Saul and I got to go to Madison this past weekend. It was perfect.
Except when it wasn’t.
Had I posted the highlights on social media, you might have sat back and thought sarcastically, “Huh… good for her. She gets to do all the fun stuff.”
We were there for a benefit called Garding Against Cancer. Saul’s good friend, Greg Gard (the head basketball coach at the University of Wisconsin), lost his dad to brain cancer at the same time I was fighting breast cancer.
Greg and his wife, Michelle, have made lemon soufflés out of rotten lemons. Seriously. They put together an amazing weekend of events and raised one million dollars.
Saul and I got to speak at the event Saturday night at the Kohl Center. It was a beautiful experience filled with laughter, touching stories, old friends and new ones.
Here are a few of the photos. It looked like a rock concert. I’m perhaps the worst photographer ever, but here you go:
Had I posted those pictures on Facebook, it might have looked perfect.
Maybe you would have even thought it was perfect when I posted this picture that we snapped this just before heading to the Gard’s house Friday night for a VIP reception…
…right before I had a full-blown panic attack in the car and then again in the Gard’s entryway bathroom.
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t particularly care for parties. They make me nervous. I could tell as I was getting dressed for the event that I was feeling a little skittish. If I were still a drinker, this is when I would have pulled out the first Rum & Coke. But I didn’t.
I honestly thought I could work through it if I just kept moving. We got in the car and started to drive.
Five minutes away from the Gard’s front door, tears started running down my face. I couldn’t breathe. My entire body was covered in sweat.
Saul’s eyes were the size of saucers. He started talking softly, saying sweet words of encouragement. I could tell he was as scared of my reaction as I was.
I didn’t even know what I was afraid of. I just sort of lost it. It was the perfect storm: lack of sleep, memories of cancer, and a room full of people. I scrambled in my brain for one of the techniques that I love to enthusiastically share with other people. I came up empty.
Finally, I whispered, “Maybe God will send me a friend.”
I pulled it together enough to hand the keys to the valet guy and walk through the front door. Then my throat started thumping and my eye started twitching and I knew I had to hide in the bathroom fast.
Saul stood outside the door while I took deep breaths and begged Jesus to help me make it through the night.
Shortly after I left the bathroom, God did indeed send me a friend. Two actually, because He’s just really nice that way. One was the wife of a former professional golfer and one was the wife of a former NFL player. Both had high-profile husbands and were very used to this mingling game. Both hate mingling so instead hung out with me.
It ended up being a nice night. Not perfect, but definitely nice.
On the car ride home, Saul wondered aloud if I would have the same reaction the next night — the night we were scheduled to speak. “No” I said. “Absolutely not. I’m fine when I have a role. I’m excited to share a message.”
And I was. No tears, no panic attacks.
I hesitated to share all of this with you, but I feel compelled. It’s so important to remember that no one has it all together. Not the star of the show, the people who get invited to be in the limelight, or the ones who take the best Instagram photos.
I heard someone say once that we cannot compare our day-to-day reality with everyone else’s highlight reel. That just breeds resentment and discontent.
Being vulnerable allows other people the freedom to be vulnerable too. And that’s where healing begins and kindness flourishes.
And if we lose it once in a while, well, I feel like that just gives us greater compassion to use in those times when we see someone else lose it, too.