Trouble at Toastmasters

Last night I was supposed to present the “Thought of the Day” at Toastmasters. I had a really thoughtful thought all prepared…I was going to talk about my big picture project and how I finally organized and labeled eight years worth of digital photos and then I was going to tell them three things I learned from that experience (much of which I’ve already posted here).

The first thing I learned was that my kids actually enjoyed our family camping trips more than they say they did. Pictures don’t lie.

The second thing I learned was that even when something bad happens in your family, you shouldn’t stop taking family pictures. I talked about how my mom is the only person I know who takes more pictures than I do, but how she stopped taking family pictures after my dad’s stroke (eight years ago now!). And that she wanted me to quit taking family pictures, too….because she didn’t want any pictures of him “looking like that.” But when have I ever listened to my mother? I continued taking pictures, and I’m really glad I did because I can see that my dad really didn’t look that bad the first three years after his stroke. I’m glad SOMEBODY has pictures of him from that time. And you never know when your last chance to take a picture of someone is really going to come.

(I did tell them all of that.)

The third thing I learned was the most important part of my mini-speech. It was the MESSAGE! It was the part that tied everything together. I was going to tell everyone that the third thing I learned was that I take way too many pictures of holidays/special occasions and not nearly enough pictures of the day-to-day stuff. Life isn’t lived in the “big moments,” it’s lived in all the little moments that are strung together between the big moments. And I was going to tell them about Project 365 and how I’m now committed to taking fewer pictures of holidays/special occasions and more pictures of the day-to-day. But guess what…when I got to that part of the speech, I froze! I couldn’t remember what “the third thing I learned was.” I couldn’t remember the whole point of my speech!!! So after I stood there for what felt like ten minutes, but was probably only about thirty seconds, I finally admitted I couldn’t remember the third point and that apparently I had really only learned two things from going through all those photos.

I am so mad at myself!!! How could I have forgotten the most important part of my speech??? Since I have this tendency to over-analyze, I’ve been trying to figure it out. And I’ve come up with two possible explanations (i.e. excuses).

One, I DIDN’T WRITE THE SPEECH OUT AHEAD OF TIME! While I learned years ago to “throw away the speech” when I do school visits and “just talk with the kids about my writing,” that lesson does not seem to apply to Toastmasters. Up until yesterday, I have written out every single prepared thing I’ve said at Toastmasters ahead of time. I almost didn’t write out the speech I did last week…things had been going so well at Toastmasters…and I knew what I wanted to say, what points I wanted to make…I thought it would be just like my school visits and I didn’t really need to write out the speech. But then about two hours before I left, I panicked that I hadn’t ever actually written it out, so I sat down and wrote it out. Even though I didn’t even take the written speech up to the lectern with me. But last night I decided I really didn’t need to write my thought of the day out. The thought of the day is only half as long as a speech…I knew what I wanted to say. Famous last words!

Two, I maybe shouldn’t have talked about my dad in the middle. I could have made the same point by talking about my mother-in-law, who has a tendency to yo-yo up and down with her weight (not unlike myself!). When she’s heavy, she won’t let people take pictures of her. I used to respect her wishes, but now I’m really wishing I didn’t. She’s my mother-in-law and I love her the way she is. I don’t care whether she’s in one of her heavy phases or one of her thin phases…and neither do my kids. But because SHE cared, I don’t have a lot of pictures of her with my kids when they were little.

That would’ve been a much better story to tell because everyone got really quiet and serious when I was talking about my dad and I had this Oh no! moment when I realized they all thought I was going to say he died! I wanted to say, no, no, no, it’s okay! He’s still alive. But I got flustered watching their reactions…which only made things worse because then I couldn’t move on.

Oh well. I am still alive to tell the tale…(and they were SO nice about it…Toastmasters really are good people!) And the good news is I can maybe develop that third point into a full-length speech. In fact, I almost rejected this whole idea for the thought of the day because I thought I might use the material better in a regular speech. I should have listened to myself.


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