Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Personal Note

After I finish a lecture, I'm a bit out of it. Those who don't do public speaking, I'm not sure they understand the rigors of it and the amount of energy that goes into the output. Someone said to me once, "What a great job, you just sit up there and talk." Well, I'm glad it looks easy, but it certainly isn't. Just try sitting and talking for 5 hours about anything!

This is not whining, I love my job and I love the opportunity to affect people and thereby, hopefully, affect change. It's just to explain something that happened when lecturing in Nanaimo. Just after finishing lecturing Joe and a woman I recognized from the deep past, appeared. I had finished only moments ago and my mind was full of the 'after lecture confusion' that I experience. She handed me a bag and in the bag was an old textbook. She was talking to me about Bob and that she had two books with his signature in it and that she knew I'd want one.

I knew immediately that she was talking about Bob Clayton, my best friend of years go who died way to young a long while back. But in the confusion of the moment, with a rush of emotion that I didn't know what to do with, I let the moment pass with simply a 'Thank you'.

In fact it's taken me a couple of days to get the courage up to open the book and look at Bob's signature in it. He and I, as I've written here in the blog before, used to work together at a group home in Toronto. I fell in like with him right away and we became good friends. He was dating a guy named Norman at the time and it was an odd and bad match. I think that relationship was part of the reason he left to live in Vancouver.

Relationships, friendships, often break down over distance. But Bob and I managed to talk regularly and I saw him on my frequent trips to British Columbia. His friendship truly mattered to me. Every time I visited him he was smaller and more frail. The AIDS virus was attacking him without care or without mercy. I talked with him the day before he slipped away into a coma, the day before he went away.

Bob left me a memento that was truely him and I treasure it, even though it isn't truly me ... a joke only he could have made. But this book with his signature means so much to me. I remember checking the staff sheet to see what shifts we were working together. I remember going out to the Black Swan for drinks after. I remember laughing and laughing and laughing.

It was Bob who taught me how to relate to people with disabilities with expectation and without pity. It was Bob who taught me that disability meant possibility, that you make up for past abuse by present joy. He'd had it tough over the years, but Bob used his past to make possible a victorious tomorrow. He was a cool dude.

So, Pam, I'm sorry I didn't really react when you gave me the book. After a lecture I'm always a bit 'alien'. But I want you to know that it's a gift that I appreciate beyond measure.

Would that I be remembered as Bob is remembered.


Anonymous said...

I understand exactly what you mean about being "out of it" after lecturing - I am, too! Yes, even the "talking for 5 hours" part.

Afterwards there are questions, and I struggle to be sure I am understanding what it is that people are needing, rather than just pulling out automated responses to some of their key words.

My lunch breaks are sacred; sometimes people want to sit and chat, but I need that "down time" to sit and rock, and rest my voice, and gather up enough momentum to continue the second half.

Presenting is hard work. I am mobile, and trapped between wanting to be up with the audience more but still having to go back and forward to the next slide. I am sociable, but strain to remember to consciously make eye contact with people, and do so with everyone in the audience.

I really enjoying presenting / lecturing. But when I'm done, and my Bag of Holding is packed up, I so very much need to go away somewhere and be alone to rest and rock and recharge my social battery. After I get to do that, I can interact with people again.

But of course, after the lecture everyone in the audience wants to be able to interact!


theknapper said...

And with the work that you do & have done & the countless people you have touched you also have no idea what/who is coming towards you & what you'll be given.
Bob sounds like he was an incredibble guy who really understood the work & healing that can happen.

FridaWrites said...

Remember the painting you passed back to someone who knew the artist? Karma has its gifts.

Anonymous said...

David, I realized afterwards, that I caught you off guard, and I'm sorry for that. I have to tell you that I was worried about giving you the book, as I wasn't sure that it would mean what it has to me, or if instead I would be burdening you with an old out of date book that you would now unfairly feel responsible for (thinking of how you must have had to get rid of many possessions, moving to the apartment). With my "worry" set on this track, I decided to wait until the end of the lecture. How silly of me to not consider where your mindset would be at, after lecturing all day (and for the second day straight!)

Bob was my best friend (too) for the years we worked together in the Kootenays. in fact, his god daughter (my daughter) Sarah was one of the self-advocates in your audience that day. Bob was a treat to know and love, and as you know, an incredible friend to have. He shared stories of working with you and was so proud to have you as a friend~ the circle was completed for me when your beautiful eulogy was read out at his memorial service. We're both blessed to have had him as part of our lives.

And just so you know, that day your simple thank you was more than enough. And today, your explanation is an appreciated gift. Thank you, David.

Glee said...

The difficulty I have with public speaking is that many people remember me long after the event. They then come up to me months or even years later and call me by name and say hello. It freaks me out a bit as I don't know if I should know them or not.

I used to pretend but now I don't, I just ask them where they know me from as sorry I don't remember. That works fine, they don't mind and they tell me and everyone is happy.

Thanks for your memories of Bob.