Last night I presented my first keynote speech. I was honored and took the invitation and opportunity very seriously. The theme of the evening was “healthy partnerships” and I was thoughtful for days about where I wanted to head, what message I wanted to convey and in what tone. Finally, when I sat down to write, I did not censor myself. I trusted my intuition and began to write. I worried about flow and clarity later but afterward the bulk of my ideas were there to be shaped and molded.
I shared it with Matt and he seemed slightly unsure of what to say. Perhaps it had caught him off guard. He said, “that’s really good”, but I could sense there was more. I continued to work on it and a few days later I read it to him again. Not much had changed in the content but primarily in the delivery. This time, he wanted to know more. How did you think to address the different characteristics of a healing partnership using different stories? I think I would have just written one long story.
The first time I read the 20 minute speech out loud, I read it to Matt. There were several points in time that I became emotional as I shared about meaningful relationships that represented healing in my life. Matt and I joked that I had better keep practicing. I read the document probably another 6 or 8 times and managed to maintain a professional tone without becoming emotional in each instance.
Last night I was very nervous as I presented the speech. I could feel my knees shaking and unfortunately had on a dress that fell just above the knee. My friend joked about seeing the hem of my dress shaking. I absolutely believe that it was as I stood in front of a small music stand knees exposed. I navigated carefully through portions of my speech that I knew were more emotionally charged.
Finally, I was in the home stretch, the last point before moving on to my concluding remarks. Then, there it was. Without any warning, the emotion crept up deep from within. I could feel it physically. My words became a bit distorted, higher pitched and breathy as I squeezed them out from a constricted throat and chest. I took a minute, breathed deeply and continued.
Overall, I was okay with how things had gone. I didn’t think I was great. I knew going in that some people would like it and some people wouldn’t. One of the first things I said when I arrived home and everyone inquired about how things had gone was, “I only got emotional when I was talking about Kallen.” This morning I was thinking about it again. Part of me recognized the typically gendered response, perhaps a bit unprofessional even. As the volume on my critical voice began to go up, a thought streaked through my consciousness – another way of looking at things, another message I could tell myself about becoming emotional during my speech.
I had been talking about the role of forgiveness in “healthy partnerships. I talked about the importance of moving on after children misbehave once consequences are determined and apologies said, without a grudge. And how my eight year old returns the favor when I lose my temper or find I am unable to keep a well-intentioned promise after an unexpectedly chaotic day. But there it was, emotion bigger than me. Why was I surprised? I was talking about the love and mercy shown to me by one of the most important people in my life. Tapping into the emotion that comes with the gift of human connection – my relationship with my son and the meaning his very being provides to me.
There it was – mutuality, acceptance and authenticity, three of the “healthy partnership” characteristics addressed in my speech coming together all at once in real time. And in that moment, every reason in the world existed to feel fully, love fully and vulnerably. I have chosen not to feel badly about it. Summoned through a mortal task, a window to a deeper place, where I saw and shared a glimpse into the construction of meaning in my life. Without fear, without shame – raw, authentic and unconditional. Living life fully, feeling fully, loving deeply, without regrets.
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