“Leticia, I’m so tired.” I admitted it, finally, at 1:00 on Friday, calling my roommate @techsavvymama from BlogHer‘s Serenity Suite, a brilliant idea organized by Heather of the EO and Maggie, Dammit. I didn’t know Heather before I went, and when I met her, I fumbled it, but I liked her immediately, so I’ll go comment on her blog and hope we connect again. The suite was incredible, both in concept and execution, and a lot of fine women staffed it this weekend so that everyone had a place to crash.
I crashed. I walked in all sparkly and nervous about my talks that day, and then I crashed on the bed. Someone took a picture. I was so shot by that point that I have no idea who it was or where it is, and “that is ok.” I crashed on the bed, and I rested, my body vibrating with exhaustion from the parties the night before (although I was home by 10, Dad), the exhiliration of hearing Maggie and other activists speak in the first conference session, and more than a couple nerves about my two talks that would ensue in the afternoon.
Oh, and an amazing evening we’d spent working with the American Cancer Society on Wednesday — nearly five hours of brainstorming, talking, and touring Hope Lodge NYC as guests, when I easily could have been a lodger there but for a) good insurance and b) incredible recovery in the week before BlogHer. It was draining from the start, on this tour with other bloggers who have been touched deeply by cancer, when the host excitedly told us that we would be touring through the rooms during social hour, and we might see Real! Live! Cancer Patients! We just smiled at each other thinly, recognizing the pain that briefly shot behind each pair of eyes, supporting each other lightly as we toured the facility, which was amazing, and got to understand the host a little better, grateful that she was putting herself out there for the patients, giving us the full tour and trying to help us really internalize a bit why Hope Lodge is necessary. It is necessary, friends, and it was such a beautiful place. I hope to talk more about that another time as well.
But let’s stipulate that I was exhausted.
“Leticia, I’m so tired. I know we’re supposed to be in our panel room by 2, but I can’t do it,” I said, torn in two by the committment and the exhaustion, and I continued to rest as she reassured me and other women came in and out, quietly refocusing the conversation when asked I was due (argh — darn you, aromasin weight gain) and agreeing that yes, BlogHer is exhausting for everyone.
At 2:20, I lifted myself from the bed, quietly said my goodbyes, and walked slowly to the elevator. I walked out, in a daze, and ran into @niksmom and @iampixiemama, two friends I’ve met through @stimey. It was the first I’d ever met them, and I was so delighted, but at this point I was too exhausted to be polite. I reached out and asked them for help. “@niksmom, I’m delighted to meet you in person! How wonderful!” we exchanged hellos, and then I asked, “I’m having trouble. Would you please walk me to my session?” And do you know what? They did. With just a moment to consolidate their things, @iampixiemama offered me her arm, and she supported me while I walked to my session.
@teachmama @techsavvymama @jessicaapiss and I waited for the session to begin. I stopped in to say hello to @dwescott for a second (I meant to go back and talk about science blogging more!), and then walked up to the platform for our panel. It was incredible.
Jessica is such an amazing leader. She prepared questions for each of us in advance, drawing us out on the topics we felt most strongly about, and yet rolled with it when it was time for audience questions. Leticia was so polished, answering questions calmly and clearly, explaining how she parlayed her resource blog into a consulting gig. Amy, gentle Amy, was strong in the session, telling how she has gathered almost 700 followers for her we teach ning group by providing a free space and emphasizing community. The panel was incredible — and, just as incredible, The DC Moms were in the front row, cheering us on, but also there to learn more about the resource blogging world, not new to @stimey and her AutMont blog, but hardly relevant to friends like @jodifur, unless she does actually form that radical shoe resource blog as she teased on twitter.
Afterwards, it was time for the Voices of the Year Community Keynote.
I was now beyond exhausted.
Amy gently but firmly took my arm and walked me through the crowds to my room. She talked me down and gave me strength as she would a sister, reassuring me that my dress was beautiful and the talk necessary. She politely ignored a brief call to C, and then she gently but firmly walked me down to the ballroom where I would speak. After a quick stop in the ladies’ room, I knew that I had no time at all to make it to the stage, as the Community Keynote was about to begin. Someone rushed up and said, “@elisac is looking for you! Hurry!”
I was trying to hurry. And I’m never late like this. I was just so, so tired.
I walked past friends at the entrance. They wished me well. I asked for help. @mommy4cocktails dropped everything, took me by the arm, and walked me up to the stage. I could barely see straight, I was so tired. @elisac and @mrs_kennedy met me at the stage, asking, “Are you okay?”
“No,” I said. “I am not okay.” As they walked me backstage, it all spilled out. “I am not okay. I am exhausted. I was supposed to start chemo last week, but I was not strong enough. I’m not strong enough for this. I’m sorry.”
Shhh, they told me. Sit. Rest. And I did. I sat there, trying to pull myself together through the sea of sheer exhaustion. I urged @mommy4cocktails to leave me, there with the other Voices of the Year. I’d be okay, I said. She explained again, and helped me, and then she went to join the others.
I tried. I did. But, I’m almost ashamed to admit, I began to cry. And just when I was sure I couldn’t walk out to the podium to speak, @jessicaapiss appeared backstage to sit with me. to comfort me. to hug me like a sister, patting my hair and reassuring me that it would all be okay. I knew then that I looked as weak as I felt, but I no longer cared. I just wanted to be home. In bed. Recovering from the last treatment, and resting up for the next.
And then, they called my name. @jessicaapiss and @elisac helped me to stand. @tech4moms wished me luck. I walked out into the lights, stepping carefully so I wouldn’t fall. I looked at the sea of faces for a moment, wishing I were stronger, and then I saw them. The DC Moms. @parentopiadevra was sitting right up front, with @minkymoo and all the rest. @lauriewhite was over on the left, taking pictures as she does so very well. Someone nodded at me, and I began to read.
At one point, I faltered, and @delora’s sweet baby C began to cry. I took heart from that cry, remembering why I was doing this at all, and I finished my talk, nodding with gratitude at my friends when I talked about the wall of support that they, and @canape, and so many other women and men throughout the blogosphere had formed around friends who are suffering. I spoke the last words, looked at them, and @mammaloves stood up, tears in her eye, thinking of her bestie with cancer, I’m sure, and together we remembered the path that we had walked, separately and together. I blew The DC Moms a kiss and left the stage.
After everyone finished speaking and I celebrated briefly with the front tables, @mommy4cocktails took my arm and ushered me through the crowd to the elevator, almost pushing me in the first one (thank you), and got me settled upstairs in bed. She insisted I change clothes. She brought me water. She told me it was ok, and that I should rest.
I did rest. I had no choice. After a while, I rested next door, laying across a bed while the girls got ready to go out, and I smiled and smiled and smiled. I had asked for help. They had given it. And the post I read rang true again.
This is not about my story. This is about our story. A story of friendship.