Tuesday, February 10, 2015

TEDxSeattle Update

I parked in downtown Seattle with an extra 20 minutes to spare. I sat in the car, practicing my four minute speech out loud. With five minutes to go, I got out and headed up the busy street to the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Condos. Nervous, excited, curious, thrilled, petrified.

Although on time, I was the last to arrive. We headed into an elevator to the top floor where a group of 12 people greeted us. The TEDxSeattle curators introduced themselves and then let each person in the room explain their connection to the show and what to expect.

A hundred and eighty people applied, forty people made an audition, and a total of twelve people would make the cut. We auditioned in groups of four, each given a four minute time slot to sell our ideas. Afterward the curators and audience would ask questions.

The woman sitting next to me volunteered to go first. She had a kind and gentle soul. But I had a hard time following what she was trying to share. What she started her talk with had nothing to do with the supporting facts and she ran out of time before she could complete them. The curators stopped her, asking her to summarize what she wanted to share in one short sentence. She couldn't do it.

"Who's next?"

I immediately volunteered. I had practiced, reminding myself of when to pause for greater impact. To read the audience, to let them help me tell my story. I made eye contact with everyone in the room. But I couldn't stop my tears. I couldn't compartmentalize the weight of the subject and my emotions took over. Talking about Ryan's sudden death even seven years after the fact still leaves me in puddle.

"Grief is a gift."

I started to get my resolve back. The more I focused on the change I want to create, the more powerful my voice became.

"Our culture does a poor job acknowledging that part of living is dying. And I want to start a conversation that changes that."

The audience clapped, I wiped my face, thankful for the opportunity. Thankful I was brave enough to stand up in front of a room of strangers.

"You know, this could just be a really sad, emotional story. But what intrigues me is that the stages of grief haven't seen change in over 30 years," one of the curators commented.

Yes! Exactly.

"I remember you. I remember when your husband died. It rippled through the climbing community," the intern who was 16 at the time of Ryan's death, commented.

"I remember seeing you on TV, and how angry you were," said the other curator.

Except I never went on TV. And I wasn't angry. I didn't want to correct her in front of these people.

"Are you prepared to be the spokesperson for this?"

"Yes. There's a reason this happened to me," I immediately responded.

"Why not write a book?" Already did.

"How about a blog?" Been there done that.

"Why TED?" the curator asked.

"Because TED is a conductor for change."

I sat down shortly thereafter. I knew I had a good chance. I had a hard time listening to the next women's speech. And then a film maker, the last one in our group, went.

"Pardon my visual cues," he started. "I'm hoping to be coached so I don't need to rely on such."

The following is my recollection of his story....
Twenty years ago, he freight train hopped around the states. (He looked to be in his late thirties, maybe early forties.) While on the east coast, he went to a punk rock show and listened to a woman sing with such raw lyrics and emotion, he was naturally drawn to her. He approached her during the intermission and asked where she drew her inspiration from. She admitted to him that she had been molested as a child and singing was her form of therapy and expression. The film maker wanted to know more.

"We're headed to the west coast next. To Seattle. You should come," she offered.

So he did. He hopped on a series of trains, finding himself in Spokane, Washington. From there he hitch hiked, getting picked up by two men in a two-door hatchback Honda Accord. They let him into the back seat on the driver's side and the driver started asking him questions. Within an hour, they pulled off the main interstate, turning up a desolate road.

"We're just stopping for gas," the driver said.

The film maker noticed the gas gauge was nearly full. When they didn't see a gas station for miles, the driver told him they were headed to pick cherries. Except this wasn't cherry picking season. Sensing danger, the film maker started to beg them to let him out of the car. The driver pulled out a gun and shouted at the film maker to shut up or he would shoot him.

Carefully, he pulled out a pocket knife out of his backpack and opened it on the seat next to him. Tension built in the car.

The driver pulled the Honda over, telling the passengers he had to pee. He handed the gun to the passenger and told him to watch the film maker.

Not knowing what kind of mood the passenger was in since he hadn't said a word this whole time, the film maker started begging with him to let him go, that he was a good kid, that he wouldn't say a word.

"SHUT UP! HE SAID YOU SHOULD SHUT UP!!!" the passenger was pointing the gun at him.

The film maker took the pocket knife and jabbed it as hard as he could into the back of the seat, compressing the vinyl enough so that it barely grazed the passenger's back. It was enough to scare him, and he jumped out of the car. Acting instinctively and quickly, the film maker opened the driver side door and ran as fast as possible into the woods, escaping the kidnappers.

He ended his story. The room sat speechless. Then what? How did you escape? A master storyteller of suspense!

"My job as a film maker is to show perspectives," he continued. And he wants to show perspectives that are less known. Like from the view of the attacker. Why did those men pick him up? Why did that punk rocker get molested? His TED talk would be about the importance of seeing different perspectives.

The room exploded in applause. It was incredible.

The curators told us they would talk on Monday and let auditions know their decision shortly thereafter. I spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with old friends and mustering up courage to deal with old strings, like selling my old wedding dress and sorting through Ryan's old climbing magazines left in the basement of my old house that my sister now occupies.

Monday came and went. By Thursday, I still hadn't heard. No news is good news, I figured. And then an email came.

"We truly enjoyed meeting you and hearing your story.  We know you've been patiently waiting to hear back from us.  Unfortunately, we have some difficult news to share that impacts your application.
 
We have decided to cancel TEDxSeattle 2015.  This was an incredibly difficult decision for us to make, and we did not do so lightly.  A host of factors, both event-related and personal, have made it clear to us that we will serve everyone best by making this decision now.
 
We trust that you will find other forums to tell your story, as you wouldn't have made it as far as you did in our process if we didn't already believe in you."

Lame sauce! But it beats rejection, I guess. And that's not going to stop me in getting my word out there...

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TEDxSeattle Audition - Coming Soon!

I'm petrified. And yet I'm thrilled.

About a month ago my sister told me that TEDx is coming to Seattle. She sent me a link to their application and on a whim I filled it out. I want to share with the world my experience with sudden death as a gift and my desire to shift the paradigm around death and dying.

Grief is a gift.

So I filled out their extensive questionnaire. What is it that you want to share? Why do you feel the audience needs to know this? What is it that you hope to change in the world? How does your presentation fit into Seattle's TEDx brand, Dive In? Where have you dove into something before? Have you been coached? Are you open to being coached?

I answered all of their questions truthfully and openly. And in a way, I didn't expect to hear anything back.

But I did.

Within a week I received an invite to audition in Seattle. Except there was one minor glitch - they wanted me to audition on 12/13/14 - our wedding day. I responded immediately and the curator told me not to fear - they were going to hold a second audition for people unable to make the first one. My audition is now on 1/23/15.



And I'm petrified and thrilled.

A platform. A way to get my word out there beyond my local community. An opportunity!

Time is ticking.

Being the book worm I am, I perused Boulder's library - looking for books on presenting and on grieving. To my surprise, there are more books on grief and dying then when I first looked back in 2008. And yet none of the titles at first glance focus on the light in the darkness. None of the books jump out and appear to throw a life line during a troubling time when most people are searching for hope.

I grabbed a few titles published after 2008 to see if the main theme remained the same. It's hard to revisit the darkest time in my life, yet it's inspiring to go back there and be reminded of what I can bring to the world: my own perspective on the subject.

I also found a book titled, "Talk Like TED." Nailed it. And as I read about the hours and hours of practice, the need to connect to the audience through narrative and showing them something new, something that inspires, something that they can learn from - I panicked.

How on earth is my story about Ryan's death going to inspire complete strangers?

On the other hand, how is it not?

My self-doubt flooded my mind as I read this morning and I was answered with the following:

"Some speakers take a defeatist attitude. They don't think they have anything new to teach people. Sure they do. We all do. We all have unique stories to tell. You might not have the same experiences as the speakers in this chapter, but you have stories just as interesting and valuable in your journey of discovery. Pay attention to the stories of your life. If they teach you something new and valuable, there's a good chance other people will want to hear about it."



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Something worth celebrating!

We're getting married in three days. I repeat: WE'RE GETTING MARRIED IN THREE DAYS!!!

This isn't my first rodeo. It's actually my second. And for those who don't know my story - I am a widow. Ryan died in September of 2008 in a rock climbing accident. Life as I knew it was thrown upside down. Yet I made a choice early on in my grieving process to look at loss as a gift. To make the most of it. And it opened my eyes and heart to possibilities I didn't know existed.

On our first date I asked Benjamin, "Who are you?" He read my blog and knew all about my story, my loss, my resolve to live on.

"Your love for Ryan was so apparent. That's the kind of love I want. I've never settled for anything less," he admitted to me on our first date.

As I looked across the table I made a resolve right then and there to love him. I barely knew him. But I knew, just knew, we shared something special.

And now in just a few short days, I'm marrying to my best friend.

My eyes fill with tears to have found love again and to be loved back. And I thank Ryan for showing me how to love and live and to Benjamin for making it all possible.

Monday, November 10, 2014

"Training doesn't tickle"

This morning I had a list of excuses before I even woke up...

It's windy.
I'm tired.
I'm sore.
I didn't sleep well.
It's going to snow this morning.
My heart rate is high and my oxygen saturation is low.

And according to my new RestWise program, training today will be severely compromised. Wait, what? Suddenly a program is telling me how I feel? 

We all have days where we feel less than rested. Where our muscles and minds are sore from  weekend beatings. Where getting back in the saddle sounds unbearable.

I text a few of my excuses to Ben to which he responded, "Training doesn't tickle." 

But the wind... and snow... and my legs....

He would have none of it. And thank goodness he didn't. Training requires dedication, hard work, effort and above all, a good attitude.

It's an interesting position being coaching by your lover and best friend. He has to be willing to call me on my nonsense. He's a great coach - holding me accountable for my actions. Especially if my actions are not in line with my goals. He wants me to rise to my potential and take full advantage of my opportunities - to be my best. It is an incredible feeling to have someone in my corner who is not only rooting me on but encouraging, guiding and cheering for me.

And even though sometimes he tells me things I don't want to hear or admit, I am thankful for the trust, honesty and respect we share with one another. It's a two way street and we help each other grow.

So when I ask what makes a great coach - I know exactly what kind of coach I adore and love. How lucky am I that I get to marry him?

Monday, November 03, 2014

My mom, the fisherman.

I come from a long line of fishermen. My Hawaiian/Chinese/Scottish lineage ingrained a deep-seated wisdom to put a line with a hook on it in the sea and survive. But they did more than just survive, my family thrived. Despite adversity, despite the odds, despite any challenges. Despite being outnumbered, lacking fancy equipment or special bait. Moments after putting a line in the water, they would pull out the biggest, fattest fish in the sea.

And then laugh about it.

My mom always had the gift. When she was a little girl, she would go out in a boat with her dad and brother. Off the coast of Hawaii, near the bay where our family had their piece of land, they would rock back and forth in an outboard motor boat in the warm Pacific ocean. Her brother would cast his line in the sea and get a little nibble, only to find a fish stole his bait.

She'd flash a quick grin, cast her line in the sea and within minutes pull in fish after fish after fish.

And then laugh about it.

Over the years, men would try to out fish her. They would create tournaments and fishing vacations, put trophies on the wall for the biggest halibut, the largest of king salmons, boasting of their bounties. Not many women dared set foot in this hunting ground. It was intimidating. She would see men lined up ready to go out for the day on the ocean and she would walk past them get into a boat and head out to the same fishing grounds. Time after time she would limit out hours before they even hooked one fish.

It goes beyond fishing. She went to college in LA, majoring in Business Management in 1968. She was the only woman in her class. Her dad tried to convince her to be a secretary, something more traditional. Despite his wishes, she picked management. She didn't want to be a secretary. She wanted to have her own secretary.

In the 90s she would find herself the only woman in the real estate business world in Seattle and have men try to persuade her she should let a man do what she was doing. She should just give someone else the power she had earned. So she'd out fish them.

And now, I find my sister and I are in a current full of men in our separate professions. She's in tech and I'm in cycling coaching. And guess what we're going to do?

Out fish them.
"It's not about working harder - just smarter."

Monday, October 20, 2014

Fall Resolutions

His description of the incident was easy to picture. As much as I try to avoid it, I ride Highway 36 several times a week. It links Boulder to one of the mountain canyons through Lyons, leading up to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Peak to Peak Highway and beyond. It's two lanes with a wide shoulder. Boulder county cyclists use it all the time even though traffic cruises by at 50+mph. I wince every time a big truck zooms by - a breezy and loud reminder that my spandex offers no protection should something happen. But you can't think that way. You'd be paralyzed and never leave the house.

So when I read the recollection of Adelaide's t-bone encounter with a turning vehicle, I winced. That could be me. That could be Benjamin. That could be any one of my friends. It happened to someone in our community. To someone I met sitting on the sidelines cheering Kennett on at the Superior Morgul crit.

There are reminders big and small that echo how short life is. That life is precious, brief and surreal. Our job is to live life to the fullest and make sure those you love know it and tell them often.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Go Out For Adventure... Come Home For Love

Speaking of adventure... we're headed to Moab this week. The car is packed with hard tails, dual suspension, fork mounts, enough food to feed a small army, Moscow Mule makings, more food and some spandex. What we hope to find: single track on red dirt, smiles on everyone's face and giggles had by all. Oh, and good eating.

My mom visited Boulder this past week and we ran around to Beaver Creek, Pearl Street, the Farm Stand, Salt, Peppercorn and different grocery stores. We ate well, laughed hard and almost cried. I take that back - I'm crying now. I miss her. To go from seeing her everyday to only twice or so a year is hard. She fills such a large place in my heart. I am so lucky.

We've lived here four and a half months now - long enough to see two seasons. Makiah is aging - I catch her with her little tongue hanging out while she sleeps. Moonli has grey around his eyes now, complimenting his grey muzzle. My hair is midway down my back. All signs that time is marching on. What an incredible summer. One that I could put on repeat for the rest of my life.

And we're getting closer to 12.13.14....