She Ain’t Even Herself
September 23, 2018
© Ariel C. Williams
I have a confession: I am speaking at a women’s conference next Saturday at my church. Every quarter they host Chat & Chews for the women. This one is slated to be the biggest one, I think.
I was asked several months ago to speak. After some investigation — how many people would be there; the date; whether or not I would be required to stand in the pulpit — I said yes. My topic, Loving Yourself Through The Broken Pieces, came to me in a dream…or in the shower. Both are my most divine places so it could’ve been either.
Cub’s principal and Mrs. Penny (from work) both asked me about it. The event was publicized at their churches, respectively. I confirmed that the Ariel they read on the flyer is in fact me. They’re hype to attend, or at least encourage me on, yet I die a little inside.
“Oh shit,” I mumble.
Initially, the host, Ms. Pam, told me this would go down in November. In July, I realized it would actually happen this month — in September. I peeped the other speakers’ names — prominent women in their own rights — on the flyer and died a little more. Two Sundays ago, my pastor joked with me about preaching in his church. Asked me who I thought I was, but ended with, “let God use you, Ms. Ari.” You guessed it, inside I am dead.
If I could’ve backed out then, I would’ve. It was far too late. “Wait, so you are gonna be speaking at church?” My parents know me well. My mind compartmentalized this event as a small one, so my mouth explained it to them in that manner until that moment. It was a slow realization to a Wrong Turn sign.
Tickets listed for $15. People were paying to hear me speak. Daddy called me two weeks ago with a message from God: “People will come from all over to hear and pay you to speak. You need to be willing. Don’t be afraid.”
Could my insides dare to be anything other than trepidatious? Was my valor on reserve some place I wasn’t familiar with?
I ain’t a regular churchgoer. I’m rough around the edges. I’m a damn mess whose anxiety strengthens in the wake of large crowds. A hoodwinked feeling came over me; this thing was bigger than I’d mentally prepared for. How would I manage? It didn’t help that I confused the dates and arrived at an empty church a whole Saturday too soon.
“Calm down, Ari,” Ms. Pam said. In a voice equally calm, loving, encouraging, yet mama-firm enough to remind me that I indeed would be speaking come hell or high water, she got me together. The answers to my sporadic questions came in slowly, in a purposefully Southern kind of way.
The attire is denim.
Expect about 150 people. One hundred fifty people. One Hundred Fifty People. ONE HUNDRED FIFTY PEOPLE.
Don’t worry about them. Just be Ari.
See you next Saturday.
“Yes ma’am,” I said.
The whole time my son gets a haircut, I wonder about next Saturday. Wonderment leads me on another phone call with her daughter, who purposefully repeated her mother’s sentiments. Same Southern kind of way, only in millennial tongue. The other speakers, a few she knows personally, could fit in the “rough around the edges” pigeonhole. I am not alone and suddenly relieved. For some reason, she is 100% confident that I will do well. “You should do a TED Talk, ’cause you leave people feeling like they can be Oprah or something. People listen to you.”
Disbelief is painted across my face. When I’m in my bag (or element), I love facilitating an empowering, authentic girl talk. Currently, though, my hair is dry as &^%$ and I could use my own Fix My Life right now.
Am I enough? I am enough. A mess with dry hair who tiptoes into the church house like a thieving mouse, I am enough with even more to to offer. The people around me have affirmed me, by strong arms and nice words alike. Before we end the call, Sis leaves me with, “as long as you don’t slip up and cuss, you fine!”
We laughed and hold our breaths until next time. So, I am speaking at a women’s conference next Saturday in a church. And every little thing, by God, will be alright.
I did fine! Here’s some press about the event: https://www.gainesville.com/news/20181003/conference-celebrates-women
Thank you for believing in me, Ms. Pam.