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

I am epically exhausted.  Going to post this and go to BED.

Poor Meaghan has been sick with a seal barking cough for the past 3 days and has not slept well.  As a result, neither have I.  Last night was much better but typically, as on most contest eves, I had a hard time sleeping anyway.  Got about 5 hours which isn’t too bad when you think about it.  New mothers get less.   You hope to have a great night’s sleep so as to be optimal but there have to be some things we can’t control I guess.

I’ve had this killer knot in my neck all week from STRESS and haven’t even been able to turn my head all the way to the right.  GOD I need a massage.  So when I woke up I was feeling not so hot and kind of annoyed that I’d had such a crappy sleep.  It took me a while to get it together.  Had my morning prayer but it felt almost rote.   Ate a banana and started to get ready.  An awesome friend took Meg for the day.

I practiced 3 more times in the morning, fully dressed in contest garb and felt WAY better.  I felt so connected to the speech that my body was almost not my own.  My arms were tingling the way they do when I’m having a rare spiritual breakthrough or acupuncture.  I was actually a little concerned about fainting!

I hopped in the car to drive the hour to the contest and sang along with the awesome tunes that were coming on the radio.  I felt happy but nervous.  Thoughts I didn’t want to have entered my mind every so often and I told them to get lost.  I did not want to entertain anything but positive.  I picked my friend Ann up half way and appreciated her company as she made me laugh and took my mind off of things until we got there.

Not an exceptionally big audience- I’d say 20 people but excellent energy thanks to the enthusiastic contest chair, Bill and timer Sharon who ramped it up for everyone.

The Evaluation contest was first and the Test Speaker’s speech was excellent.  I could only suggest a couple of things for improvement.  I recently read a book about evaluations by Rodney Denno and his suggestions were gold.  I crafted my opening and closing right away, and sandwiched my praise and suggestions for her in between.  I felt refreshingly confident afterwards.  They declared the winner right after the contest as one of the contestants had to leave and I was surprised to hear my name.

It was good, as always, to have this contest first and have a little time to get the jitters out.  Great interview questions by the contest chair entertained everyone and endeared the contestants to the crowd.  A short break later and we began the big event.

I picked going 3rd out of the 4 contestants.  I was familiar with all 3 and knew that these folks were speakers to be reckoned with.  In particular, Katherine Scott, about whom I have written before because of the power of the truth and beauty of her writing.  https://ayearinthelifeofatoastmaster.com/2012/11/29/day-97-telling-our-stories/

She was on her game and her speech’s content was interesting, beautiful and meaningful.  Her delivery was strong, purposeful, confident and genuine.  I was moved by her once again and felt grateful to hear what she said.

During the minute of silence before my speech during which the judges marked their ballots, I set up my camera to tape my speech, and then assumed my power pose to get the testosterone pumping.  I dismissed the thought in my mind that attempted to tell me that I looked cocky standing with my hands on my hips.  I only had a minute to do this instead of the recommended 2 but what are you gonna do?

I loved giving my speech.  I loved looking into the eyes of the people there, seeing them, giving them the opportunity to see ME.  I loved the flow, the give and take.  I didn’t get as many laughs as I had hoped but I think that was due to crowd size and that they were sitting all over the place instead of together in one spot.  Interestingly, I got laughs in places where I hadn’t expected them.  Still, I felt them feeling me, I saw it in their eyes and my heart burst with gratitude.  I was in the moment, aware that I was, and grateful for the awareness!

My timing was fantastic.  I kept it under 7 minutes.  I couldn’t have been happier.

There was one last contestant and she was the friend who’d been to District finals before.  She had told me that her speech had a very similar theme as mine as well.  Her speech was very heartfelt and meaningful too.  I was proud of her.

As the time for announcing the winners neared, my anxiety grew but I knew I had done everything I could and would have peace of mind because of that.  When they called Katherine Scott’s name as second place I felt some relief that I might have won.  And when they called my name as the winner, I almost cried with relief.

 

Incidentally, I THOUGHT I pushed the record button on my camera but I pushed the OFF button so I have no record of it.  Got some feedback from fellow Toastmasters on the way home though and will be giving the speech on Monday for my club for further insight.

Next Saturday is the Vancouver finals- the Division H contest.  Two down, four to go.

Me and Bill and Roses

Me and Bill and Roses