Who am I?  QUICK!!!!!!

Who am I? QUICK!!!!!!

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.

It was back in the fall of 2009 when I saw my first Toastmasters World Champion Darren LaCroix, that the actual thought of perhaps becoming a World Champion crossed my mind.  I knew I was a thousand years from it but something in me vaguely knew I could make it to that level of speaker.

In the fall of 2011, I made it to the BC finals, the District 21 Speech finals for the first time, placing third in the humorous speech contest.  That’s when Jamie MacDonald (Jamie has been to the World Stage twice) approached me and told me he thought I could make it to the top.  That’s when the dream crystallized into something real.

In the spring of 2012 I made District finals again and knew that I had an actual shot at going to the World Championship.  That was the first time I met Darren LaCroix and realized how much more work I needed to do to be as good as I wanted to be.  I did not make it but I launched myself into another echelon deliberately, knowing that I had to.   That was when the crystallized dream began to take shape.

It wasn’t until Ryan Avery won the Worlds in the summer of 2012 that I actually vocalized my goal of becoming the 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking.  I did so because I knew that announcing it would put pressure on me to do what I needed to reach that goal.

When Ryan won, I contacted him and told him about my goal.  He was encouraging and realistic.  He asked me “Why do you want to win the World Championship?”  and I gave him a whole bunch of reasons.  At the time, I thought the dream looked like a trophy and a title.

It wasn’t until November of 2012 while working with women’s life educator Micaela Pennell that I really examined my reasons for wanting to win.  Knowing why you want to win is really as important as the win itself because there is always a reason behind the desire.  The reason, I have found, is what the trophy represents to me, what it means to me.   As Micaela always says, the goal is not the goal.

So let’s look at the reasons that I came up with back in November, 5 months ago.

Paula Howley, why do you want to win the World Championship of Public Speaking?

quick!  what's the answer??????

quick! what’s the answer?????

What  would you feel about  yourself?

i.     I would feel worthy

ii.     I would feel amazing

iii.     I would feel proud of myself

iv.     I would feel satisfied with myself

About others towards you?

i.     I would feel that people are proud of me.

ii.     I would feel that people are happy for me.

iii.     I would feel that people admire me.

About your attitude towards life?

i.     I would feel that I would leave a mark with my life.

ii.     I would feel that I can get on with the real stuff in my life.

About your relationship with God?

My  attitude towards God – no change

What would you believe?

  1. About yourself?

i.     I would believe that I am capable of the discipline necessary to achieve something difficult.

ii.     I would believe that I am very good at something of worth.

About others?

i.     Others would believe I am a good speaker.

ii.     They would believe I am someone worth listening to and hearing.

iii.     They would notice me and take note of me.

iv.     They would admire me.

v.     They would believe that I am a person known for talking the talk and walking the walk.

About life?

i.     I would believe that if I set goals for myself, I can achieve them.                                                                  ii.     I would believe that I can become someone more evolved through a learning process.

iii.      I would believe that even the things I thought were out of reach were not necessarily out of reach if I leaarn how to reach for them.

About God?

i.     I would expand my relationship with God

Expression of your talent – what are you naturally good at?

I  would see that I entertain people.

I would see that I impart messages of value while entertaining.

Development of skills:

I would develop my Writing skills

I would develop my Thinking skill

I would develop my Disciplinary skills

I would develop my Communication skills

I would develop my Interpersonal skills

Meaning

  1. I would know that I can do the hard stuff.
  2. I would know that my voice matters.

So, those are THE reasons that I discovered about me wanting to win the World Championship.  There are others, more concrete, things like wanting to make up for all the lost years and screw ups of the past, but they all filter down into these somehow.

So, let’s see if anything has happened in my mind and in my heart since November, a hundred thousand lifetimes ago.

  1. What      would you feel?
    1. About       yourself?
    2.   i.     I would feel worthy

This is an interesting statement.  I would feel worthy.  Worthy of what I wonder?  Worthy of life?  Of happiness?   Aren’t we all?  But I guess maybe I thought worthy of the title.  It’s a title that commands respect imo and one should be worthy of it.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would feel amazing

Well duh.  I feel pretty good right now I must say.  I am not devastated by my loss.

  1.                                                  iii.     I would feel proud of myself

I feel proud of myself now.  I feel proud of the insane amount of work I put into this process and how much I have learned.  I feel proud that I reached  for the TOP.  I feel proud that I asked for help from the best.  I feel proud that I took chances and grew tremendously.

  1.                                                  iv.     I would feel satisfied with myself

Without question, I feel satisfied with my efforts.  I must say in honesty, I am not satisfied with my performance at the contest but I am satisfied that I can improve exponentially.

    1. About  others toward you?
  1.                                                     i.     I would feel that people are proud of me.

This might be the coolest part.  I do feel that people are proud of me.  I know my dad is and that means the world to me.  My husband is particularly proud of me.  So is my daughter and I know the awesome people in my club and area are too.  Jamie MacDonald is proud of me and so is Rich Hopkins, my coach, a world class speaker.  And so many others who have spoken to me and written to me.   It feels pretty amazing.  Hey!  I guess I got the “I feel amazing” part after all!

  1.                                                   ii.     I would feel that people are happy for me.

I do feel that people are definitely happy for me even in their disappointment FOR me.  They are happy that I am pursuing my dreams and trying to become more than I am.  There are some people who are pretty regular readers and even good friends who understand on a very deep level what has happened for me on this journey and they are thrilled for me and the miracles that have come about from this process.

  1.                                                  iii.     I would feel that people admire me.

I find it both humbling and hilarious to find that this has become true.  Now of course, I’m not fool enough to think that this is universal, in fact, I’ll bet my daughter’s allowance that I annoy the shit out of many.   The crazy fact is though, that some  people have actually TOLD me that they admire me so either it’s true or they are liars.  My optimism demands I believe that at least some of those people are telling the truth.  At the same time, it makes me uncomfortable because I know who I am but it inspires me to try harder to be better.

    1. About my attitude toward life?
  1.                                                     i.     I would feel that I would leave a mark with my life.

I always thought that the best marks, the most important marks, were the BIG ones.  I love drama, I love flair, I love the BIG stuff so it makes sense.  I am finding however, that small marks are what impact people.  For example, I REALLY dig doing the Youth Leadership Program with Toastmasters.   The kids I work with are so grateful for the help, the parents are so grateful and enthusiastic and it really MEANS something to me.  It really MEANS something to them too.  It’s not a big thing but really, it IS.  Lives are changed when kids get this kind of confidence.  And the most important mark I’m leaving with my life is with my daughter, who deserves so much more than I can give her.  But this whole process of learning who I am because of Toastmasters, because of my faith and because of my friends is helping me to even be a human being.  That’s the most important mark of all.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would feel that I can get on with the real stuff in my life.

In the words of Barack Hussein Obama, “Yes I can.”   I am very excited about doing what I have been talking about for a VERY VERY VERY long time now and that is WRITING MY BOOK.   I know I have the discipline to do it now and I know I have the talent.  I know that I can find help when I need it.  And I know that I’m not too stupid to admit when I need help.  Lol  I’m also looking forward to having a fun summer with my little girl and making sure I have AT LEAST a monthly date with my awesome  husband.  What else?  My keynote.  The message that I am here on this planet to give.  I am excited to be walking in the direction I’m supposed to be going.  I am excited to say  “Come To Me”  to the rest of my  life,  in the words of Jamie MacDonald.

    1. My attitude towards God ?– no change

Interesting, isn`t this?  I thought that winning the World Championship would not change my attitude towards God.  I think I am happiest about that.  If anything though, my faith needs deepening.  If anything else, this process has helped me through a challenging spiritual time.

What  would you believe?

About yourself?

i.     I would believe that I am capable of the discipline necessary to achieve something difficult.

This has been  one of the best parts of this.  I have discovered  that I can be a workhorse.  I’ve always had a good work ethic; even when I was a stripper I busted my ass if you’ll pardon the pun, but living this kind of discipline has been a great blessing.  It sets me free to do other great things.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would believe that I am very good at something of worth.

I don’t think I’m great yet but I believe I WILL be.  I believe I will be at my best when I can deliver the message of ME that God has given me and that will require more than a 7 minute speech.  I believe that when I begin to really give myself away  for the benefit of others, I will be the communicator and the woman I want to be.  It’s coming.  I feel it in my very bones.  I’ve sort of been on auto pilot for a while as I learned how to gear up but that is all about to change.

    1. About others?
  1.                                                     i.     Others would believe I am a good speaker.

Others do believe this.  Some more than others.  Some less than others.  Some are probably and rightfully wondering what the big fucking deal is.

  1.                                                   ii.     They would believe I am someone worth listening to and hearing.

Another great blessing.  This blog might be more responsible for that than anything.  The response I have received has been encouraging to say the least.  Especially with the revelation of my past as a sex worker for the first time.  To see the number of people who actually READ this blog is stunning.  It makes me want to give something really worth reading.  I value the time of my readers so very much and am SO grateful for your support.  I have learned that others DO think I am someone worth listening to and hearing.   I cannot adequately express what a gift of freedom this is to me.  People like me are normally laughed at and dismissed as unimportant and even ridiculous but I have been told here that what I have to say has meaning and is important.  Wow.

iii. They would notice me and take note of me.

Two different things I believe.  Anyone can be noticed, you just have to be loud, as I have been for much of my life.  People taking note of you…that can happen because of volume too but I find that people take note of you when you begin to display a measure of substance.    Perhaps I am beginning to do that, finally.

  1.                                                  iii.     They would admire me.

This one must be important since I’ve got it down twice.  Lol  Kind of embarrassing.  The truth is, it matters to me.  A lot.  Probably too much.  Truth is, I’m frequently an asshole in real life.  Just ask the people who know me and love me best.

  1.                                                  iv.     They would believe that I am a person known for talking the talk and walking the walk.

YES.  This one is important to me.  I HATE it when people don’t walk the walk.  As I always say to my daughter “Talk is cheap.  Anyone can talk.  You have to back it up with your actions for it to mean anything.”  I have walked the walk in this case and I am proud to own that.

About  life?

i.     I would believe that if I set goals for myself, I can achieve them.

Even though I did not achieve my goal per se, I have achieved many,  if not most, of these.  This process opened up (again!) another realm  for me, another realm of thinking and believing.  I have other goals that are important to me that I fully believe that I will achieve.   I am happy and excited to begin the next chapter.

  1.                                                   ii.     I would believe that I can become someone more evolved through a learning process.

Without question.  Holy mackerel.  Rich Hopkins was a brutal son of a gun who made me cry on more than one occasion (not out of cruelty but by pushing me farther into the truth than I thought I could go) .  I learned to respect this process by giving it everything I have.  I learned how to respect my audience by giving them everything I have.  I learned  how to jump through the biggest hoop of fear, I learned how to ask for what I want, I learned more than I can possibly write here.  I am still learning with myself and God and my family and Micaela and my Toastmasters family and know that this process, thankfully, will never end.

  1.                                                  iii.      I would believe that even the things I thought were out of reach were not necessarily out of reach if I learn how to reach for them.

I love this one.  It’s dramatically  liberating to discover that you have oodles more potential than you thought.  In fact, it’s almost scary because there really aren’t an excuses anymore.  Lol  Knowing that people are always there with their hands extended in friendship gives me courage.  I know to go to the best and that they are not the scary arrogant people I may have feared that they were.  I have been genuinely rewarded for asking people to show me how to reach.

    1. God?
  1.                                                     i.     I would expand my relationship with God

I hope this one happens always no matter what.  We tend to dive in when things are not going well and it’s important to remember to go deep with God when things ARE going well too.

  1. Expression of my talent – what are you naturally good at?
    1. I entertain people.

For sure I know this is true.  This is something I’ve always liked doing but having the stage of Toastmasters has given me the opportunity to hone this skill.  MCing the Ryan Avery event this winter was a big boost to my confidence.  It was my first opportunity to steer a large ship with important passengers and I know I nailed it because I genuinely had fun and felt everyone else having fun too.

    1. I impart messages of value while entertaining.

Yes!  Learning to.   As Sharookh would say “What is the take home?”  lol  As Margaret Page would say “What’s in it for me?”  As I am learning to say “ What can I give to my audience?”  When people give you their undivided attention, they deserve the best you can give them.  My last message was of tremendous value IMO.

  1. Development of skills
    1. I would develop my Writing skills

YES!  Absolutely!  Not just speech writing skills (because I wrote 3 versions of the 1st speech and then 2 versions of the 2nd speech and then about 18 versions of “I Love You” with endless tweaks and revisions), but my writing skills period because of this blog which I have come to love so much.   I have fallen in love with writing again and that makes me ever so happy!

    1. I  would develop my Thinking skills

Not my strongest skill I think (ha ha) but I have certainly pushed  myself for ideas and new thoughts.  It has been exciting exercising a muscle that needs exercise.  It is thrilling coming up with an idea that FITS in just the right place at the right time.

    1. I  would develop my Disciplinary skills

In one way, I failed tremendously because I have NOT kept up my new year’s resolution of going to bed by 11:30.  This is not what I’d call discipline.  I am so much healthier and happier when I do but it is SO difficult breaking a 40 year long habit.  In another sense, I made myself work on this project constantly- almost every day for hours a day,   not sure I’d call this discipline.  I think I still have a long way to go for that.

    1. I would develop my Communication skills

This is a no brainer.  A lot of this is happening through my work with Micaela.  I am still learning to ask for the things I need which I find difficult to do (as I’m  sure it is with many women or moms).

    1. I would develop my Interpersonal skills

Not as much as I mostly worked on my own through this project.  This is something that still needs work and attention.

  1. Meaning
    1. I would know that I can do the hard stuff.

I CAN do the hard stuff but I’d like more opportunity to do harder stuff.  And more fun stuff.  I feel like I’m made of the right stuff.

    1. I would know that my voice matters.

I am discovering something that I had always suspected and had always hoped.  I am just a Voice of One who’s Greater than this…but I am still a Sacred Voice, I will not be dismissed.

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

 

Rosanne Rosanna Danna

With Rosanne Rosanna Danna!  Hey!  I haven’t posted in 6 days!  Too busy!  Lloyd’s birthday was this week AND we had a party!  And THEN, we had people over for dinner another night!  And then, one more night,  I had a televised Toastmasters meeting to participate in an hour away!!!!  AND it’s Holy Week!  And I’m prepping my daughter for her first Holy Communion AND we have an entire YEAR’s worth of catechism to catch up!   Yeah! Whatever! Who’s NOT busy eh???

So, 2 weeks tomorrow till the Area contest and my drilling is going well.  I’m feeling pretty flowy with the speech now – it feels much more organically delivered than a couple weeks ago.  I am having FUN delivering it.  Not EXACTLY where I would like it yet but getting close.  I have also found an ending that I feel is solid, warm, catchy and restates the premise.

I practiced it 12 times today and set up a different camera with my computer so I could easily watch it afterwards every time.  There’s nothing like watching yourself because only YOU know how you want to give the speech and you can really see what to change and what works well. I HIGHLY recommend this technique if you want to improve.  I wish I had used it more frequently from the get-go.

The Area contest is not going to be a cakewalk by any means.  There is a former District finalist up against me as well as 2 other competitors.  I am taking nothing for granted.  My main concern is that I feel comfortable enough so that my priority is connecting with my audience.  I want to tell my story as naturally as I can.  If I am connected to them, I can ask for nothing more.

I had a chance to give the speech to a group of 10 people this week at Lloyd’s birthday party.  It was a great opportunity to have a chance to connect with people while giving the speech.  I’d like more opportunities to do specifically that so I am putting that energy out there.   I might have a chance tomorrow at an Easter gathering.  Next week I’m visiting a Gavel club at a high school in Vancouver and will be doing the speech there too.  Will be Avery Drilling as much as possible too.  Man, this contest feels WAY too far away.

 

We all get miracles, we just don’t all consider them as such.  I get miracles.  Lots of them.  Big ones, small ones, weird ones.  I consider them as such.  Heck, waking up in the morning is a miracle.  Or at least it used to be back in my drinking days.

I’ve been breathing at half capacity waiting for my blessing, my miracle, from the one person I needed it from to give my speech.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to get it.  And I wasn’t sure I could run this speech at full capacity without it.  I was sure as hell going to TRY!  But my strongest and greatest gift according to me, my spiritual director and my old writing teacher is my ability to be completely honest, especially with myself.  So if I had not received this blessing, it would have been in the back of my mind, or maybe even in my subconscious pulling ever so slightly on the reins telling me that I was not doing the right thing.

I received that blessing, that miracle, tonight.  I sobbed with relief, I really did.  I marvelled at it.  And I thanked God for it.  I am free to be me without reservation.  What a tremendous GIFT that is!  I can step right into myself now.

Earlier today I did some Avery Drilling around town.  Went to Hackett Park first and drilled while Meaghan played.  VERY shaky.  A bunch of teenagers walked by me staring and then of course giggling when they got just past me and yes, it threw me RIGHT off.  Couldn’t remember where in the speech I was.  Drilled about 5 times there and recorded it once.

Later we went to Rotary Friendship Park and again I drilled while Meg played.  It was a beautiful sunny day yes, but windy and FREEZING on the oceanfront there.  Meg was running around with no shoes and socks, no coat, totally fine and I thought my hands were going to shatter and break off my arms.  I drilled only 3 times there in public because of the cold and retreated to the warmth of my car for a few more.  Recorded once.  It wasn`t as difficult at that park but only because there were less people there!!!!    Bok!  Bok!  Bok!!!

When Meg got to sleep I was able to do it about 7 more times- was going to record it but I`ll wait until tomorrow and send it to the coach.  I think I am in love with my speech.  Is that ok to say?

I wrote a letter to myself using futureme.org  that I will receive the day after the Area contest, a hundred freakin`years from now.  It`s actually only 3 weeks but as far as I know, many Area contests have been done already.

Anyway, the letter told myself why I was proud to share the content of my speech with my audience, why the content is uplifting for my blessing person and the reasons why I would win- spiritual, mental, and physical.  I am putting that energy out there and I am going to walk into it.  I am going to own my speech, own the stage, own my life.  The rest is up to them.  But as LaCroix says:  no one will out prepare me.  I don’t mind helping miracles along a bit.

Miracles

I’ve taken 2 days and a night off of the speech.  Kind of.  I had a life coaching session with Micaela Pennell today and everything we are working on is all relevant to the speech and my life.  It is such a tremendous gift to have the additional perspective on what I am trying to accomplish and why.   I took the night off to watch a movie and give myself some room to see better.  Tomorrow I will make the changes this speech needs knowing what my own heart needs to make sure it is truth spoken with tremendous love.  I feel like the gel wants to set now.

I have had to start a separate journal to write about how everything, my spiritual journey, my emotional healing, friendship, speaking, and family is being woven together so beautifully and miraculously by our Creator.  When I step back and look at it I am in complete awe at the complex beauty yet utter simplicity of this tapestry.  There are some days more than others that you can truly appreciate the handiwork of God and today was one of those days.

Micaela’s words resonated like a bell and when I heard my husband repeating them, not having known what she had said, and then going an extra mile giving me a suggestion that could alter my life, the speech, and the way I look at and feel about things, well, let me just say that if this stuff were happening to you and you weren’t sure about a higher power….   this stuff might change your mind.  God’s hand is all over this and it gives me SUCH comfort to let Him guide me with the sweet and quiet confidence of knowing that I am loved by Him and that He is taking me Somewhere.

When this year is over, I’m going to bring it all together, to write about all of this, all that’s going on.  I’m saving it all and I know it will prove to be a fascinating read because it’s the work of God, not me.

I feel very excited and happy today.  I feel hopeful.  I feel loved.   I feel protected even in my emotional nakedness.  What a tremendous relief!  I thank God for all of these things.  And I thank Him for the hard stuff too, the stuff that has hurt like hell because He has used that as well and will continue to do so.

I have one more very big step to take to make myself certain that I am doing the right thing.  I need to ask one very important person for their blessing about this speech.  If they can give me this blessing, I will be truly free to make the biggest leap I have ever taken.  If they can’t, I will have to take the leap anyway.  And pray for wings.

my favourite and most rare mode of travel

my favourite and most rare mode of travel