I had what I think is a very good humorous speech put together for this fall’s contest season. It was one of the drafts I wrote and discarded last spring while being coached by Rich Hopkins. I loved the speech; just didn’t think it had enough BITE for the International Speech contest, but I relished the thought of using it as a humorous speech with a message. ( I may be re-thinking that now after hearing Vasilev’s “Changed By A Tire” speech.
In August, I sent the speech to Lance Miller, 2005 World Champ of Public Speaking for a critique and he gave me some ideas I loved and some I didn’t like at all. He also showed me how to build a scene better – a skill I’m VERY grateful for and look forward to producing again. It will help me in ALL my writing.
After working on it for several weeks, I sent it to my friend and mentor, Jamie MacDonald who is an editing genius. He pared it down so much it actually lost some of it’s muscle so I fleshed it out to Paula Howley standards (or my bare minimum anyway) until I was happy with it – so long as I could stay under time. I was really hoping to give it at the District finals in November. I thought I had a better shot than previously because our Division H is half the size it was last year, therefore, I only had half the competitors at that level which would have made making District distinctly easier.
So I had the speech and I did some Avery Drilling in parks and on the ferry , but not as much as last go-around. (Avery drilling, named after 2012 World Champ of public speaking Ryan Avery, is when you practice your speech in public places to raise your discomfort level and to learn to deal with distractions. I only Miller drilled once though. (Miller drilling, named after 2005 World Champ Lance Miller) is when you…say…each…. word….of…..your….speech…. with a very brief pause between each word and with NO emotional inflection. This helps drill the speech into your memory.
I also didn’t record and watch myself many times either. The truth is, I didn’t feel the urgency with this speech that I have with the last 3. And it was relieving to not have that feeling.
Now, further setting the scene, I have been struggling with my faith for some time now, I’d say well over a year, and this summer was particularly bad. This summer found me questioning everything and all the existential torture THAT brings. As a result, I was craving the drink like I hadn’t in 10 years. I went so far as to open a bottle of rum and deeply inhale the aroma. “You could probably have a glass of wine” – thoughts like that spun around my head. Thin ice I tell you.
This being British Columbia, I smelled a lot of pot around me this summer too and there was a day on our family camping trip where I said to myself “If someone at this camp ground offers to smoke a joint with me today, I will do it.” I just wanted to feel nothing for a while…just wanted to float away on a cloud of ‘everything’s ok’. I found myself wondering if I needed medication and if I should just go ahead and self-medicate with marijuana. Thankfully, that never happened or I would have been swimming in guilt on top of existential angst. Oh, what the mind will do to convince the body of what it wants!!! It was a hard and lonely summer.
Simultaneously, and stupidly, I have not been regularly active in my prayer life for a very long time. Since early spring I’d say. Some sporadic prayer here and there, mostly for others, but the well has been dry, my mind has felt tortured and I have limped along with anguish and hopelessness in my heart. I felt like I completely lost myself or maybe never even had myself to begin with.
I was in one of those places that are hard to get out of- the whole ‘why do I exist?’ ‘Who am I?’ place, and I had a hard time talking to anyone about it. Thank God for one friend to whom I spilled my guts in late August. What a relief it was just to speak this crap out loud to her and not fear judgement.
With all this going on, I booked myself an autumn Opus Dei silent retreat soon after the gut-spill. I had the money then and I knew I needed it. I hadn’t been on retreat in two years. Instead of retreats, I’ve gone to Toastmasters conferences because they always run at the same time. They cost about the same amount of money too and only going to one was a financially viable choice. My priorities had shifted from growth to glory so it was contests all the way.
It’s becoming pretty obvious to me that it was after my first big win in November 2011, 3rd place at District finals, where my ambition started eating more time than my faith. I’ve always known that I need to sacrifice more to be more successful as a mother and a human being in general. It seemed to be hard enough for me to do it even BEFORE the visions of glory in my head helped me put the important stuff to the side. After my ego took precedence, there wasn’t a shot in hell.
I read my journals from the past 2 years this week and I can literally SEE my spiritual decline. The private writing of my journals became less frequent, my time and energy was all about winning public speaking contests. I’m not even sure it was to be the best speaker I could be- if it were, the aspiration of being a great speaker was likely just a by-product of wanting the big prize. It was so obvious it would be funny if it weren’t so damned pathetic.
Anyway, I’m on a ferry right now on my way to the retreat. Yes, there is a twinge of regret that I won’t be competing tomorrow but I know I am doing the right thing for my soul and my family and I have complete peace about it.
It is HARD WORK for an ambitious woman to set aside ego. In fact, it’s bloody exhausting. But I’ve discovered in the past two years that it’s even more exhausting to short change my family and myself.
I’ve still had a lot of growth in the past 2 years. God uses even my ambition and selfishness for the greater good because….well, that’s just the way it is. It will be interesting to re-discover who I am and who I am going to be. I know I will be blessed with clarity through this choice.