One day, Joe and I were drinking whiskey having a cup of tea and discussing life…Joe was idly searching online…suddenly, he asks me: “Have you ever heard of Barbara Sher?” (In that way, you know, where it’s clear that he’s never heard of her and he expects that I won’t have either…)
Heard of her? You bet. She’s great. I’ve read all her books. She wrote Wishcraft! You should read it. You’d like her…she’s all over the “Live What You Dream” thing.
“Well”, he says…”She’s doing this Write Speak retreat and it sounds pretty good. 6 days, limited to 15 people.”
6 Days. 15 People. I did the math. I would actually get a chance to talk to her in person. We would probably all know each other’s names by the end of the week. How exciting! How terrifying.
For a long time, I believed that absolutely *everyone* was somehow better or more worthy than me. Especially authority figures. And anyone who was more successful than me. Or knew which clothes to wear when. Over the years, I managed to get past that. I had come to understand that we’re all equal, we’re all just people on our own journeys, no one (not even those with good fashion sense) is better than anyone else. Or at least I thought I had it all figured out.
At that moment, I realized that I was still placing people into groups and levels. And this group named “celebrities” (which Barbara Sher belonged to) was positioned higher than the group I belonged to, which was “everyone else.” Famous people are different. They are somehow better. Bigger than real life.
Celebrity-wise, Barbara seemed like the nicer sort. More approachable. Less threatening than say, Donald Trump. (I couldn’t imagine Barbara shouting “you’re fired!” at the time, though I can now.) So I applied for the retreat. And I got an email response. A long, chatty email response. From Barbara herself.
“Joe! Joe! Guess what! I just got a response about the workshop! From BARBARA SHER!! BARBARA SHER sent ME an email!!!”
Joe looked at me like I was insane. He obviously did not have this “celebrities are better than me” thing going on. (Or maybe it was because he had never heard of Barbara Sher…he may have responded differently if the email had been from Angelina Jolie.) I started to think that hey, maybe Barbara was just a person too. And I was going to get a chance to meet her. Maybe we could be like, friends, or something…
On the day of the workshop, I’m still completely freaked out a bit nervous. We get there early. There are two people sitting out on the grounds in lawn chairs. I whisper to Joe and point: “Look. Over there. I think that’s *Barbara Sher*” (I say this like we’re on some kind of African safari and I just spotted a huge man-eating tiger.) Joe says, “Great. Let’s go over and introduce ourselves.” And he says it *loud* – and I’m worried that maybe she’ll hear us.
So we walk over…and what does Joe do? He starts talking to the *other* woman who was talking to Barbara. Leaving ME to have to face the hungry man-eating tiger on my own.
And then I meet Barbara. And her dog Romeo. Both of them miniature. Turns out that Barbara Sher is exactly like a real person, only shorter. And Romeo is just like a real dog, only smaller. We have this friendly chit chat about dogs and the local restaurants. And my nervousness completely disappears. Now I’m just plain excited. And happy to be there.
Look! That’s Joe and me with BARBARA SHER. Yes…the *famous* Barbara Sher. We’re all in a picture together and we’re sort of hugging.
For 6 days, 14 women (and Joe) all lived together in this great big Inn. It was fun and super casual (I wore my pajamas). The retreat was quite literally about sitting around the living room, chatting it up with Barbara. Drinking coffee. Eating home-made biscuits (no, Barbara didn’t bake them). And listening to the most outrageous things come out of Barbara’s mouth. Amazing advice and information, funny stories, encouragement, profound insights…and…naughty words. Lots of them. She warned us right off the bat: “There’ll be no fucking swearing at MY retreat!”
I met some new friends. I found my message. I said “My Thing” out loud (more on that later). I got really clear on my message. I learned how to write without writing. Then I left the retreat and immediately started this blog. After procrastinating about it for 5 years.
And I got over my “celebrities are not real people” thing. And not just because I met Barbara. But because I met Havi and Selma too. And I didn’t even *know* they were celebrities at the time.
Update: “Joe! Joe! Guess what??? BARBARA SHER commented on MY blog!!!!”