her voice in the “I Am Me,” piece I think it made a connection somewhere in my brain because I instantly hugged her. Then Jim, noticing her name tag, said, “Michelle Laramie!” And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Michelle had come all the way from Connecticut to see me and hear my talk.
Later, over drinks and dinner, Michelle related the engineering of her surprise. It had been deliciously elaborate and it seems that half the world knew about it. I was obviously in the other half of the world because I hadn’t a clue!
Thanks Michelle. Thanks for your friendship, for investing so much of yourself into my writing and my book. Thanks for giving me one of the greatest surprises of my life.