High-Functioning Leader

My fear feels like this:

cold fingers wrenching my wrists behind my back,

thick, black ink coating my lungs,

poison gas seeping into my ears, whispering:

"Everything would be better if you weren't here."

I breathe around the sinking feeling in my chest.

The holes in my heart an endless soundscape,

echoing, echoing, the words I use to calm myself.

Another whisper:

"These people will never love you."

A hand stretches through the darkness, toward the nearest friendly face-

please, please love me.


Who could think- a person who chokes on their thoughts,

whose heart shakes with every word spoken,

could be filled to the brim with ambition?

As I step onto the stage, the whispers return.

"They could never love you."

My breath retaliates: "But they trust you."


With unfounded steadiness, I provide my qualifications,

restate my passion,

and- I look out at the faces of people I love.

My breath washes out the ink, clears away the poison

(if only for a moment).

"But ultimately- when I am with you, I am not afraid.

And if you'll let me, I'd like to take that and run with it."


Leadership is not easy,

particularly when the shouts echo,

and the gas smells strongly of resentment,

and I have to go release my terror into space.

But- I am here. I am functioning. I am leading.

And I am loved.

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