I didn't know it, but this was exactly what I needed

Monday I wrote from my heart in a way that I haven’t really done before. Now I want to share where it came from. 

Last weekend, I attended Podcasters Across Borders (PAB), a conference that has a slightly misleading name. It’s actually all about content. 

No, that’s not entirely accurate.

I think PAB is more accurately described as a conference that is about content that connects. Content that builds relationships. Content that touches a need. These themes were carried through the entire conference this weekend. I came away inspired, uplifted, and even emotionally exhausted. I was not at all prepared for this experience and I think that was a good thing. Had I prepared, I think I would have guarded myself more and not felt what was happening quite so deeply and that would have been a shame.

I went prepared to work. Ipad and phone in hand, ready to take notes and tweet like crazy with my profound and highly insightful thoughts or quotes from speakers. I did a little of that, but it didn’t take long before the conference pulled me in so completely that I put my phone down, didn’t even bother taking my ipad out of my bag and just soaked it all in.

The result is that I honestly don’t remember exactly who said what that stuck with me but there was one session that affected me deeply and profoundly. But let me set the stage for you:

Friday night was the conference keynote where Scott Florence from Company of Fools shared the advice that we should try to fail. That sounds odd, and I may be putting words into his mouth, but I interpreted it as encouragement to jump in to something without planning it to the nth degree. It reminded me of a band director I had who always told us if we were going to make a mistake to make it a big one because they’re easier to hear and fix. People who make quiet mistakes and fly under the radar don’t get noticed and they rarely do great things. Scott’s keynote inspired me to get out and DO the things I’ve been talking about doing - to my family, my partner, and to myself.

While I walked away from Friday night feeling energized and inspired, Saturday morning I was pretty tired after staying up too late working, but I brightened up when I saw these as I was leaving my house:

The focus is horrible due to my rush to get to the conference.

We made an essential stop on our way downtown. This was a first - I’ve seen Caren and Carrin, but never Carren. I always thought my spelling was the default, too…guess I was wrong. ;)

The short walk from where Matt dropped me off to the NAC was gorgeous and I decided to take some pictures for Brandon, who got very upset as soon as I got out of the car.

All this picture taking was putting me into a lovely mindset for the day. It struck me as I was walking down the sidewalk running beside the NAC just how utterly gorgeous Ottawa was right then in that moment. (Yes, always, but right then it was spectacular.)

The picture may not reflect the spectacularness, but trust me on this. It was.This gives you an idea of my hopefulness for the day - eagerness to learn and gain wisdom from others. 

In truth, I had no clue what I was walking into would be more profound and emotional than I ever expected to experience in such a venue. Our kickoff speaker Saturday was a last-minute replacement because the scheduled speaker was unable to make it.

Jason Goldsmith drove two hours that morning from Montreal to join us in Ottawa and I forgot all about my disappointment at not hearing the original speaker as I realized that this was the speaker I needed to hear. Jason is father to Ellis. Ellis is autistic, which has presented challenges to their family. I suspect the communication challenges were the biggest of all. I would love to reiterate Jason’s story, but he does a much better job and what I got out of it was much more important than what was said.

You see, during this session, I was receiving a string of texts from Matt keeping me posted on Brandon. They went immediately back home and Brandon proceeded to meltdown for over an hour. Until this:

I’m sitting there listening to this amazing story, thinking about our own situation with Brandon and knowing that Matt is dealing with an inconsolable child. It was all too much. I was overwhelmed, emotional, at my limit. Just thinking about that hour and a half brings the tears back again. I think that Jason’s talk was host to the moment that I realized that this was real and not going away easily. At the same time, I felt hope that it would be okay, even if it was hard work to get the help Brandon needs. 

If that was the start of the day, what would the rest bring?

Next up was a jolt from Robin Browne, who was eloquent and thought-provoking. He challenged us to think differently and look for the grey in life. To think, not strictly in black and white, but to realize there is more going on than we even realize. He tied in some racial commentary, noting that the first tablet built in Africa wasn’t deemed newsworthy. Yet, that really should be, shouldn’t it? The media thinks in black and white too.

By this time my head was swirling. I don’t even remember who came next. At some point, I talked to Jason, but after the first couple of speakers and because I consciously decided to focus on the speakers and not take notes, I have actually lost some of that day.

But after lunch…oh, that amazing lunch and creme brulee!…I was better. More focused. But not actually prepared to be so completely blown away by one of my lunch table mates. Brandon Wint…just, wow. The PAB video isn’t ready yet, but he spoke at TEDxOttawa and you can see the video here:

I could listen to Brandon Wint talk all day. The pictures he paints with words, spontaneously and unrehearsed, are beautiful, touching and profound. His love of poetry, love of life, love of his country…love of love…come through loud and clear through his art and his person.

You can see now why I say that PAB was about content that connects. In some way, shape or form, I connected with every single speaker and all the people I got to speak to that I shared this experience with. I wish I could share every little morsel with you, because it filled me up so completely.

At the end of the day, when all the speakers were done speaking, it’s an annual tradition to take a PAB family photo. So, we all filed outside to the steps of the NAC where, of course, we saw a young man portaging a pink canoe.

Source: Bob Goyetche

And, of course, he needed to be in our picture too. Because when you see a pink canoe walking down Elgin Street and you have a camera, you take a picture. Lots of them.

 

Meet Andy, new friend to PAB2012 attendees, simply because he had a pink canoe. Andy’s on a mission to raise awareness and funds for cancer. Clearly, he is not afraid of hard work. His journey started in Kingston, Ontario and he came up to Ottawa and now he’s heading back to Kingston and beyond - all the way to Windsor. 

Carrying a very heavy canoe all the way. 

Wow.

If you want to find out more about The Pink Portage, you should definitely follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Andy moved on, taking up his canoe and continuing on his journey.

That’s what the final PAB felt like - the start of a journey for me personally. The inspiration, the community, the thoughts swirling in my brain still after nearly a week. It was my first and my last trip to PAB, but I’ll never forget it.

Day 22 - Passion (#reverb11)

Passion - If you could quit your day job and your quality of life wouldn’t change, what would you do?

*****

I think about this all the time. It’s actually what drives a lot of what I do in my free time, because that’s when I finally get to work on the things that I really love.

If I were to quit my day job to do the thing I love to do, I would help businesses develop strategies to use social media effectively.

I’d continue to build up communities that are supportive and helpful.

I would spend a bit more time writing in this space where I get to chronicle the life I love and share my thoughts.

In some ways, nothing would change. And yet, this would make a huge difference for me.

December 15 - 5 Minutes (#reverb10)

December 15 - 5 Minutes. Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

I feel like this prompt is a tall order, but here goes.

Setting my timer.

Go.

(If you thought this was going to be a post written in five minutes, sorry to disappoint. I made my list and now I’m going to expound on what I’ve listed.) ;)

  1. Matt’s amazingness. It’s no big secret that I think my husband is tops. But I don’t write about it often enough around here. However, when I do, I try to make a major statement. Few people get to know this man I love well, but I got to be one of the (incredibly lucky) chosen few. Actually, I got the unmistakable pleasure of spending my entire life with him. He makes me laugh, supports me, loves me no matter what. And it’s a daily thing that I want to remember and not take for granted.
  2. Brandon’s progress. One year ago, as we prepared to enter 2010, Brandon’s vocabulary really started to take off. He’s a late bloomer when it comes to his verbal skills, but like everything, once he starts wanting to use the skills, he’s unstoppable and smart as a whip. Yesterday, he told me “Get up, right now!” (My friend, his daycare provider, will likely note some influence in that statement from some children she knows and loves.) :) It made me smile to hear him express himself so fully and completely, if a little tentatively. We don’t have night wakings or bottles to deal with anymore. We get fewer and fewer requests to be carried. My baby boy has left his babyhood behind, but the best is yet to come. 2011 is going to be another very interesting year with my sweet little boy.
  3. New friends/community. When I was in my late teens/early twenties, I spent a lot of time in online chat rooms. It was a blast meeting people from all over the world. I had a friend in Russia who practiced his English skills by chatting with me. A friend in Australia who once sent me a chapter from a book he was writing - I was blown away with how good it was. I hope he’s a published author by now. I mostly talked to people in good ol’ North America - many of them Canadians and one of which I stayed in touch with as recently as a couple of years ago. (I should really write her again soon.) Most of my online relationships dwindled as life offline took over and I spent less time in the chat rooms. But this year I jumped into a local community on twitter that has been more rewarding than any previous relationship I’ve started online (with exception to my husband, of course). Now, I’m part of something that is making my life healthier and I’ve made some great friends because of it. The Losing It gang is a significant part of that, but it doesn’t end there. The Ottawa blogging community is a group that does good work for the community at large and supports each other through thick and thin.
  4. Newfound abilities. This year was a learning experience for me about myself. I learned that I can handle so much more than I ever thought I could. I was forced to deal with conflict in several different ways throughout the year and discovered that I could do it with maturity, dignity and calm strength. I’ve always shied away from conflict in just about every form (often even with family). Whether it was work-related or personal relationships. Learning that I could handle it well was enlightening and empowering.
  5. New perspective on friendship. Friendship is a precious type of relationship and it’s come up a lot in my writing this year. Whether it’s with a spouse, a family member or a non-relative. When a friendship is good, it benefits all parties. When it’s bad, it’s better to let go. When two people just don’t click, no matter how much you may want it to or how hard you try, sometimes it just makes more sense to let it fizzle out naturally. Making those decisions is hard, but life is too short to take up time on something that’s going nowhere.
  6. Finally nurturing a hobby I love more than reading. (Hint: Writing.) I started blogging nearly two years ago and didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do, whether I would stick with it (that wasn’t the plan) or if I’d even enjoy it. It didn’t take long before I realized that I really liked the process. I don’t care about being popular or making money off; it’s something I do purely for me.

2010 has been a great year and I don’t want to forget the things that meant the most to me. So, I’m glad this is just a writing prompt and not an inevitability. 

December 7 – Community (#reverb10)

December 7 – Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris)

Of all the prompts so far, this one goes straight to my heart. I’ve had more community in my life this year than I’ve had most of my life. I built relationships at work that will last beyond the last day we worked together. That’s happened before, but usually with one or two people. I connected with roughly 10 people I’m still in touch with and miss. That was the best part of working at my former employer. The community amongst the staff was incredible. I’ll miss the dynamic of working with such a large group of awesome people.

While that was going on in my professional life, I somehow stumbled onto the local blogging community in Ottawa. Though I’d been blogging (irregularly) for over a year, I had no idea this incredible group existed in this town.

I’m a naturally shy person, but the blogging community welcomed me and accepted me and wanted to work with me. I found friends with similar struggles. They help me get through my tough times and I support them through theirs. And we’re all each other’s cheerleaders - in every area of life.

This year, I found out just how important community is to me in a way I never realized before. From talking to me for hours over the stress in my life, to taking me to Toronto for my first blogging conference, to driving across town to sit at my house so my husband and I could celebrate our anniversary, this community has reaffirmed for me (over and over) that building relationships with others is worth the risk.