Today was another day of going out of my comfort zone and talking in-depths about The Boy Who Smiled. Previous readers were there. New readers were there. And potential readers were there.
I stood there listening to the compliments (and accepted them). I listened as I heard stories about how my novels have impacted their lives. I listened to their reactions to the people I wrote about.
We shared eye contact for a few moments, even though I find eye contact uncomfortable. I know it’s important. Some will comment on the fact that they notice when I look away. They asked if I got that from Todd (Book 2) and I tell them perhaps I did or perhaps we were a kindred spirit. We both felt we could see the person’s soul when we looked into their eyes. They asked if that’s why I said my father had wild eyes.
When it was my moment to speak, I spoke. I was honest. Compliments are hard to hear. Eye contact is hard to do. I fight my brain from disconnecting, avoiding and changing the subject. I couldn’t. I can’t. The subject was about me.
I made them laugh because then I knew I was safe. I accept the compliments but then I turn them back on them. I try not to shrug their compliments off as if they weren’t a big deal. I need to listen. I need to accept that these compliments are a big deal.
And when it was the time to talk about the boy who smiled despite the world giving him reasons not to, I spoke about him (me) confidently.
That part is easy.
It’s as if he is an extension of myself, a boy in which it is my job (and privilege) to be his hero. It is my job to speak up and out about him. It is my job to stand in front of a crowd with all my insecurities and say, “Hey, listen, this boy has something to say!
And it’s important.”
It doesn’t matter that I’m insecure about myself. It doesn’t matter that there are days I question if I’m a good person or whether I deserve anything good. It doesn’t matter that I struggle with anxiety and depression and PTSD and the grief that comes with it. It doesn’t matter because that boy who smiled, he needs me.
And there’s the conundrum. It does matter. That’s the message I am speaking about. He is me and I am him. We matter and what we say has to matter. So I give the eye contact despite the fact that I feel that I’m baring all, because at the end of the day…