I got up early, cleaned the stalls, fed the horses. I pet the dog, kissed my husband and flew across the US. I arrived at midnight and hopped a cab to a funky rented bedroom hosted by a kind stranger. The next morning, I put on warm clothes and hiked a mile or so through an unfamiliar city. I descended three floors down into a basement of a high-rise. In my backpack was my presentation – my 25 minutes of the best I had to offer.
I’d worked hard on the presentation. I’d stretched myself to contact folks way above my pay grade. I’d paced and lost sleep – because it had to be good.
I promised myself I’d be prepared – as an honor to an academic audience – I prepared answers to extremely hard questions and I’d thought of how to deliver the complex but direct answers with humor and humanity.
I brought my “A” game.
Once there – I forged through the technology hiccups, I flexed with grace when they changed the time we would present.
I tried not to walk out of an earlier presentation. But I had to go – because I’ve been there before in a presentation where the people delivering services treat their charges as less than. Where people are so busy building logical systems to create resilience and independence for people with disabilities – and they forgot that none of us need more independence – what we need – what we crave – what we are suffering from is a lack of interdependence.
When my time came – I honored those who were doing the work – I pointed out the strengths and the humanity of my co-presenter I summoned up all the west coast charm I could muster.
Half way in – I was told I was out of time. I tried to make a joke of it and was met with a blank stare from the young woman who had been managing the fits and starts of event day since early that morning. What she needed was for something to go on schedule as planned. She wasn’t interested in me getting to my point. She didn’t care that most of the people were leaning in – laughing and nodding their heads.
Anyway, why should she? She was doing her job – getting things moving with an adjusted schedule – attending to needs of others.
But I had something to say.
Being raised to be a good girl – I rushed as quickly as I could – I skipped the meat of my presentation in an effort to meet her adjusted time schedule – and I sold myself short.
And I sold my audience short.
And I missed the chance to advocate fiercely for the people that we are all supposed to be serving.
The good news is that – as per usual – I’m being too hard on myself. People stayed afterward to talk. They cried and hugged me for the message. They pressed business cards into my hand – they asked my advice. Clearly this is how I best serve the cause?
But I’m learning. I learned about civil disobedience and that nobody should be able to rush us when our message is about relieving suffering. Nobody’s schedule is more precious than somebody’s humanity and the message that we MUST change the systems that are creating suffering.
I promise to do more.
It’s funny – last year, I was asked to present at the Aspen Brain Lab. I worked hard on the presentation and then the organizer chose (wisely) to ask someone else – someone local – to do the presentation. Frustrated, I took my presentation and made it into a video. That video has been seen all over the world and by many, many more folks than would have been at the Aspen Brain Lab.
I will do the same with this presentation. Watch out – this is going to be good…..