Wake Up – Giving Gratitude

This speech was inspired by my mom’s miraculous and heroic recovery from a big-time health scare a few years back.  It woke me up to what’s truly important in life.

This speech was designed for a 2013 speech competition for Toastmasters International where I won at the Division level.  Even though the video was filmed by my friend and not a professional, it’s a great way to get the full experience of the story.

If you prefer the written word, below is the full script in its 16th edition :)

 

 

Speech Script - (This includes body language cues as well – a true script)

Wake up Sara – Wake up. Your phone just rang…

Ugh…

Wake up…rise and shine

Let me tell you something…This…does not rise and shine. What this does is rise and…grab a cup of coffee. But I begrudgingly get up and shuffle into the other room to find my phone.

6 voicemails and 4 texts from my dad?

What did I miss? (in a panic)

“Mom is in the ER”

“Mom is out of surgery”

“Where are you – call us“

There’s an ache in my stomach.

Mister Contest Chair, my fellow toastmasters and most honored guests. Have you ever had a moment when your life became one big wake up call? When you knew that your life would change forever?

For me December 2nd, 2010. It was the beginning of a series of wake up calls that taught me how fragile yet powerful life can be.

WAKE UP CALL #1 – Life’s a roller coaster – We need to prepare for those…unexpected turns.

I called my dad in California, I found out my mother was in total system failure. It started with gallstones, but her blood pressure BOTTOMED OUT. Her major organs…shut down.

She had a 1 in 4 chance of survival.

My DAD WENT ON TO EXPLAIN, The doctors thought that to best fight the infection was to induce…a coma…But EVEN THEN it wasn’t good.

After I hung up, and all I could do was collapse on my bed and sob and sob and sob (quiver in voice). But then I sit up – (wipe my nose and flick) wait a second – my mom’s a fighter. I have to fight with her.

WAKE UP CALL #2 We must never give up the fight.

I start my fight with a prayer. (get on knees) I pray and pray, and send her lots and lots of love.

(Get back up) As I continued, I had this vision – A LOVE CIRCLE – a circle of women surrounding my mom, breathing for her and sending her love. It was so real; I got goosebumps.

FINALLY I Flew HOME and As I walked into her hospital room, I could barely recognize her– swollen with fluids and medicine, tubes and machines everywhere. It was like I was watching A TV DRAMA but there were no hot doctors…This was real life…

I sat down next and held her hand, she squeezed back tight. She was still fighting. I had to keep fighting with her…but how?

The love circle! Now I know this sounds a little crazy and…even “Hippy…Dippy (head nod)”. But What can I say– I lived in San Francisco for 8 years—I’m a hippy …(adjust clothes and nod head) in disguise. Shhh

But I didn’t know if my aunts who flew in from Minnesota (with accent), home of the SPAM museum, were would be up for such a crazy idea.

I finally mustered the courage to ask, and they happily agreed…(thumbs up) Groovy!

So we circled around her – (Act out – holding hands and take a deep breath.)

A few hours later, 10 days in a coma, my mom woke up! We must Never ever give up the fight.

In the following days of her recovery, SHE HAD TO learn to walk again. She had to learn to do everything again. WAKE UP CALL #3 – Now’s the time TO STEP UP and focus on what’s really important.

I had never needed to take care of anyone in my family before. That was my parents’ job. Now is the time for me to be a mom to my mom.

As she fought her way back to health, I stepped up to tend to her every need. SO I WOULD adjust the pillows under her legs again and again and again. Surely, I…wasn’t this high maintenance when she took care of me… miss drama queen.

So I continued to step up day after day, doing everything I could. I even tried BURNing INCENSE to clear out the toxic energy… (hands on hips) but the cranky nurses put the kibosh on that one. Something about oxygen and open flames??? I don’t know. (shrug)

But we knew she was on her way to recovery when her hands that were swollen like sausages had returned back to their natural STATE… wrinkled. (with smile – clap with excitment)

When the doctors informed us that my mom would make a full recovery, it hit me how close I was to losing her. I almost lost her once, but Now I have a 2nd chance (smile).

I SAT DOWN next to her AND WE SHARED FROM OUR HEARTS. We shared our fears AND frustrations. SHE GETS FRUSTRATED THAT SHE NEVER WINS AN ARGUMENT with my dad…the attorney… I GET FRUSTRATED WHEN DAD TELLS ME TO BE “Smart” WITH MY MONEY…….tsk…whatever that means…

But most of all…we shared our deep deep love for one another.

 

Two years ago, that phone call changed my life forever.

Please, please don’t wait until you get that phone call.

WAKE-UP – LIFE IS A ROLLER COASTER FULL OF UNEXPECTED TURNS. AND IF LIFE TAKES YOU down

WAKE UP AND NEVER GIVE UP THE FIGHT

WAKE UP AND STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE

Now is the time to…

Wake UP!

Fire Re-ignited

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Last month, I had the awesome opportunity to attend the Omega Institute’s Women & Power Retreat and felt the Fire Reignited!  Inspired into action by listening to Omega’s Co-Founder Elizabeth Lesser, Vulnerability Expert Brene Brown, and Roshi Joan Halifax, I was ready to reconnect to my passion and purpose to make a difference.

This past year that fiery passion had been doused with doubt and struggle.  I had been on the economic roller coaster where my self-worth had been tied to the money in my bank account.  Even with a decade of inner work, I still struggled to find some peace in the matter.

With the amazing support of my partner, friends and family, I found the strength to keep holding on when all I wanted to do was jump off the ride.  Finally the financial roller coaster has slowed down and leveled out, I am incredibly grateful for the lessons the ride has taught me and ready to get back to my work on this planet – radical self-acceptance.

While it’s not all figured out, I have learned some great lessons along the way that I would like to share.

1.  You are not your circumstances. While I have heard this one many of times and even said it to others, I didn’t realized how much I tied my identity to my work. I found myself flailing when my career was in limbo.  Not sure where to go, not sure who I was. I had to keep telling myself, I am not my job.  I am not my bank account.  Even if we don’t attach to that, we may attach to other things like how smooth our day goes or how many likes we get on Facebook or Instagram.  We are sooo much bigger than those details.  If we can see our worth beyond our circumstances, then life’s challenges aren’t quite so debilitating. Our worth is unwavering.

2. Community is key. One of my saving graces has been and continues to be my community.  I am incredibly grateful for friends and family to listen when I needed to vent, hug me when I needed comforting, and the kick in the butt when I wanted to give up.  It’s important to reach out, get real and share what’s true for you in times of struggle. While often challenging to be vulnerable and reveal we don’t have it altogether (believe me, I can relate), it’s a crucial component to surviving the struggle.

3.  Get in action…Stay in action. This is easier said than done, at least the staying in action part.  By getting in action, doors opened for me, opportunities were created.  Despite my fantasy and desire that money would come in by watching marathons on Netflix, it didn’t work out that way.  By getting into action, energy was created and the world responded with something positive, some doorway to walk through.  While I must admit I didn’t walk through all the doorways, I know momentum was created with each threshold I passed, physically, energetically, emotionally.  I didn’t always know what was opening up, but I kept walking through.  By keeping enough momentum with each action step, shifts can occur and life can unfold in your favor.

Life is messy, uncertain and full of challenges. One day it can take you to the top of the mountain; the next day in the deep ravine.  That’s what makes it so beautifully mysterious.  It is that fire within each of us that keeps us going, that gives us grit and determination to not give up.  Push through the challenges, rise up out of the ravine and seek the summit of the mountain.   Join me and let your light shine for all to see!

Thank You…More than Just Being Polite

THANK YOU…How many times do you hear it in a day? How many times do you say it in a day? If I consciously counted, I am sure there are at least dozen on each side of the Thank You.

However, I have difficulty remembering any that actually made an impact. Most could be categorized in the humdrum automatic social politeness. Rarely does the Thank You leave a lasting impression. Our Thank You’s can quickly become hollow in meaning, but they don’t have to be.

A thoughtful Thank You can create an opportunity for someone to not just be acknowledged, but truly seen. Whether it’s family, colleagues or customers, people want to know they matter, they make a difference in the world. Let the people in your life know they matter to you, they have an impact on your life.

Just after Superstorm Sandy, I had the pleasure of meeting Terry, a utility worker from California restoring power to a Queens neighborhood. Even after six days of exhausting work clearing trees and repairing power lines, he was proud to serve his country in desperate need of rebuilding. He was willing to put his life on hold for weeks to bring light to a community living in darkness. As a native Californian, I was so grateful for his generosity and sacrifice. As I thanked Terry, he quietly smiled – while probably not used to hearing gratitude in that way, it was apparent he was touched by my words and being seen for being a True Man of Service.

Here are a few tips to turn your Thank You from automatic to awesome:

Make it Personal– I find myself saying Thank You more as an automatic response than an actual Thank You. Whether it’s the clerk at the grocery store or the person holding the door open, a personal Thank You with eye contact and a smile interrupts the automatic and allows it to actually be heard as a message of gratitude rather than a required politeness. If you really want to interrupt the automaticity of thanks, you can use a sales clerk’s name (from their nametag). It often gets an extra smile.

Sprinkle in Specificity – This is a great strategy for the workplace. A simple Thank You is appreciated with colleagues; it is even more appreciated when there are some specifics attached to it. Adding some details with what they specifically did creates an environment that shows that you truly see them, their hard work and their contribution to the company. Thank You with specificity builds loyalty and encourages people to work even harder.

Top it off with Heart – A heartfelt Thank You is an amazing gift to give someone. Those are the ones I remember, the ones that remind me that I am making a difference in the lives of others. With Thanksgiving days away, a great way to thank your friends and loved ones is to acknowledge them for not just what they do for you, but how their actions have impacted your life. Share with them how they have made a difference in your life. I know this may be outside of your comfort zone and could even be a bit awkward, but the benefits can far outlast the awkward moment.

With Thanksgiving around the corner…Who can you thank in your life? Whether it’s a stranger, like Terry, or a loved one, I encourage you to acknowledge them with a personal, specific and heart-filled Thank You.

Gratitude Lists – Top 10 Reasons to be Grateful

Having yesterday off to give thanks, I felt compelled to sit down and make a Gratitude List to remember that I have an amazing life, even when things don’t appear so amazing.

Stopping to recognize what’s good in your life can shift your mood, your attitude immediately. If you are being grateful, it is impossible to be disappointed or complaining simultaneously. If you are ever wanting to shift your mood or attitude, then pause and be grateful.

You to can make a gratitude list. You can wake up each morning and write a list of 5 or 10 things. This can start your day in a positive way. Or you could write your list just before bed and be grateful for the day you had. It’s a powerful tool to use and choose how you want to show up in your life.

Enough about why it’s important or helpful – here is my list.

My Gratitude List – Top 10

1. My mom’s health – Just last year at this time she was in a coma – now she is fully recovered and healthy. What a miracle she is!

2. My family’s love and support – I have made big life changes over the last few years, including quitting grad school, and they have supported my decisions all the way.

3. My sister’s sense of adventure – My sister is currently living in Thailand, teaching English and traveling throughout the Southeast. What an inspiration!

4. My boyfriend’s love – It shows up even in the small stuff. I was feeling ill yesterday after dinner and he sweetly took care of me.

5. My breath – With each deep sigh, I am reminded that I am still here on this planet, able to take action, achieve my dreams and fulfill my purpose.

6. My job at the Eleanor Roosevelt Center – The opportunity to run their Girls’ Leadership Program is just a perfect melding of my passions and talents. I love the program and the people I work with.

7. Opportunity to Write – I love the opportunity to have my words make a difference for people. What a blessing to inspire and motivate with the written word.

8. My past traumas and pain – Now this one may seem odd to include, but I have learned so much about myself and the power of healing that I use on a daily basis. They have truly been gifts, just wrapped in ugly paper.

9. My friends – Too many to name here – I am continuously amazed and inspired by my friends who support me, encourage me, kick my butt when needed, but most importantly love me unconditionally.

10. My relationship with the Divine – I haven’t always had a close relationship to the Divine or God. I have spent many years developing this relationship, deepening and strengthening this bond that now seems unshakeable. I know that this investment has allowed me to surrender and fully thrive in this world, and live this amazing life.

REFLECTION
What are you grateful for? What would be on your gratitude list?