If you follow my blog (thanks by the way) you may have noticed a bit of a void lately. i have had a conundrum. By the way, I am not about impressing with my vocabulary but “conundrum” is the perfect word to describe the conflict in my soul.
I decided to write a blog to enhance my presence in a world that seems overly obsessed with their imprint on society. If this helps, consider that I enjoy “talk-radio” and I could probably call in with my opinion on almost every subject but I rarely if ever just pull my car over and phone (I usually listen when I am driving) although I called the Charles Adler Radio Program when he was discussing “hands-free” driving, which I happen to redefine! My point is; I work on a stage so I have a “voice” every day I speak where most people do not enjoy that privilege, and I never, ever take for granted what my career is based on. But what is it that motivates me to take the stage? I have pondered that so many times I can’t even count.
It began in 1981 when I was a disc-jockey at a Regina, Saskatchewan FM Radio station. 1981 was many things but in the world of persons with a disability, it was the International Year of Disabled Persons. Declared by the United Nations, one major focus was on awareness and a fateful call from a wonderful man named Lee Bussard led me out of my first career into the one that I was apparently fated for. Lee lived in Wetaskiwin, Alberta and happened to have Cerebral Palsy so I also had to move there and I mention that only because I had to give the idea some serious thought, especially since I had spent two years going to Mount Royal College, (now a University) obtaining my Broadcasting Diploma so my decision was rooted in something very personal. Of all the reasons I contemplated, the one that seemed most compelling was ignorance. In 1981, society was clearly ignorant of disabled people but it wasn’t their fault. My experience in this case was people were extremely uncomfortable with people like me and the “rules” of the time were to not ask questions. I use a line in my talk to students where I refer to one of the most uncool things to do in school is ask questions. My take: you all think it’s stupid to ask questions but the truth is not asking questions keep you stupid! Honestly, that principle still applies but the 2013 version now involves one of the most bizarre of realities…the internet.
Before I get to diluted from my purpose for writing this blog, let me give a very shallow explanation. No matter what one believes, you can now find someone on the internet to support your theory, no matter how insane that theory may be. Bluntly, pedophiles now believe that their pathetic lifestyles are okay because their are literally hundreds of thousands of them. Really? Do I need to comment? The point is, I believe we are losing the truth. But perhaps more importantly, we have become so sensitive to arguing the truth that people are just disengaging.
I am completely aware that people have an idea of who I am. If I may, let me paint a picture that I am a positive, inspiring individual who makes people reconsider their own life’s challenges and my hyper-positive energy draws my audiences into my speeches and contributes immensely to my success. I have been described a “too good to be true”. That’s very kind but I am completely real. I have passion, I have a temper, I can be stubborn and I can be loving. I am like us all. Yet I am feeling more and more like being my authentic self is bothering people and the crux of it all….honesty!
I “Honestly” believe that somewhere on our recent journey of humanity, we lost our way. Typical of the “pendulum” we use to describe change in our society, we see it swing to extremes rather than gently to and fro that would be so much healthier. I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan where community was “the” most important thing and today we see people only caring about “themselves”. Me, Me Me…What’s in it for ME!!! We have become a society that is so obsessed with “Rights” we have lost the appreciation of “Privilege”. But most vital, and to the point of this entry, we have become offended by honesty.
My last entry, “What a Rush” resulted in my losing a speaking engagement. It wasn’t specifically because of that blog, but what led up to it. Out of respect to the bureau that at first booked me then lost their commission when the client cancelled, I will not disclose thew client or the details that led to the decision. But I mention it because after deciding to have me close this particular convention and signing a contract, one of the members of the organizing committee read a blog I wrote about First Nations in Canada. Even though I know how much respect I have for Aboriginals around the world. Even though I have visited countless reserves as a speaker addressing tough issues, like teen suicide which is much too common in these communities. Even though I have a very spiritual view of how to overcome the shocking truth of residential school abuse by focusing on forgiveness and moving forward versus seeking blame and retribution. Even though I use hundreds of conversations with First Nations people about how to improve conditions in their communities. Even Though…I am apparently an insensitive racist. Let me just say it; I am offended by that depiction and I have chosen to address it.
Let’s please remember that I was born without arms. Can you picture that? I was abandoned by my birth family five days into my life. Can you picture that? I was given a prognosis by multiple expert doctors that my life would be meaningless and void of any normality or quality. Can you picture that? Can you picture the number of stares I have endured? The insults, the mockery, the robbery of my dignity? The collective years spent in rehab hospitals where specialists fitted me with various models of artificial arms and forbid me from using my feet? Bullying? I could go on and my temper starts to rise simply writing about it. I could go but choose not to. Pay attention…I Choose Not To!
My choice is deserving of respect isn’t it? But more importantly, my experience is also deserving of respect and sometimes, I address some painful truths. I do not do it to offend and I do not do it to be insensitive. But I have a real conundrum.
A branding expert told me that by writing sometimes controversial but always honest blogs can have a negative impact on my brand. Good point. Here’s the problem. My blog is not my speech. I don’t know how many times I need to state this. Ironically, I can see the problem. Celebrities love to publicly declare their opinion on issues like the environment. They aren’t experts but people listen because they are famous.
I want to declare that I am not an expert on much but I am at speaking. I have been presenting to people since 1981 and the responsibility of it is never lost on me. I also believe my efforts have touched literally millions of lives but I say this not to boast. Let me address one particular example. In 1981, disabled athletes were not taken seriously. They were essentially lumped with Special Olympics and with obvious respect to that cause, there is no comparison. Disabled athletes today are high performance athletes, period! True, their growth and development has been the essence of credibility but challenging the idea of disability was a byproduct of the International Year in 1981 and it was rooted in Honesty!
I want to let all of you know that I plan to post a few extra blogs in the coming weeks and I will focus on a more positive approach but nobody can tell me who I am. To those of you that hire me, I promise that my presentation will meet the very high standard I set every day I take the stage and the one that inducted me into the Canadian Professional Speakers Hall of Fame in 2009. My intention going back over 30 years has been and will always be to address the one thing we all have in common…being human!