Tag Archives: Toastmasters

Knocked Down (But Willing to Get Up!)

There are a few songs that bring out the fight in me when I’m feeling down.

The theme from Rocky always does it for me. Bill Conti’s horns always make we want to jump up and down on the couch with my arms raised in the victory pose.

Then there’s that “I get knocked down, but I get up again” song by Chumbawamba.  Its actual title is Tubthumping, but I never understood that (or most of the other words.) However, that fighter’s chorus just gets my blood thumping. (Or rather, “tubthumping?)

Our Word of the Week was WILLINGNESS and the truth is, sometimes I get knocked down and I DO NOT WANT to get up again.

I want to slink into the bedroom with a vat of pistachio gelato, curl under the covers and hibernate for at least a few days.  No phone calls; no texts:  I “vant to be alone” in full-on Greta Garbo mode.

That’s how I felt when I lost the final round of my Toastmaster’s Humorous Speech competition last fall.  I had won the club, area, and district competitions and gave what I felt was my best-ever performance at the BIG finale.

And I didn’t even place.

I smiled through the excruciatingly long awards ceremony, wanting to appear to be the good sport that I hoped I would be.

But I was mad.  And I felt robbed.

I swore I would never grace another Toastmasters’ speech competition with my presence and even considered quitting the organization altogether.

No, I am not 9 years old, but I was acting as if.

When the dust settled, I remembered why I got involved with Toastmasters in the first place.  I wanted to compete and perfect my craft; I wanted feedback and a track to run on to pursue my dreams.

When you feel like quitting, friends, go back to your “Why?”  

Your why is the fuel that will take your legs up to the top of the Art Museum.

Your why makes you willing to try again.

As I write this, I am preparing for a Saturday competition in which I will deliver “How To Fertilize Your Life” – the speech I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Yes, I want to win.  But more than that – I want to inspire the crowd assembling at the Gulf Gate Library on a Saturday afternoon.  I want to give them something to take with them that will encourage them to kiss their spouses, say thank you to a co-worker or compliment a stranger.

Oh, and yes, I want to win.

My dream is HUGE.  I want to be the Toastmasters International Public Speaking Champion.  Which means, if I am fortunate enough to win at Gulf Gate this Saturday, I’ve got several layers of the candy cane forest to travel through to get to my destination.

One step at a time, right?

Here’s the thing: We all get hurt.  Some wounds are minor bumps and bruises, like losing a speech competition.

Some are more profound, like finding out a church was really a cult and saying, “I’ll never darken the door of another church again.”

My nevers, however, are usually wrapped up in fear. Today I find myself attending a sweet little Center of Light with Mark every Sunday morning and finding joy in the ritual of a spiritual community.

Willingness is not only a trademark of resilience but also of saying YES to life itself.

Let’s not let our failed marriages keep us from being open to love.

Let us try yet again when we fall flat on our faces…

…and not let the past dictate our futures.

We so often wall ourselves up to protect from future disappointments, but then I remember that with every disappointment has come loving comfort by friends who have wooed me back to health. And whattya know, I’m up again and back in the fight.

More on willingness here…and I’ll keep you posted on Facebook about the competition!

Hefty doses of self-acceptance to all of us (no matter HOW the judges rule.)

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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Will the True Brenda Please Stand Up? (and the New WOW)

In my recent Toastmasters speech, “Dance Like No One’s Watching,” I referred to the 80’s as my heyday of dance while acknowledging that my persona wasn’t a true reflection of Brenda.

The decade, for me, was all about image. Sky-high hair that defied gravity (thank you, Aqua Net) and four-inch Candies’ spike heels made me feel invincible when I entered the club. Combined with three layers of makeup and pronounced charcoal black-smudged raccoon eyes, I perfected my Philly tough-girl persona.

I wanted to look tough.

The victim of vicious bullying throughout my high school years, my reinvention intended to keep away those who would dare tread on my heart.

A dark haired Madonna, I looked like the Material Girl.

In truth, I was Like a Virgin.

The disconnect between that sassy chick on the dance floor, and the word-nerd, old-fashioned girl at my core led to a multitude of brief and failed romances.

The guys at the club dug the unattainable disco queen, but when the lights came on, they soon realized she was the kind of girl you take home to Mom. And skedaddled to the next conquest.

All those years of wishing and hoping someone would fall in love with the true ME, it never occurred to me to…well, BE me.

An exhausting and destructive pattern had been established.  I went from the club girl Madonna to the church girl (aka Joyce Meyers or fill in your favorite Tammy Faye-ish) preacher.

DISCLAIMER: This is not to say I wasn’t sincere in my ministry, because I was. But the church became yet another stage on which to perform.  Because of its toxic nature, on the rare occasions that I dared to allow my true self to emerge, the leaders brutally punished/counseled/scolded me.

Oh, and then I got married.

I think back to my wedding day and am so grateful that it happened.  I always wanted the handsome man at the end of the aisle; a church full of people applauding my dream come true; the dance party scripted to my specifications.

I loved my wedding day.

Because of the toxic and backwards nature of the church, though, I rarely had alone time with my husband prior to the wedding.  He often joked that our first “date” was the night we got engaged.  And it wasn’t a joke.

We were two strangers who were crazy about each other and thought that would be enough to make it work.

And, to do so, I did what I do (or did) best.  I performed the hell out of it.

A life-changing trip with my girlfriends in 2016 (and a mini-breakdown from emotional exhaustion – performing sucks the life out of you!) revealed that I was burning myself out while trying to be who everyone wanted me to be.

In the process, I had lost ME.

Mind you, if my performance-based approach to life had been working for me, I would have kept it up.  It took 50+ years for me to realize that no matter how beautifully I performed, it didn’t make anyone else truly happy.  

Least of all, me.

What follows is a bit vulgar and not language I normally use in my writings. To those who might be offended, I apologize in advance.

Concurrently, I’m not apologizing for using this photo. Because this is part of the TRUE me! I find this to be funny!:

I remember seeing this card and laughing out loud.

It’s true.  Not so much the “F word” part, but the things I say and do today are far different from Brenda 1.0.

Discovering the true me – and the true you – is the quest of a lifetime. It takes honesty, bravery, and huge doses of unconditional self-love. 

But this is my one shot to be Brenda Viola. For the first time since my early 20’s I finally have given myself permission to be her.

I hope you like her, but if you don’t, that’s okay too.

Sometimes I don’t like her!

But I always love her.  And I hope you love the true YOU, too.

Parting thoughts on AUTHENTICITY and the new WOW, coming up!:

What a beautiful word to embrace this week!

Be KIND to you and others.

We can never have too much of that, can we?

xoxoxoxox

Brenda

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Toastmasters Wisdom (and the New WOW)

Who knew that joining Toastmasters would usher into my life a wealth of wisdom?

Yes, they count your “ums” and correct your grammar; offer feedback on your body language and throw-away words – all thrilling to spoken word nerds like me.

But it’s the STORIES that grab me each week.

The agenda (run like a Fortune 500 Board Meeting, which I LOVE) includes three speeches. Participants are at various stages in the Toastmasters experience.  I am like a new-born baby, making my way through the first round of ten speeches to achieve certification. Others have completed several rounds of ten, have competed (and won) and are in the advanced tier.  Yes, their technique is refined…but again, it’s the STORIES that tug at my heart.

This past week, Ret, our Club President, told a tale for the specific purpose of evoking an emotional response.

Ret is six-foot-something; has a Dr. Phil-like presence, is a Texas-like “guys-guy” and possesses an authoritative and commanding delivery.

To judge a book by its cover, Ret’s was an unlikely package to deliver a heart-wrenching story, but oh, he had us all in tears.

Ret told the story of his boyhood best friend Mikey, tragically killed while riding his bike in the prime of his getting muddy, mischief-producing, baseball-throwing youth.  To this day, Ret visits his grave and leaves a baseball with a written message on it to his friend.

Mikey lived again this past Wednesday in the re-telling of this story by his beloved buddy, Ret.

The pearl of wisdom Ret left us with? “Treasure the people you love, for you never know how long you will have the gift of their presence.”

Oh, Ret.  I’ll never look at you the same way after hearing this story.

No one cared much about an errant word or an um for it is not perfection that moves us, is it?

What moves us are the stories of our lives that weave a bond with others.  In fact, this past week alone I observed the nodding head of a woman who also lost her dad at age 10; the laughter over a shared obsession with Starbucks, and a surprising discovery about the healing properties of tea (for all of us coffee drinkers.)

We each have a story, don’t we?  We have so many!  Wrapped up in these stories is a world of wisdom that could be just the gem someone else needs to hear.

If you have never considered Toastmasters because you’re “not a speaker” – please don’t let that stop you.  It is the imperfect but sincere and heartfelt stories that are massaging my heart and filling up my love tank week after week.  If you are seeking connection, it may have the same effect on you…

Here are parting thoughts on WISDOM and a new Word of the Week to inspire us all!

Our road to the life of our dreams? Let’s pave it with good and powerful INTENTIONS.

May we go forth with purpose and experience the joy of doors swinging open to our respective destinies.

xoxoxoxo
Brenda

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Blessed vs. Stressed (and the New WOW)

Inflexibility renders me STRESSED, not blessed.

Here’s what trips me up: I am an ultra-prepared person.  When I deem something important, I mark it on my calendar, plan what to wear, make notes on my goals, leave early to arrive early and show up with my tank full of readiness.

Yes, I am a goody-two-shoes in matters of preparedness, and as a result I expect everything to go according to plan.

My mantra?  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Wouldn’t it be great if life followed the script of such simple equations?

Ah, but then there would be no need for flexibility.

One of my 2017 goals is to up my public speaking game, obtain certification and yes, to win a national speaking contest.  My course charted, I joined the local Toastmasters group in Sarasota.

I’ve spoken publicly for years and years and have no fear at all when it comes to saying my piece. It is a joy to conduct workshops and training seminars around the country in my spare time, and, as my Mom likes to say, “Give Brenda a microphone and she’s in her glory.”

Desiring to take this part of my life to the next level, by good fortune I met a young man who – through Toastmasters – entered a national speaking competition, subsequently secured a book deal and now speaks for a living. He’s living his dream.

So to Toastmasters I went, and it is HEAVEN for word nerds, grammarians and lovers of the art of speech (yes, there really are people out there like this.  People like me!)

They actually count the number of times you say “um” or use throw away words and poor grammar; vocabulary and staying within the prescribed time counts and you are publicly evaluated for each and every spoken way you participate in the meeting.

Stressed by such rigors? No way! For people like me, it’s a total rush.

Run like a well-oiled machine, these meetings are ULTRA prepared with assignments for the forthcoming week scheduled at meetings’ end.  Jumping right into the fray, I signed up for my first mini-speech – a two-minute exhortation to kick off the next Wednesday night.

Oh yes – you bet I was prepared.  When my message finally crystallized, I wrote it out, timed it, practiced it over and over, refined it, timed it again, made Duane listen to it repeatedly and by the time Wednesday rolled around, I was bursting with the promise of what would be a glorious debut.

I departed early to be in my place with a bright shiny face well in advance of my slot in the agenda.

On the drive, I practiced my two-minutes.

I practiced so much that I missed my turn.

And ended up 10 minutes out of my way, resulting in an unforeseen detour.

Which planted me directly in the middle of the aftermath of a horrendous traffic accident.

I would definitely be late.

Living the seven stages of grief, I rested on anger for quite a while.  “This is not fair!  I was so prepared!  I left so EARLY!”

Despair had a field day, too.  Sadness, too.  It took much of the stalled time in traffic to finally get to acceptance.

This was beyond my control. If I missed my turn to speak and my hard work been for naught…it would not be the end of the world.

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break.

Yes, I arrived, and just in time for my spot on the agenda!  Had I stayed stressed and freaked out, I’d  would have been too flustered to stand and deliver my speech.

A speech, ironically, entitled, “Enjoy the Journey.”

HA!

More thoughts on being flexible here – and an interesting new WOW:

Sometimes the very discernment needed comes from asking yourself, “Will this really matter in five years?”

Is the answer no? Let it go.  Relinquish the white-knuckled grip on that thing trying to steal your joy!

Have a blessed (not stressed) week, my friends.

xoxoxox

Brenda

 

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