I felt fraudulent. Almost like a liar. But I discovered something.
Three times on this trip last trip I have been approached and asked a question. Each time it happened, it was a quiet moment. Each voice had some pain in it, pain that hinted at a story untold. Each question exactly the same. "How do you manage to keep your passion for what you do?"
This is such a hard question to answer. Though words often come easily to me, expressing things that are about such a deep part of me is very difficult. So I give answers that are true, that I believe, but that are only a few inches deep.
I talk about how, in a single generation, people with disabilities have gone from being idiots and morons to neighbours and friends. I talk about having been there at the closure of one instituion and now looking at the closure of several more - about how well people have moved home. I talk about the daily joys outweighing the momentary frustrations.
It's all true. But passion doesn't spring from such as these. It's a deeper fire. And I didn't know how to answer. Each of the three smiled and thanked me for my time, they had come to me famished and left still hungry. I knew that. It's hard disappointing someone, but I didn't know what to say, how to describe it.
Then, Camrose. We checked into the hotel and then went in search of where I was to present the next day. Another hotel. Another lecture. I knew something was wrong when I asked Joe what the topic was the next day and he told me that the file with times and topics was downstairs in the car. He offered to go get it. I told him that it could wait till the morning. He looked surprised, but he also looked relieved, and that was that.
I never, ever, ever, go to sleep not knowing what the next days lecture was to be about. Even though I've done them thousands of times, I mull them over in my head through the night, I kind of marinate in the ideas. But I broke routine. As it turned out the folks from Camrose were absolutely wonderful. They were welcoming. Wildly caring about what they did. Wanting to look at themselves and their service carefully and critically. I pulled so much strength from them. That done, we headed for Calgary.
Calgary has loomed large in my mind for a long time. This was the last stop on the lecture trail for the summer. With one exception I am home for two months. It's not that I'm not working over the summer. I'm teaching summer school here in Barrie and working down in Toronto at the office ... but I'm not hauling butt around the globe talking, talking, talking. So Calgary mattered.
The first day in Calgary was fine. I met with the organizer, who confessed to being a groupie - who could quote my training tapes that she uses in staff orientation and training even down to the tone of voice and inflection on words - she was funny and cool. When the day ended I felt it. The end was in sight. One more day. Just one more day.
Yesterday I rose to a sense of no purpose. I didn't want to do the work. Didn't want to do the day. I was exhausted from the travel, tired of the words and sorry for myself. I kept shaking myself. I had been given a wonderful audience here in Calgary. They were so alive. So willing to learn. I felt unworthy of them.
In the little lecture hall, I began the day. The words were coming out of my mouth, I was caring about them. But a couple of times, right in the middle of a story, I'd be thinking. "I'm not going to make it. I can't do it." But I'd buck up and continue. Even on the home stretch the day seemed long to me. I saw Joe up in the corner of the room. He was laughing. This was a good sign. When things aren't going well in a lecture he has a look of real concern on his face. His laughter relieved me, it was ok, it was going to be ok. I was going to make it.
Suddenly, I knew that in order to make the finish line, I was going to have to dig deep. I smiled inwardly and realized for the first time that sports heros when asked about their stamina and determination are reduced to stock phrases like, "I just dug down deep." "I just tapped into my reserves." They were trying to explain what it was to stoke the bodies furnace and the minds passion, and like me, failing.
Then I had to do it. Dig down. Deep.
And I understood, really for the first time where it all comes from. What I should have said to those who asked.
I'm sorry it's not prettier.
I'm sorry it's not deeper.
How do I keep my passion.
"By knowing it matters."