The World Champion of Public Speaking 2013 is Presiyan Vasilev of Bulgaria and he was truly masterful.   I actually got goosebumps from his message.

(“To learn more about Pres Vasilev’s keynotes, training, and coaching, visit https://PresSays.com.”)

I watched 2 of the semi-finals yesterday and what a joy it was seeing so many great speakers.  So much talent and wisdom.  I was also somewhat surprised that everyone wasn’t amazing.

I judged alongside the judges and in semi-final 4 I was totally of the mark about the winners but in semi 5 I nailed number 1 and 2.   It just goes to show that you never know and what might be great to me might be crap to you.  lol

So today I had some Toastmasters friends over and we watched the World Championship finals together.  It was so much fun being together and sitting there dissecting everyone’s speeches apart like we were experts.  lol  Also, as a bonus, one of the people signed up as a new member!  woo-hoo!

Presiyan was the clear winner.  But I loved Kingi Biddle in second place too.  What a character!  Must have been a rugby player at some point.   I also thought the hometown Cincy boy Chris Nactrab should have nailed third though.

I also thought contest chair Mohammed Murad was charming, highly entertaining and kind of adorable.  More of him please.

Also, I have to say I am shocked that Las Vegas is getting another World Championship in 2015.  Seems kind of incredibly stupid to me.  They just had one there 2 years ago.  Aren’t there a zillion other places that can do this? And want this?  Like Vancouver for instance?

I mean, personally, I don’t mind.  It will be seriously less expensive for me to go to Las Vegas than England or China or wherever else they could have had it but I thought TM was supposed to be going global here and they come back to a town they were JUST AT????  Makes no sense to me.

Anyway.

So, I guess this is it folks.  This is where we part ways.  Sniff.

Thanks for hanging out with me for 365 days.  You have been awesome.

Writing this blog has been such an incredible journey.  a life-changing journey.  I really can’t put into words what has changed because of this- you’ll have to read the whole damned thing and see for yourself.  I’m a very different woman than I was on August 24 2012.  And I have to say I like me way better now.  I’m ever so grateful for the lessons which have been imparted to me through so many different avenues.  My world is so very very different.

I have met so many new friends because of this blog, friends from Texas, Australia, New York, Ontario and California.  Even people just from Vancouver.

I’ve changed the way I thought and lived and worked because of the extraordinary people I have met through the ambitious goals of this blog.  I have seen miracles and I have been the recipient of much wisdom and love.  I have been abundantly blessed.

So, have you learned anything?

Yes, the relevant question is – what have I learned?

Well, I have learned how very attractive humility is and how I much I benefit from about 50 CC’s a day of it.

I have learned that you can reach out to people you thought might never give you the time of day and turn out to become friends with them.

I have learned that jealously has no place in friendship.  Except for maybe admitting it.

I’ve learned that everyone has a story worth listening to.

I have learned that I’m not as good as I thought I was and I have learned that I am better than I thought I was.  lol

I have learned that I have unlimited potential and I am just beginning to tap that mine.

I have learned how much my family supports me.

I have learned how hard I can work on a project I care about.

I have learned how to listen better.

I have learned how to write better.

I have learned how many people in my District support me.

I have learned how to say “I love you” to someone even when I’m scared to do it.

I have learned that my daddy really loves me and is proud of me.  That was probably the best thing of all.  That was the diamond in this mine.

I have learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Malaysia 2014?

I’m not sayin’ I’m goin’ for Malaysia in 2014.  I’m not sayin’ I’m not.  Whatever happens happens and all I can do is listen to my heart, listen to God and do my best.  The rest is out of my hands.   That’s something else I learned too.

I was holding on for a long time, and very tightly to something I thought I wanted.  But when I asked myself what my desires truly were, I saw that most of them HAD been met through this journey, even though the original goal of becoming the 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking had not been met or even come reasonably close to being met.

When I opened my hand to let go of that dream, God put something entirely different in my hand.  Something that is exciting and scary and satisfying intellectually, socially, and in the deepest part of my heart.

As I watched Presiyan speaking today, I felt not a tinge of jealousy or sadness. I just felt joy that he had crafted such an incredible work of art.  I was so happy and so proud of my fellow Toastmaster whom I’ve never met.  I felt so grateful to have been given the gift of his message.  Reach out.  Ironically, I’ve never reached out as much in my life as I have in this past year and so I can attest to the beautiful validity of his message. 

The Weird and Wonderful World of Toastmasters

What a remarkable group we are, Toastmasters.  I think we’re all a little bit strange and kind of on the fringe and I LOVE that about us.  I love that we’re all so different and that all we have in common is that we want to be better and help each other be better and that we love hanging out with each other.  And I love our awesome potlucks.

I love that no matter where you go in the world, you can find a family in Toastmasters, no brag, just fact.  I love that you can go as a guest to any club and you will be embraced and feel like you’ve met a long lost cousin.

I love that my life has been utterly and completely changed for the better by this organization and the people in it.  I love that I had NO idea that would happen when I joined.

I love that there is SO much more joyful work to do and so many more people yet to discover who they can become.

Thanks are not enough.

And so, my deepest gratitude goes to good ol’ Ralph Smedley who started this shindig 89 years ago.  He must have had an inkling of the magnificence to follow.

And my deepest gratitude goes to my fellow Toastmasters, my brothers and sisters around the corner and around the world who dare to reach inside and bravely give so much of themselves – their very hearts- to help their fellow humans be the best they can.  What a truly remarkable gift.

What a remarkable group we are.  Toastmasters.

I love you all.

Toastmasters International

Weird and brilliant and beautiful. What more could you ask for?

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So, many of you have heard through the Toastmasters grapevine already and many of you haven’t that I placed second to Sharookh Daroowala.   Sharookh’s name was on the District Cup 13 years ago so I’m not embarrassed to have lost to him.  I also know he worked very hard on his speech and I consider him a very worthy competitor.

I’m still considering pulling a Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan on Sharoohk so he might want to watch his back for the next 2 weeks until District.

I feel pretty flat right now, flat as a pancake.   I feel like all the air has been let out of my tires.  I didn’t even want to go to church this morning but they say those are the best times to go.

Not really sure what to do with myself as I really hadn’t planned for this. I had envisioned my summer of working on this and my new speech.  I knew I was going to go to a Reds game in Cincinnatti, I knew my parents would have driven from Windsor to come and see me.  I really truly and honestly thought it was going to be my year.  Is that cocky or just stupid?

I guess I’ll give you a review of my day yesterday because it was interesting up until the losing part anyway.

I Avery Drilled on the ferry and it was really awesome.  I wasn’t freaked out or afraid.  I just enjoyed it.  And each time I went a little louder so as to challenge myself.  People walked right in front of me, some stopped to watch, some watched out of the corner of their eyes.  Some completely ignored me.  Some teenaged boys smoked some BC bud and hung out for a while and I’m pretty sure I tripped THEM out.  lol

creating the illusion of insanity

creating the illusion of insanity

I felt happy and grateful to be doing what I was doing and thought about where I was 11 years ago and how this never would have even entered my mind as a possibility of life then.

I drove to my spiritual director Bernadette’s house to have a chat with her since it’s been a VERY long time and it was wonderful to be with her.  I performed my speech for her and she was in alternating laughter and tears.  She really identified with the subject matter and told me she thought it was an important message for people to hear.  She also thought it was the best speech I’ve ever crafted and she appreciated the nuances of it.  Since I have lost my last 2 Division contests immediately after performing my speech for Bernadette, I have decided to NEVER SPEAK TO HER AGAIN.  lol

So, I got to the venue.  Nice and big.  Very big.  Probably about a 100 people there.  Greeted people, used the bathroom 50 times, found someone to record my speech.  I looked around at my competitors.  Ian Cunliffe.  He beat me last fall in the Humorous contest.  Sharoohk, limping with gout.  One of my competitors pulled me aside and said “You’re going to win.  You’re gonna go to District.”

We drew numbers for speaking order.   I was there to compete in the Evaluation contest as well as the International speech contest.  Pulled number 4 for Eval and pulled DEAD LAST for International.  Yes!  It was meant to be, see? 

My stomach was doing serious gymnastics.  Waves of nausea came and went.  A couple of times I thought I might be sick.  It was worse than any District contest I’d been in.  (and this is my idea of fun, mind you)   I was glad to get up and give my Evaluation so I’d have a chance for my nerves to dissipate a little, to project my voice and use the floor a little before my “real” speech.   (no disrespect meant for the evaluators who are the backbone of Toastmasters)

I watched my speech competitors one at a time, enjoying the speeches.  Knowing what I’d have to do to be the best.  Knowing I was capable of doing so.   The poor guy who went before me blanked on his speech and quit in the middle of it.  I felt terrible for him.  He left and never came back.   I wish I’d had the chance to talk to him.

It was my turn next and YES, I was able to power pose for a minute before beginning.  I got out there and it took me a couple of minutes to really connect.  It wasn’t my best.  It was good, but not the best I could have been.  I was not as present as I would have liked to have been.  Tell you what.  You can watch it for yourself.  I’ll post the text below it in because the volume is too low to hear in some parts.  So, for the first time ever in blogland, here is Paula Howley with her speech entitled ” I Love You”

http://youtu.be/uocm1PKGOPI

Here is the text:

I love you!  Have you ever wanted to say those life changing words to someone?……But couldn’t get up the nerve?

If you’d been in my house while I was growing up, you would have heard conversations ending like this:

“I love you Dad!” 

“Thanks Paula”

Thanks???  You say “Thanks” when someone passes you the salt, not their heart. 

But love, in all it’s forms, isn’t always a walk in the park is it?. Sometimes it’s a terrifying trek complete with fire-breathing dragons that incinerate your heart.   Madam Contest Chair, fellow travellers, this is my dragon tale. 

My dad is 70 and he’s British too. That stiff upper lip makes saying “I love you” physically impossible.  But my dad is an emotional, expressive man who cries during Toy Story.

He says “I love you” to my mom, all the grandkids, the dog, and complete strangers after enough beer. But for some reason, that stiff upper lip still applies to me.

I love you dad.

Thanks Paula.

Heart versus fire breathing dragon.  After being burned countless times I stopped offering my heart to anyone. I wasn’t even sure I was worth offering. 

That mindset interfered with boyfriend after boyfriend…..  After boyfriend.

And it almost stopped the most important relationship I’ve ever had. 

I wish you could have been there the night I met my husband Lloyd.  So romantic.  It was a dim, smoky bar that smelled like stale beer.  We had a love at first sight experience, slightly enhanced by alcohol.  We talked for 7 hours!  It was like finding a long lost friend. Then, at the end of the night, out of nowhere, he looked at me with his beautiful bloodshot eyes and said “I love you Paula!” 

It was the craziest thing I’d ever heard.  But even crazier, I felt the same way!  I wanted to say it back!….. but I couldn’t.   Offering your heart means it might get burned. 

I spent the next few days agonizing over what might have been and realized that I was turning into my dad.  I was becoming a fire breathing dragon. 

I had to decide if Lloyd was worth fighting for. 

Actually, I had to decide if I was worth fighting for. 

So I collected my courage, took the chance of my life and offered my heart to Lloyd.  In a letter.  Hey he lived 3000 miles away. 

“You were so brave” my letter said – “And I believe that you love me….  You should know that I love you too.” 

Ten years and one amazing child later we’re the Howley family complete with fire insurance.  

When your heart gets burned it’s tender and tentative.  When your heart lets the dragons win, it’s never offered at all and that’s tragic. 

Some burns take time to heal.  I stopped telling my dad I loved him.  We’d see each other, it would be fine, and being older, I assumed that of course he loved me, but I couldn’t stand the thought of hearing one more “Thanks Paula”. 

Last year though, I started wondering if I’d get another chance. Lloyd’s father passed unexpectedly and he was the same age as MY dad.  What if?  I didn’t even want to think of it. 

Dad’s visit months later was the last straw.  At the end of his stay, Dad hugged our daughter and said “I love you”. 

Then he turned and said it to Lloyd.

Really ? I thought. Really Dad?  You can say it to Lloyd????

He was coming towards me.  What should I say? I wanted to say nothing but what if….?

“Dad, I love you.”

I know dad loves me whether he says it or not.

“Thanks Paula.”

Yes it burned.  But I still said it.  I decided that I was worth fighting for.   And so was my dad.  And so are you. 

I love you!  Have you ever wanted to say those life changing words to someone?  Do it!  You are worth fighting for!   And so are your loved ones.   I love you.  And I’m not afraid to say it anymore. 

So, I have only watched it once and that was enough for me for now but I can see why I didn’t win.  I was not the best I could have been.  HOW am I ever going to get there????

So we finished and had to sit through the agonizing interviews of the contestants wherein I realized that I don’t have much of a life outside of homeschooling my child and Toastmasters.  I need a meaningless hobby big time.  If for no other reason than I will have something ELSE to talk about.

So they called up the Eval winners, 1,2,3 and I couldn’t have cared less that I was not up there.

Then they called Third place for the speech.  Ian Cunliffe.  I took a deep breath.  Then they called my name for Second place and I may or may not have said the word “shit” under my breath but loud enough for Al Piran next to me to hear.   Smile, I thought to myself.  Don’t be a jerky loser.  They handed me a lovely piece of paper that said “You Are Not Going To Cincinnati- however the fuck you spell it”.   I wanted to take that piece of paper, ball it up and toss it over my shoulder.   But social constraints were more powerful than the urge, thank God.

So they called Sharoohk’s name and up he came, double winner.  He’d won the Evaluation contest too.  I gave him a hug and congratulated him (incidentally, I had prayed for him on 3 occassions to heal so he COULD compete as well- think I might have been regretting THAT move?  lol)  then I shook Ian’s hand and congratulated him too.  I briefly flashed back to a time a few years ago when I placed at Division for the first time (3rd) and how thrilled I was to do so then and how different it was now.

Some friends who knew what I’d been trying to do did their best to comfort me and I am grateful for them.  For their perspective and their caring.  I just wanted to leave.   I had a terrible post-contest pounding headache.

I had dinner with a couple of the ladies who’d come over from the Sunshine Coast for contest and I have to tell you, YES, I WANTED A DRINK.  No, I did not have one.  Nothing will ever be that bad.  We hashed things out a little, talked about the speeches and of course I discussed how grave the miscarriage of justice was.  lol  Hey, don’t tell me YOU haven’t done the same thing.   Truthfully, the thing is, I lost to a good speaker.  The second thing is, I could have made it so much better and now I won’t have the chance to.  That really sucks.

I didn’t want to go up on the deck on the ferry so I mostly stayed in my car on the way home.  I watched the mountains and the beautiful waterfalls and tried to care about them and thought about the people in Boston and tried to care about them but in the end, I only cared that I was a big fat loser.  I felt like “The Biggest Fool in the World”.  Hey, I’ve claimed that title somewhere earlier in this blog, haven’t I?  I guess I really get to wear it now.  HEY!  Let me have my little pity party, ok?  I’ve been KILLING myself over this damned speech.

I picked up Meg from our friend’s house and she told me the most important part of the day and that was that she had gone on the BIG KIDS’ area of the bike park.  I agreed that it was pretty awesome and probably the most important.

Came home to my awesome husband who was already talking about next time (I can’t believe he’s willing to go there again) and that I have many more great speeches to write blah blah blah.  I told him how foolish I felt having made such a fuss, having put this blog out there, announcing my big dreams to everyone and then flopping on my face.   I wish I could remember all the wise and beautiful things he said but I know he said he is proud of how hard I’ve worked on this.

And how hard have I worked on this?  Well, you all have a pretty good inkling because it’s been documented for the most part.  I wrote a letter to myself a month ago using futureme.org to read AFTER the Area contest.  I forgot about the letter until last night and reading it helped me put things into perspective.  It was actually an exercise my friend and life coach Micaela encouraged me to use.  Here it is:

Dear FutureMe,

 

This is after the Area Contest.  You have almost certainly put in more time and effort than anyone else Paula.  No one has outprepared you. 

This is why you have won:

A) Preparation: To reiterate: No one has out prepared you. 

1. Spiritual:  You have prepared yourself for this contest in every spiritual capacity that you can think of including the scariest one of all: facing dad and asking his blessing.  You have been working with Micaela since the end of January, you have prayed, you have written, you have talked to God and you have learned a TON about yourself.  Rich has been a part of your spiritual process too and God is using this to make you an amazing and effective speaker.  He is also teaching you so much about yourself.  You have dug very deeply.  You have asked the scariest questions you can ask yourself and you have touched the darkest parts of your heart as well as the most hopeful.  You are focusing on seeing yourself doing an amazing job and seeing yourself victorious.  You are sending energy to the right places.  You are tackling every issue you can THINK of Paula!  You have people pulling for you and PRAYING for you!  YOu are a totally different person than when you began.  Even your attitude to your life is different.  You know you have big goals to pursue when this is all over.  This is just the beginning!!!!  The goal is not the goal. 

2. Mental:  As of today, March 23, you have put in at least 100 hours of preparation JUST ON THIS SPEECH.  Since then, easily 30 more.  You have Avery Drilled all over town so you can get over any discomfort and practice connecting with people!  You have Miller Drilled.  You have dissected the speech and looked at every aspect.  You know it and feel it inside and out.  YOu started training for this at last spring’s convention when you spent a thousand dollars in LaCroix products to begin investing in your future self.  It paid off girl.  You have also gone to dad to tell him what’s going on and left the ball in his court.  You have been respectful and asked for his blessing.  YOur head is IN THE GAME.  YOu are leaving no stone unturned. 

3. Physical:  You have been eating healthy for the past 3 weeks and getting more exercise.  You have been going to bed on time and getting enough sleep.  You are strong and you care about your body being strong enough to deliver a strong message.  YOu look great and feel great. 

 

B) You are proud to share the content of your speech with the audience because:

It is well written. 

It is funny. 

It is tough subject matter that everyone deals with at some point. 

It is true. 

It was a scary thing that happened to me.  Dealing with my dad has always been somewhat scary and uncomfortable.  Taking that chance and saying “I love you” was VERY hard for me.  It represented a change in thinking for me.  My thinking became more outwardly focused.  Less focused on me.  I was able to overcome- literally push PAST my very tangible fear and say what I NEEDED to say to dad just in case it was the last time and to show that I COULD. 

I am proud because I have worked with one of the best speech writers in the business, Rich Hopkins, and he has helped me write my best speech so far.  He thinks it is a great speech.  He thinks I am a star.  I am proud to share it as a Work of Toastmasters.  As a work of my heart. 

I am proud to share it with my friends who are getting to know me better.  I am proud to share my failings, my successes and my process with Toastmasters of all levels. 

I am proud because I truly think this speech could spur people on to life-changing action.  Even weeks later. 

I am proud to share this content because it is meaningful and heartfelt.  Because I have lovingly combed it and shaken it for more.  I am proud to share this content with my audience because it is an important, intimate and real part of me that can help my fellow human beings.

C) This content is uplifting for my dad because it will help him think about things differently.  I know Dad is being affected by my prayers and the very ENERGY of this speech.  His blessing to give this speech is proof of that.  All the energy I am putting into understanding and loving him and forgiving him is changing the energy of who he is, who I am and who I am with him.  This speech will give dad courage to be more than he thought he could be. 

This speech is uplifting for my dad because it represents his daughter taking the greatest leap of her life, working on something truly great and I know he wants that for me.  I know he wants me to succeed.  I know he loves me.  It would be a release for him to release to me.  This speech is uplifting for my dad because it is a tribute to my love for him.  That I do love him after all is said and done.  This speech is uplifting for my dad because he will learn from it.  He will glean much.  This speech is uplifting for my dad because it can set him free. 

Let me explain a few things.  I thought I was going to Cincinnati.  My folks live nearby and I KNEW they would come.  I didn’t want my dad to be blindsided by this speech so I sent it to him and asked for his blessing.  It was SCARY AS HELL.  3 days later he sent me a message back:
“Paula, I love you more than you will ever know and you always have my blessing.”

This gesture from my father is, as far as I’m concerned, the greatest act of love he has ever shown me (though he would probably disagree and say that feeding, housing and taking care of me was his greatest act of love).  This speech displays one of my father’s shortcomings and it took humility for my dad to bless my efforts to disclose the effects of this shortcoming.   I think my dad has an inkling of how important this has all been for me and him giving me his blessing was the biggest “I love you” I’ve ever gotten from him.  It meant I was free to give this speech without fear or guilt, without reins.   This, has probably been the greatest effect of this speech.  Nothing really, could have been more important.  It’s unfortunate that I have this tunnel vision that has a tall lucite trophy at the end of it.

When I visited my spiritual director Bernadette yesterday, she talked about how prevalent this trait is among the British.  This stiff upper lip.  Where did it come from?  How many are affected by it?  She recognized the importance of overcoming it in her life too.

After giving my speech yesterday and after the awards ceremony,  a lovely, lovely man named Mike approached me.  Mike has one of the kindest faces I’ve come across in the entire world.  He is a person that one feels instantly attracted to because of the warmth emanating from him.  I don’t know him very well but I like him a lot.  Mike congratulated me and then he said:

“Paula, I’m 70 and I’m British too just like your dad.  I’ve really been thinking about what you’ve said today.  I never thought about how important it was but I am going to go home today and call my daughters and tell each of them that I love them.”

Why does it make me cry to write that?

That’s what it’s supposed to be about, isn’t it?

Someone else is going to be the World Champion of Public Speaking for 2013.

Big fat juicy cuss word.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do next.  I think for a while, I’m just going to do nothing.  Not sure if I know how to do that but I’ll figure it out.  Just gimme a second.

you are not going to Cincinatti

you are not going to Cincinatti

Tomorrow, Saturday, is the big day.  The Area 73 International Speech Contest.  Right now I feel good, happy and confident and not at all freaked out.  I feel eager to share my speech.   Of course the contest is about 36 hours away yet so ask me how I’m feeling ONE hour before the contest.  The aim is to still feel good, happy and confident and not at all freaked out.  To feel excited and honoured that I can give a message that has already made a difference in MY life, to a room full of people.  I can’t wait.

Would it sound cheesy to say I love my speech?   It is the best speech I have written yet.  I have put in a zillion hours, more than a few tears, sleepless nights, and a small fortune considering the investment of programs to improve my speaking from last year.   This speech now feels like a very comfortable piece of clothing that I really love wearing because it looks good on me.   The key now, is to remember to respect my audience by just telling them the story in the most honest and engaging way I can.

Yesterday,  I taped the speech one last time and sent it for a look-over from coach Rich Hopkins.  That brought a few more helpful tweaks that I was able to incorporate and remember on the first go.  VERY EXCITING to be able to do that.

Today, Friday, after I go to bed and get up again, (and after home school, which goes without saying) I plan on drilling 10 more times, Avery-style if possible, going for a hike to get good and tired and then getting a good night’s sleep.  I have a great outfit that I feel confident and pretty in but is not distracting.   And I have a new pair of awesome killer GOLD shoes that are lower heels than what I am used to so they will be ridiculously easy to walk in.  I had been fantasizing about wearing a pair of ruby slippers in Cincinnatti at the World’s.

These are the precursor.Speech Bubble

There is some real competition at this competition.  One competitor has even been to District finals before.  She is an excellent speaker.  She has also had the advantage (?) of having seen my speech at the club level whereas I have not seen hers.  I take nothing for granted but I am truly as ready as I can be.

I want to remember to enjoy the process and be aware of it; to remember my POWER POSE for 2 minutes before I go on so my body physiology is optimal and also to remember to record it!

I want to do my very best, which for me means connecting in a genuine way with my audience and giving them a hard-fought-for, important piece of myself.

And I want to move on to the next level to do it again.   Four more times. 

 

My house is clean.  The gifts are wrapped.  My husband’s in bed.  My daughter has a sleepover.  This is pretty rare free time!

I’m going to work on The Big Speech/Myself.  In my journals I have reached the big conversion.  It will be interesting to read how/if I changed much in the following 10 years.  Transcription will be daunting.  I have taken over 200 dictated notes but I’m sure a pattern will evolve.  To work.

This day has been so long, it feels like two.  No complaints though, I was just able to fit more extraordinary in it.  Bear with me as I try to engage my overtired brain.

It was hard to sleep last night. I probably got 4 hours sleep.   My mind wouldn’t stop and I got out of bed a dozen times to record ideas on my hand held tape recorder.

Photo

Funny, my little sister sent me this comic a couple of nights ago too.  I don’t let the ideas get away anymore, hence the tape recorder.  However, sometimes that means sleep is a pleasant thought and nothing more.  I hate sleep really.  It feels like such an interruption in my life.  If I could just figure out how to NOT sleep, I could get so much more done.

Dragged my super duper trooper Meaghan out of bed 10 minutes before we left and made it to the Gibsons club an hour later.  (She was a superstar today- well behaved and respectful.  I was a proud mom.)

So listen, I have to tell you that I felt God speaking to me all morning and He was using the awesome people of Gibsons Morningstars to do it.  There was a speaker there giving her 10th speech, the BIG one.  The “Inspire your Audience” speech.  She did more than inspire me, she spoke directly to my heart.  She talked about the fear that had crippled her for so long, she talked about how important it is to TELL YOUR STORY because the world NEEDS that paradigm shift.  I couldn’t have agreed more and I felt such confirmation for me and the direction in which I am beginning to go.

She said to write with all the vulnerability you can muster.  This really spoke to me.  This, I felt, was the bravest thing of all.  Vulnerability takes courage and perhaps a pinch of crazy but without it, everything is a mask.  Nothing is true.

For those of you who have been reading me since the get go, you may have noticed that there has been a shift in this blog to the more personal.  It’s not just about Cincinnatti anymore.

I am only JUST beginning to talk about my past publicly.  Most of my friends here don’t even know about my past.  Only a select few have been privy to that information.  I have kept that largely to myself for the past 10 years because revealing it makes me feel incredibly vulnerable.  It doesn’t just make me FEEL that way, it MAKES me that way.  It leaves me open to stereotyping, labeling and judgement.  It is SCARY.  It is exhausting to have to try and climb out from under a stereotype because all your energy is now spent showing people that you’re NOT what they might think you are….even if you’re not sure of WHAT they think you are.   I dealt with those things on a daily basis for 15 years and it was very hard on me.  I resented the labels so much, even when I embraced some of them and then lashed out at people for calling a spade a spade.

When I first joined Toastmasters, I struggled with what to reveal about myself in my speeches.  It took me two years to finally say once, quietly, in my OWN 10th speech, my own “Inspire Your Audience” speech, that I had been a stripper.  What anxiety it caused me!  Whew!  Thank God I got that out of the way, eh?  But I didn’t!  I never DEALT with it.  I never acknowledged it again beyond that one second because I was so afraid.  And I have been so since.  I don’t define myself by that time in my life anymore.  But I am afraid that others will do so.

Keeping things to myself though, also means not acknowledging more than fifteen years of my life.  A full third of my life!  To me, that seems absolutely crazy.  It means compartmentalizing, it means hiding, it means not being all of me.  It means denying my experiences, the people I knew, it means not accepting myself.  It means not being able to draw from the deep well that exists in me.

DON’T LIE DOWN AND BE QUIET!  This is what I heard today.   Write with all the vulnerability you can muster.  Words to live by.  Yikes!  Some people won’t like it at all, this I know, and this is scary too, but I must be who I am, I must write more personally, with more feeling.  It is ALL about connecting.  Connecting with God, with other people, with my own self.  My Self.  Otherwise, what’s the bloody point?

I thank you Katherine Scott, for a greater gift than you are aware of.  I thank you for your courage and your encouragement.

One of the themes I am coming across in my old journals is how much FEAR I used to live with.  It seemed thoroughly perpetual.  Tonight at MY club, one of our members gave HER 10th speech, her “Inspire Your Audience” speech (seeing a pattern yet folks???? LOL!!!!) and it was about facing her fears- worrying about looking like a LOSER.  That’s what it’s all about isn’t it folks?  We don’t want to look like LOSERS to each other!!!!!!  and that is much of what has been holding me back from freedom.  Fear.  Fear of stereotypes, fear of the labels of LOSERDOM.  Fear of not being included anymore.

And so, I’m doing it here first, aren’t I?  Testing the waters.  Not quite brave enough yet to come out and talk about it with my voice, but I am using my pen, so to speak, and that’s where it begins for me.  I know people are reading this, I know a few of them, others I don’t so I won’t know WHO knows what and I will have to deal with that also.  That is SCARY too.  You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

I don’t want to.  It feels awfully good to let this go.

80 days blogging!  Man that went fast.

Listened to the first 2 cd’s of Darren’s Create Your Keynote By Next Week.  He says to listen to the whole thing first before you do the exercises.  The exercises dig pretty deep.  Grateful for some reflection time.  I ponder how I seem to have so few memories in my life.  Once in a while though, a new one pops up with the right question, or with some silence and time for reflection.  So it will be helpful, I think, to hear those questions more than once.

In the meantime…..

Tonight I began to put the CCC together (The Cincinnatti Championship Collage).

YES!

I love this process so much!  It makes me reeeeeally think about what I want to say and see.  I love how it falls together of it’s own accord.  I love falling into the zone that is the meditative creative process.  I am happy.

Tomorrow I want to install the giant whiteboard.  I will either need to harrass the husband to help OR learn how to use the power saw by myself.  Hey, I’m not afraid of power tools, in fact I quite enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that using them gives me but contrary to popular belief, I’m no idiot!  I know that some things should be taught, rather than learned by trial and error.  Especially if error means losing a digit or two.

If anybody reading this blog lives near me and has tomorrow afternoon free, come on over and show me how to cut this stuff to fit my wall.  It’s big.  It’s beautiful.  It’s the biggest sheet of paper I’ve ever had.

There truly is nothing more appealing (and daunting) to a writer than a blank page.  Although most writing is done on the computer these days, I’m old enough to remember writing long hand and the thrill I got from opening a fresh package of paper or a new journal.  The heart throbs with possibilities and promise.

Another creation that I am just beginning is my CCC.  (No, not the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but good guess!  lol) The CCC is  (drum roll please, with cymbal crash)

The Cincinnatti Championship Collage!

It’s what some call a vision board but I’ve been doing collage since I was 12 and that’s what I call it.  I’ve made collages for family and friends in the past…mostly for people I know well because the details make the difference there, but the last collage I made for myself was about 9.5 years ago, not long after my spiritual shakeup.  Yeah,  I guess it’s time for a new vision, isn’t it?  I am really excited about the things I’m going to find in the next little while.  This process has always been so enjoyable for me and it’s been far too long!

Moving on, I had a Toastmasters meeting tonight and everyone forgot to show up.  We were a grand total of SIX.  We’re doing some serious adjusting this year and it has been challenging.  The core, the awesome core, is doing most of the work; you know how it is, it’s like that everywhere really, and we’re getting a little burnt out.  How long can you ask a few volunteers to shoulder the entire load?  What if some of them aren’t having all that much fun anymore?

I know I’ve been pretty occupied with contests but I have not neglected my role as club President.  I take it pretty seriously and I want to help steer this club in the right direction.  I want folks to really take advantage of what we have here.  But I can’t do it all.  I don’t even WANT to do it all.  And I won’t.  I’ve seen what happens when someone tries to do everything.  All I can do is show up, encourage, throw out ideas and of course threaten violence.

We’ve advertised, we’ve done flyers, posters, word of mouth, Facebook, you name it.  Trial and error.  Some work, some don’t.  I suggested to our Area Governor that we have a Coast-wide screening of “Speak” the documentary movie about Toastmasters early next year.

http://speakthemovie.com/

All three clubs have decided to work together on it and share costs and manpower .   Awesome.   We’ve decided to work together more in general which I think is about bloody time.   We will all benefit from it.  It will increase camraderie across the coast instead of this big divide of us and them.

 

I had a really great chat with one of the members tonight after the ‘meeting’.  This particular member is a 3 year vet of TM but is not able to come as regularly because of work.  I poured it all out on him tonight and he was surprised to hear what was going on.  He was concerned, which was a relief for me.   And he is ready to do something about it too which is another relief for me.

I hesitate to tell folks because really, it’s another burden for them, but friends are supposed to help shoulder burdens as well as joy, right?  What’s that saying?  when you share a burden with a friend, it is cut in half and when you share joy with a friend, it multiplies.

Anyway friends, our club needs to shit or get off the pot so to speak.   We all would appreciate prayers and energy sent our way so that our awesome little club becomes more fun for people again, more challenging and more satisfying.  Many thanks.  Trial and error, eh?