It has always been difficult for me to say no. Being a people pleaser, I never want to let anyone down. But as I age, I’ve learned to avoid the things I know I can’t handle. We all have limitations; we just must learn to embrace them.
Sometimes life gives us tests to show us what we can and cannot do. This recently happened to me when a very close friend of ours, Michael Dortch, died. His family called to ask me to give his eulogy. As much as I wanted to, I knew I would never make it through my speech without my emotions taking over. So, I took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry but I can’t.”
I volunteered my wife, Debra, to speak in my place, which was a great decision. She did a wonderful job. Debra has always been able to put mind over matter. “It’s easy,” she says.
Although it might be easy for her, it certainly isn’t for me. I’m a very sensitive person who can cry at the drop of a hat while reading a sad story or even watching an emotional scene from a television show or movie.
When each of my parents died, I would have loved to leave the pew and proudly walk onto the stage to talk about the incredible people they were. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t even read the poem I wrote about Mother the night she died.
“You can do it,” Debra said. But she was wrong. There was no way I could have done so without having to be led from the pulpit looking like a blithering idiot.
People always say, “But you are on television and you speak in front of large crowds of people.” But doing that is very different. Instructing someone on how to create something on television or on stage comes easily for me but, if feelings get involved, that’s a game changer. There is simply no way I could stand in front of my parents’ friends and people I grew up with and talk about a lifetime of memories.
As you all know from my writing, memories are extremely important to me. I use words each Sunday to write about my vast array of memories, but some of my memories would be much harder for me to talk about in person — especially the sad ones. My emotions get in the way of my words. I think that is the very reason I enjoy writing so much. It puts a space between me and the story, allowing me to tell it more precisely and without emotions getting involved.
The closer something is to your heart, the harder it is to avoid the emotions that always trail right behind. And that’s okay. It’s very important not to hold feelings captive and tucked away. We should all unlock our emotions from time to time and set them free. By sharing our emotions, we allow others to share theirs as well.
In my career, I’ve personally seen how this works. I try to use my platform to help others. I know this because the readers write, call and come up to me in person to tell me.
Just the other day, I was watching a video a friend of mind on Facebook. In the video, he shared something from his heart but not until after he said, “I’m able to say this because I’m not standing in front of you.” I so admired that! Sometimes we don’t have the courage needed to tell our stories face-to-face. Sometimes we need something to act as a shield for us.
My shield at my friend’s recent funeral was admitting to myself that I couldn’t do it and asking Debra to speak for both of us. My shield at my mother’s funeral was getting the minister to read my poem for me.
It doesn’t make us weak to realize we can’t be strong all the time. What makes us weak is pretending that we are strong at everything and don’t require any help.
We all have gifts that allow us to reach different goals in our lives. My gifts may be different than yours, but that doesn’t mean one is more important than the other. We all have things we can do, but sometimes we need to allow someone else to help in the areas in which we are not as strong. This becomes clearer to me with each day.
Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions or comments to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; call 478-757-6877; email firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him at instagram.com/markcreates; or become a subscriber to Mark’s Facebook page.