I was asked to give a five minute speech about my life… a public speech. This meant telling strangers my story. The story that you won’t know from just looking at me. A story how my life was literally shattered into a million pieces. My friend told me my life is inspiring. I decided to do the speech which also included having a slide show. I signed up to speak at *Ignite Montrose. I don’t like public speaking. Hey I’m living a new life now. Why not?
I had about two weeks to prepare for telling my life in five minutes. It’s not nearly enough time to let my life’s story unfold. Once you are trying to figure out what to say for five minutes, it seems like it’s like trying to fill an hour. How do you fit all this info into such a short period of time? I thought about what I wanted to say…just a summary. Really? How can one’s past unfold in five minutes? But then I thought, how my life unfolded, unraveled, came to a screeching halt in a matter of seconds?
I needed to turn my slides in as soon as possible. I was late getting them in. I was speaking on Tuesday and sent them on Sunday. I didn’t give myself much preparation time. Then again, it’s my life and easy to tell just not with a short time limit. I practiced in front of my cousin and her friend. The evening before the big night, I ran through the slides once nervously fumbling with the words to follow along with the slides. I looked over and my cousin was visibly affected by my words. Keep in mind she knows my story well. I didn’t feel like I did very well even though she assured me I did. She also gave me some helpful pointers (insert emoji smiley face here).
Tuesday came. Tonight was the big night. I practiced my speech over and over as soon as I got home from work. I had about an hour to refine it. This is as good as it’s going to get I thought. So we get there and I already knew I was the second speaker after the intermission. I sat and listened to the seven speakers before me. I vaguely recall some of their speeches as it got closer and closer to my time in the spotlight. The audience included about 40 strangers in the backyard of a bed and breakfast on a gorgeous summer night. It’s now intermission and I feel my nervousness was setting in. I kept telling myself that I could do this. Heck I picked up and moved 2000 miles away from a comfortable, familiar place. I could do this speech. Maybe one person will be affected, maybe more.
It was my turn in the spotlight. I got up and walked up to the mic. I am so happy I used to play tambourine in a band which helped me with my stage fright. I picked up that mic with confidence. I could do this. It can’t be that hard right??? The MC announces me and my title “Amor Fati”. He mispronounces it and I am quick to correct him. I give a brief introduction and nod my head to start my slides. They begin and here we go…
The start of my speech was a bit bumpy. I was nervous. I began with how I was from Connecticut being a typical North-easterner working 15 miles outside New York City. The slide with that infamous date came up. I explained what happened. I looked around as I was explaining how we found out on Facebook that my daughter passed away. One of the previous speakers had her mouth agape. I kept going just like I keep going on with my life. I look around a few moments later and a woman has tears in her eyes. I went on speaking as the slides kept going. Running through that tragic day of my life—the worst tragedy I have personally experienced.
I explained the meaning of “Amor Fati” or at least my interpretation. I spoke how I am finding happiness after making huge decisions to pick up and go to jump start my life and LIVE! I kept looking around aware of my surroundings. The audience seemed fixated on my words. They had to be. I could feel all eyes were on me.
I finished my speech just as the five minutes ended. Talk about perfect timing. I thanked the audience and went to my seat with a huge feeling of relief from spewing the words of my tragic tale. The MC stepped up to the makeshift stage and thanked me. Then he asked the audience for a standing ovation. Everyone that I could see around me stood up and clapped. I was stunned. I saw how my words visibly took hold of the audience, but I was really taken aback and overwhelmed as I sat there. I am not too sure on the type of etiquette but I am pretty sure I probably should have stood up again. This was my first “standing ovation” for just me being up on stage. Just me. And my story.
I am so glad I did it. So happy I gave my speech. It was worth it. Keeping her memory alive even to strangers was healing for me. Their reaction inspired me to keep going. That I am on the right path to kick grief’s butt. Don’t get me wrong. I still cry over her loss. I have moments or a day that I am overwhelmingly missing her smile, her laugh, her smell, her touch. I must move on. I am not going to let myself fall victim to grief and stop living. It’s too easy. I am a fighter.
By the way, I have not written in a while due to living. I am happy to report that soon I am moving another 200 miles north to follow my heart…keep following my heart. I have learned it is okay to give up “things” and “stuff”. It is worth it to follow your heart. Happiness is priceless. Funny thing about that though, happiness comes from within and one would think it would be easy.
*Ignite (in any city) Montrose is a forum for public speaking giving five minute speeches. It is sort of like Toast Masters but without the um, ah, but person counting how many times you mention filler type words. They have them all around the US.