I left my heart in Nashville almost two weeks ago. I can hardly believe that much time has gone by already, but it has. I have spent the last 10 days mentally debriefing – going over and over the moments that made my heart burst into tiny pieces and the times I may have cried. Ok… the times I actually DID cry.
This is what BlissDom does to me. I laugh. I mean, belly laugh. And I let my guard down. So, sometimes, I cry.
I first decided to go to BlissDom in 2009, and you may have heard me say this before, but I was petrified I might walk into an adult version of mean girls. I mean…it was a conference of all women. I was ridiculously nervous. No one knew me. At ALL. I was a complete stranger. No one to vouch for me. No one to help me hide in the corner. No one to camoflauge my fear and insecurity. This could be a recipe for disaster. But, it turned out, my fears were entirely unwarranted.
I was consistently rendered speechless by pure, unadulterated KINDNESS. These women… these bloggers who had, I promise you, never even heard of me, spoke softly, smiled, explained the 28-thousand things I didn’t know about this wide-open digital space and even petted my hair.
Not for one moment did I feel unwelcome. Not for one moment did anyone question my right to sit at the same tables as the extremely popular and established bloggers and businesswomen.
And from that moment, BlissDom was home. Everything that has happened in my business-blogging-personal-digital-professional world, has happened POST BlissDom.
This was my beginning. Some of the women I met that weekend have become my closest friends, my most ardent supporters, the ones who don’t hesitate to tell me that my makeup is uneven, I should change my clothes or that blog post is a bad idea. They are also the same ones who have celebrated with me every step of the way. They cheered when I went to the Olympics as a correspondent for P&G, when I got my book deal and even when an opportunity to cover the NFL Pro Bowl pulled me away from BlissDom last year.
These are my people. And every year, my circle of people grows.
I finally convinced an old friend to come and was rewarded with a, “you were right… these ARE your people. It IS just different here.”
This year, BlissDom was extraordinary… not only in its attention to detail, but in how it felt. It was warm and inviting. It felt as though someone was holding my hand from the moment I walked into Opryland. And don’t think my years of coming eliminate the trepidation I feel. There is still that part of me – fearful, intimidated, overwhelmed.
This? Is sometimes why I cry. Over-stimulation. The pressure to be ‘on’ the whole time. The deep desire to see and connect with so many people I adore. There isn’t enough time, there isn’t enough time….just simply not enough time. And when I have those quiet moments – the ones that remind me I share a heart with so many of these women? Well, those moments can make me cry too.
But no matter what…. there are certain truths for me about this conference.
I knew I would leave BlissDom with a full heart.
I knew I would meet new and extraordinary women (and a few men, too!).
I knew I would reconnect on such a deeply personal level with some of the people who have shaped me into the person and businesswoman I am today.
I knew I would glean nuggets of wisdom… from the sessions (I wasn’t able to attend many because I was working, but Jon Acuff is still a voice in my head) and from friends, both new and old: Mary Anne and Casey and Melissa and Erin and Lisa and Jenny and Meredith and Lucrecer and Dedra and Rachel and Kat and Wendy and Arianne….and of course, Alli, Barbara and Megan. And SO. MANY. MORE. I learn, I get better, smarter, and more well rounded with every single conversation.
I knew BlissDom would top itself: Community Leaders, the Handmade MarketPlace, Personal messages from Zac Efron? From Jewel? From OPRAH? and then…. Chris Mann! Joe Jonas! Rascal Flatts!
I knew I would grow. I knew I would feel stronger. I always leave BlissDom POSITIVE I can conquer the world. ANd then, I always settle down in the following weeks, but the feeling of empowerment lingers.
I knew I would end the conference in sweats and bunny slippers – yes, that’s me – as I have every year since 2009 when I took their promotional literature for Girl’s Night In (“wear your PJ’s and bring your bunny slippers!”) a little too seriously). I knew I wouldn’t sing, but I WOULD dance.
I knew my cheeks would hurt from smiling, my feet from dancing, my arms from hugging and my heart from leaving.
And I knew I would instantly start counting down to next year.
(Oh…. right after I produce all that fabulous video Nick and David and I shot…. it will soon be available on BlissDom At Home.… including one-on-one interviews with Chris Mann and Joe Jonas. Good stuff. Truly. And you know I would love to hear what you think.)
Thank you…. to each and every one of you who hugged me, stopped by to say hello, tackled me in a bear hug, shared your wisdom or simply uttered a kind word. You rounded out my BlissDom experience and reminded me, once again, how beautiful it is to be surrounded by people who just ‘get you’.
I’m forever grateful.