The Night Donald Miller Changed My Life

Pour yourself some coffee, my friend. Or a mimosa. Whatever you need to settle in for one of the best moments of my life.  I’m probably about to plow through every word-count suggestion for blogs. But, when your life changes in one night, you should use as many words as you need.

So, remember how I told you I love the Storyline Conference? If you need a refresher course, click here to read a favorited post from the archives: Donald Miller is a Freaking Genius. Or click here, to read about the time I marched in a protest because I thought it was a parade, all inspired by Storyline.

This weekend was my second rendezvous with Storyline, and I have long awaited this trip. I registered months ago, and I’ve had a paper chain countdown going on. Such has been my anticipation.

Our weekend launched on Friday night with a dinner at a trendy club in Nashville. Donald Miller, the Storyline team, and 500 of his closest friends – with 500 more to arrive the next day. This place was filled with Storyline Groupies, and we were all thankful to have found one another. Storyliners get starry-eyed when you mention words like Inciting Incidents and Climactic Scenes and Redeeming the Negative Turns. We are like a Star Trek Convention, except instead of being compulsive science fiction junkies, we can’t quite get enough of the high of telling better stories with our lives.

Don came by to dismiss our table to the buffet line, and I said, “Could I just walk with you for a few minutes? I know you’re dismissing tables, but… well, I have something I need to tell you.”

He smiled and motioned for me to join him. “Sure, you bet. Talk to me,” said Don Miller, who is every bit author and every bit real person.

I said what I had hoped to say, in the moment I had prayed for, should I have the chance to have an honest-to-goodness conversation with DM. I didn’t want to be lost in a sea of adoring fans waiting for him to sign their arms. I wanted to have a legitimate conversation. Authentic. Real. No authographs necessary.

“Don, in 2012, I attended Storyline in Portland. I was sitting in the third row, and you asked for an example of an inciting incident, something someone could do to propel change in her life. I raised my hand; you called on me. I was a young widow. My husband had just died 15 months before.”

“Yes, yes. I remember you,” he said. I had his full attention.

“I told you that I was a single mom with two small boys, and I needed to inject some happiness into our lives. And you said, ‘Have you thought about writing a book about this?'”

He smiled. “I remember that.”

“And you said, ‘Let’s stay in touch. I want to see where this goes.’ Well, it’s been almost two years, and since I last saw you, I’ve written a book, I have an agent and a publisher, and my book will be released in February.”

Don Miller gives great hugs, and he swept me into one. The thing about telling him your dream has come true? You’re making his dream come true also. He’s the story guy. His story is to help us tell better stories.

“Tricia, that is fantastic. Would you be willing to share that story with everyone here tonight?”

“Absolutely. I would love to.”

(Sidenote: when I shared thie story with my Tuesdays later that night, one of the girls said, “Wait – I need to know what you were wearing.” I gave her the head to toe rundown, right down to the patent leather heels. She approved. “Okay. Go on.”)

After dinner, I joined Don at the front of the room, and he introduced me to the Storyline groupies. He said, “Here at Storyline, we collect stories. We love to hear what people are doing, the stories they are living, and tonight I heard a really great one. Tricia, tell them.”

1393116_10201624009629417_228989609_nHe handed me the mic, and I told them the story: the five-paragraph version of my life in the last three years. I finished, “…so in February of 2014, my book is coming out.”

They applauded and cheered, because we are groupies. (See above.)

And then – brace yourself, because this is H-U-G-E.

Don said, “We think there will be about 1800 people at our San Diego conference in February, and you need to come and be one of our keynote speakers. Are you in? And we’ll launch your book. New York Times and above. Let’s do it.”

The room roared.

I said, “Are you kidding me right now, Donald Miller?”

“I am absolutely not kidding you. In front of 500 people, I’m inviting you to be a keynote speaker in San Diego. This is what they call ‘an Inciting Incident.’ You in?”

And that’s how it happened, where I was standing, and what I was wearing, in the moment that my life changed. Because I’m pretty sure, there is something forever changed. Essentially, I won the writer’s version of American Idol.

There was applause. Photos. Cheering. And I couldn’t stop giggling. I said to Don, “You changed my life tonight. You know that, right?”

With classic, potent Donald Miller eye contact, he said, “Oh, we’re just getting started.”

As guests at the dinner, we were surprised with concert tickets to close out the evening, and the crowd of Storyliners streamed out of the ballroom and into the concert venue.

“Tricia! Are you coming?”

“Thank you so much, you guys, but I’m going to my hotel. I want to call my mom and dad.”

I came to my hotel room, set my purse on a chair, my room key on the desk, kicked off my heels, and I lay on the floor with my face to the carpet. And I was speechless before the God who has orchestrated this story. I have nothing, Jesus. I have nothing to give you. Oh, God. Thank you.

And please, could you tell Robb?

(My Tuesday said, “Wait. On the floor? The hotel floor? Tricia, that’s gross. Please go on, but promise me you won’t do that again. I get the whole falling-prostrate thing. But do it in your bed.”)

So, here’s some news: I belong to the Storyline Team. We’ll be in San Diego in February – with a book to launch.

February 27 – March 1, 2014.
Keynote speakers include Don Miller, Bob Goff, Anne Lamott,

and Tricia Lott Williford.

Twice in Three Days

I fell down the steps on Saturday. Just the last two steps. I wasn’t paying attention to which step I was on, I thought I was on the last one, and I rolled my ankle.

This happened just a few hours before I hosted a dinner party at my house – which I might say was no less a Dinner Party of All Parties. (More on this later.) For now, I will say it is a humbling thing to be the sitting hostess. But humility seems to be my companion these days.

Swollen, puffy, purple.
Iced, elevated, miserable.
I spent a couple of days that way.

And then I’d like to tell you that it just didn’t get better so I went in for X-rays. But since I choose to be honest, vulnerable, transparent, and ridiculous sometimes, I’ll tell you the blue-sky honest truth.

It was nearly better. And then I fell down the stairs yesterday. This time, from the top. Rolled my ankle. The same ankle. And by the time I stopped tumbling and hissing words I only say when the boys aren’t home, my ankle had swollen round and was instantly bruising like a banana.

Okay, one fall down the stairs is permissible. Even one we might feel compassion for. But for crying out loud, two falls in three days? Tricia, hold on to the freaking railing.

It’s not necessarily a good sign when you can recognize the staff and exam rooms of the ER.

“Oh, we’ve been here before.”
“I remember this exam room.”
“I think she’s the same girl who took my insurance information last time.”
“His name is Dr. Lung. What are the odds that someone named after anatomy would proceed into medical school?”
I remembed Dr. Lung. And I remembered that we stabbed at this cheap pun the last time he was our attending physician.

Keeping with the theme of forced humility, I had to tell various medical personnel that this was a recurring injury. I had fallen down the stairs. Twice.

On a side note, while the doctor was examining my ankle (and my knee and my shoulder, each of which had been unresaonbly strained in my attempts to rescue myself), I was surprised by the comfort of skin-to-skin contact. His warm hand on my ankle. Skin on skin. It doesn’t happen often; I didn’t know I was missing it. There were no sparks of electricity between me and the doctor, but I forgot how essential and comforting is the gift of touch.

I miss it.

Anyway, X-rays show no fractures (and the X-ray tech had the shortest neck I’ve ever seen; his head looked precariously balanced directly on his shoulders), but I have some badly sprained ligaments. So I’m splinted, iced, and confined to the couch for the next three days at least.

And so, I am resting. Oh, my great day, I am resting.  I shall spend the day with the writings of Shauna Niequist, Brene Brown, Natalie Goldberg, and Donald Miller.  With a sprinkling of Percocet or Vicodin.  (Which means I’ll probably need to reread everything later.)

To Be Literary or To Be Relevant

I stood at Barnes & Noble, debating on whether or not to buy the Collectors Collection, “the cornerstone for any reader’s library.” The box contained titles such as Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Dracula, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and a few others that literary people speak highly of.

Basically, it’s the list of books I didn’t read when they were assigned in my Honors English class in high school. (It’s a little known fact: I’m not a good student.)

It truly was a beautiful collection, leather bound, embossed titles; even if I never read them, they would look beautiful in my library.

But the honest truth is, I’ve never read them. And I likely wouldn’t. Not because I don’t want to, but because there’s another one by Elizabeth Berg or Marisa de los Santos or Madeleine L’Engle or Donald Miller or Henri Nouwen or Lauren Winner or Anne Lamott.

I don’t read fast. A girl has to make choices. To be literary and well read, or to be relevant. These are not always synonymous.

Anyway, I didn’t buy the books. It was a $70.00 investment in a beautiful addition to my bookcase, and that’s frivolous. Maybe after I pay my self-employed taxes, I will revisit this topic. But it’s more about the identity than the money, since the collection is something I could set aside and save for if I wanted those books badly enough.

The truth is, I want to be the girl who has read those books.

In another book-buying come-to-Jesus situation, I scrolled through Amazon to one-click my way to some new piano music. I looked at so many, talking myself into practicing more and refining my skill so it would make sense to have these lovely arrangements among my collection.

In the end? Get this. I chose “42 Classical Pieces in Easy Arrangements.” I like to play, but I don’t like to practice. I want the artistic expression of playing freely, but I do not want the discipline of learning the song. (Another little known fact: I am not especially good at working at something I’m not good at. This may relate to the fact that I’m also not a good student. See above.)

The truth is, I want to be the girl who can at least enjoy the Intermediate Arrangements.

I want to be the girl who soared through grad school without a single hiccup or extension or letter from academic advising. I want to be the girl who reads faster, parents wisely, pays attention, and can play etudes and sonatas that will resonate throughout the neighborhood.

I’m not that girl.

And as long as we’re talking about who I want to be, then I need to clarify with myself that I don’t want to be the girl who will display books in my home for the sake of wishes, pretendings, and apprearances.

Collectors Edition, I love you, and I wish I were worthy of your calibre. Intermediate Piano Classics, someday I hope I can play you with ease. Or at all.

I’m just not that girl.

I’m in my jammies on my couch, drinking cherry KoolAid that I wish was wine (but I’m not a girl who can drink wine and stay awake), sitting next to laundry that I wish was folded (but I’m not a girl who plans past underwear for tomorrow), and looking at chipped toenails that I wish were tended (I will get a pedicure on Thursday).

Poor me another glass of KoolAid, and hand me that latest bestseller. Me and my toenails are coming to terms with who we are.