Can I just start by saying how absolutely EXHAUSTED I am right now?  I could sleep for 3 days straight and I might just try for one anyway.

I started this day feeling truly wonderful.  I went for a run for half an hour in the sunshine and stopped to thank God for the beautiful mountain and inlet view just down the road from me.  Had some prayer time, a good breakfast, did the speech a couple of times and felt pretty solid about remembering the new ending.  (It is VERY exciting to get to a point where you are aware enough of yourself to know you can make a change that you WANT to make.)

Picked up my 2 fellow contestants from my club, (it was an hour away from my place) who looked fabulous and we went on to Gibsons to do our thing.

We 3 went outside in the sun to do an improv exercise to get the wiggles out but we were interrupted and told it was briefing time so we didn’t get to finish it.  I had to judge the other contest too so I had to stay for the briefing.  We picked our numbers and I picked 2.  I was feeling tense then, not relaxed.  I was not freaked out but I was losing the “I can’t wait to do this speech” feeling and I’m not sure why. 

Our Division Governor was there which was really great.  She went to about 6 area contests this week.  It’s a lot of work.  She had to catch a ferry to come to this one.  She told me something that I thought was…well, I don’t know….unexpected.   She told me that people in our Division were talking about me all week.   She said “they were like groupies or something”.   It was kind of confusing, kind of exciting and very scary at the same time.  What was going on?  Am I creating a monster??????  AM I a monster already?????

A lot of my friends came to watch me too.   It was so beautiful.  There were people from my homeschool group and from church.  Eleven people! They had to pull more chairs out for them all!  I have to tell you too, that it was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day outside and they decided to spend 2 hours of it indoors to support me.  It’s pretty incredible to have people like that in your life.  Was I feeling pressure because of their presence?  I don’t know.  They have ALL seen me speak before though so it shouldn’t have been an issue.

I had my “connect card” out to read before I was to go on, the one with the 4 questions that DarrenLaCroix says you should ask EVERY time you speak:

1. What is my intent?
2. Am I present?
3. Will I have fun?
4. How would I give this presentation if I knew it was my last one ever?

I was reading it…but I was not even connecting with my connect card!!!!! LOL!

I lost sight of these 4 things and only regained ONE of them with about a minute to go in the speech.  I lost sight of my intent………I wasn’t present……… I didn’t have FUN (and this is the toughest one to take too because if I’m not having fun, what the HELL is the point?)  ……….and it was more PERFORMANCE than speech.  It’s a speech, and a good one at that, but I performed it.

I did not connect with the people there, I did not appreciate the humanity of each and every one of them; I did not honour their time the way it deserved to be.  I looked at them, but I wasn’t really seeing them.  I did not take the time that I should have taken to get their vibe and be prepared to return love to them.  It was just paper.  It was a paper performance.  I really feel like I let a lot of people down.

On the other hand, let me tell you about my friend and competitor Ann.  I only say her name here publicly in this post because this contest is public record now.  Ann and I joined Toastmasters at the same time and she is one of my favourite storytellers.  She gave her speech today and was TOTALLY present.  She was having fun and it showed.  She didn’t step on a single laugh and there were a LOT to step on!  It was magic, truly.  I was very happy for her…I knew it was the best speech she had ever given and I felt such pride in her.  She pulled it off beautifully….and WHEN IT COUNTED.  I wish you could have seen her.

I was pretty sure that she was going to win when she finished.  I had the same feeling I did when I watched Carol Carter last spring when she won District.  You just know.

There were some troubling errors that happened.  During the first contestant’s speech, someone’s phone went off for a lonnnnng time, and then about a minute later, a latecomer came in the door and was ALLOWED in, in the middle of the speech.  The latecomer walked RIGHT in front of the contestant and down the middle aisle.  A huge distraction that took everyone’s focus off the speaker for a good 20-30 seconds.  I felt awful for the speaker.  To his credit, he held it together pretty well.

So let me tell you where my mind was going just before the results were announced.  It was funny because last night in my journal I wrote “what will you do if you don’t win?”  and I wrote “who knows?”  Go on with life of course, and start on the international speech a hell of a lot earlier.  lol  but it really wasn’t something that I even CONSIDERED and not because I didn’t think anyone could beat me, oh no, I knew Ann was fully capable of that, but I just didn’t consider that as an option!  Truly!

Is this delusional thinking?

So I was sitting in the back by myself waiting and thinking “well, I won’t have to go into Vancouver now for the Division finals on the 20th so I won’t even go to my humorous club the night before.”  Because I was planning on staying overnight at a friend’s.  And then I was thinking “I don’t even want to go to the conference anymore.”  I’m not proud of these thoughts but I’m sharing them because this is where my head went.

They called my name for 2nd place, and I grimaced, turned it into as gracious a smile as I could pull off, shook everyone’s hand and sat down.

When they called Ann’s name for 1st place, I whooped and hollered because she bloody well deserved it and despite how I felt about myself, I was very happy for her.

A former Sunshine Toastmaster won Table Topics and our other friend Margaret F. came in 2nd so it was pretty much a sweep for our club.   I have to point out with some pride as our club President that Sunshine Toastmasters has sent the representative to Division in every contest but one since 2009.  We also are the home club to the District Governor Margaret Page, so we are small but mighty.

Well after the contest, I introduced some of the homeschool kids and parents to Margaret F. who will be facilitating the Youth Leadership Program for our home school group in Jan and Feb.  I will be assisting her.  I wanted them all to meet and just get a face in their minds.

It was time to go then and I thanked my friends for coming and wanted to apologize to them all.  I felt like such a loser.  And NOT because of my 2nd place finish, but for the performance I gave.  I wish I’d had the presence of mind to do better for them.

I felt like I wanted to have a drink.

And then Ann said to me “Paula, I can’t go to Division finals.  I have a family reunion that day that has been in the works for years and family comes first.”

I asked her if she could do the speech and then go to the reunion, asked where it was.  It’s far away.  On an island.  She can’t go.  She deserves to go.  She worked her ASS off- she AVERY DRILLED, she got feedback from our club, she used some Lance Miller techniques, she put together the speech of her life.


So God’s giving me another shot.  And I am VERY grateful, because I want to figure out what I am doing wrong so I can fix it.  Better lucky than good sometimes, eh?

I got home and showed the speech to Lloyd.  I taped it.  He could tell it wasn’t me being me, but me trying to be someone who I guess I think I should be.

Lloyd thinks I am putting too much pressure on myself.  He says other people are putting pressure on me and I am letting the FUN get squeezed out.  He says “you have lots of time Paula, you don’t have to win it all THIS YEAR.”

No, I don’t. But every year I home school requires more of my time…. each year will add an hour extra every day, at least until Meg is old enough to be directed and can and will do research on her own.  That is at least 4 years away.    I guess that IS pressure then, isn’t it?

So the REAL question is……why are you doing this Paula?  What’s the point?  Ryan Avery asked you these questions…are the answers true?

These are the actual answers I gave him:

I want to make my father proud of me.  I have an ugly past and I want to redeem those years for the people I hurt and shamed.
I want to show people trapped in the world I left that anything is possible with God.  I want to help them.
I want to do it to see if I can DO it.  I need to see if I can do it.  If I don’t try my hardest for this, I’ll have ants in my pants for the rest of my life.

I want to set an example for my daughter.
I want to help my husband support this family because he is an aging landscaper whose knees are starting to go.
I want to bring the trophy home to District 21, the people who have transformed my life and inspired me to reach for things I never thought possible.
I want to show everyone how Toastmasters can change ANYONE.


Those are my reasons for wanting to win the World Championship.  I think those are good reasons.

And what would I do with it?  I don’t really know.  Do I have to know?  I’m a home schooling mom, for crying out loud.  Does everyone have to be a friggin’ life coach?  I have some vague fuzzy ideas but is it dishonouring the process to say “I want to win the world championships because I used to be an idiot alcoholic stripper for 15 years and even though I wasted a decade and a half of my precious life, can’t I accomplish one truly worthy magnificent thing, one thing of which I can be truly proud??????”  Do I have to have an AGENDA TOO?????

Is it even ok for someone like ME to reach for such a thing?  Would it be of any value anyway?  Would it be wasted on me?  Would I be an embarrassment?  Am I a fake?  Am I manufactured?  Should I even TRY?????  What, truly, in God’s name, do I have to share that is of any value?

I’m not building a business here.  I don’t have a message that IS my life that I am trying to get out there.  I am someone who is shocked that others believe in me for some reason.  I don’t know why.  I’m not who they think I am.  This is who I am:

I’m just a homeschooling mom with a tremendously fucked up past, the gift of gab and enough humility to keep me alive.  I have a man who took a chance on me and a daughter who deserves better than me.  I am lucky to have those things.  Who am I to reach for something so magnificent without having a DAMNED GOOD REASON????

Good God, this isn’t a speech contest, it’s a fucking existential crisis.  I must be PMSing.

Existential crisis

Existential crisis (Photo credit: quinn.anya)