This week my mulberries decided to get all dressed up! I put them both in the ground last spring, and this the first year the black tree has fruited. It has also grown, and is just taller than me – about 6 foot.
In case you can’t tell from the photo, the fruit are sweet and super juicy! They also leave a violet stain on your hands.
Neighbours, today I am grateful for my lovely neighbours. Yesterday I was feeling a little low – I had taken a week’s leave to get the garden sorted, and a big list of projects to complete. Six days later I realised that despite having worked really hard and being exhausted, I was not going to get it all done. Then the ladies from across the road popped by and one told me she was glad someone was giving the house some attention and the other gave me some empathy for the overwhelm I was feeling. She also shared her plans for her garden. So I got some acknowledgement, appreciation, shared reality and connection. I am feeling re-inspired today 🙂
This is a bit of a change of pace for my blog – I am writing this post because a couple of people have asked me for a hand when writing a speech and I want to pop my thoughts somewhere where they are easily shared…
so, you have just been approached to speak
… at a special occasion. It may be a wedding; it may be a retirement party; or perhaps a funeral. You may have anticipated this moment, or it may be a surprise. You may be a confident speaker, you may be feeling overwhelmed. In any circumstance, if you want to give a beautiful speech, one that is real and comes from the heart, it will help to consider and bring together the following aspects:
yourself: your feelings and experience
the person you are celebrating: their life, accomplishments, and relationships
the people who will receive your speech: their needs and expectations.
This post talks about how to consider and acknowledge your own feelings and experiences to prepare yourself for the writing. I will link to posts that will help you get together your thoughts about the person you are celebrating and connect with the folk who will receive your speech as I publish them.
your feelings and experience
At any special occasion, you may be feeling a lot of feelings. There may be joy and anticipation. There is also likely to be a surprising element of grief. You may be about to lose a valued member of staff to retirement, a family member who is relocating to a partner’s hometown, or you may be grieving a loved one who has died. Many of us are familiar with Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief . We expect to be working our way through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. However, it may come as an unpleasant surprise that these emotions may hit us at a happy celebration, or that they arrive several at a time, or in the ‘wrong’ order or that some may linger, or come and come again. This is actually all normal and ok*. Kubler-Ross herself did not suggest that one needs to spend a certain amount of time in any stage, or advocate trying to rush through grieving. Nor did she suggest that there was an orderly or predictable progression through the emotions of grief.
This is important because to write a eulogy from the heart you will need to be connected to your heart, to be vulnerable, open. Acknowledgement of all of the emotions associated with your grief as you are experiencing it also allows you to more fully explore what your colleague, friend, or loved one means to you and the significance of their place in your life. There may be surprises in this.
The following exercise can help you acknowledge rather than rush through your emotions. I was introduced to it by nonviolent communication teacher, Thom Bond.** Read through the exercise fully before you begin.
an exercise to help you connect with your heart and feelings
Find a time and a safe and comfortable place where you are not going to be disturbed by noise, light, or activities around you.
Set a timer for five minutes.
Sit down, close your eyes and ask yourself: What am I feeling?
As the feelings arise, answer the question honestly and simply. “I am feeling…”
This may sound like: “I am feeling nothing, I am feeling bored, I am feeling a little upset, I am feeling curious, I am feeling anguished. I am disappointed, I am bitter, I am bitter, I am scared, I am jealous, I am ashamed, I am weary, I am feeling a deep, sweet sadness.”
You may find you get stuck on a particular feeling for the entire five minutes. You may cycle through a number of feelings. There are no wrong feelings or wrong periods of time. There is only you feeling your feelings.
Just sit for 5 minutes (or longer) and keep asking yourself: What am I feeling?
If at any time you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, open your eyes and do what you need to do to feel safe and comfortable again, then resume the exercise.
You may find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of what you or others could or should have done/said/been. Approach these thoughts especially gently. If you find yourself berating yourself or others, acknowledge the emotion and the cause. This may sound like:
“I am feeling really yukky because I wish it was me having the baby and I would like to be happy for her, but part of me is just stuck in feeling mad and sad.”
“I am pissed off – I spent all that time training her and now she has accepted a transfer!”
“I am feeling awkward because really my brother was there to help her and I rarely called.”
“I am angry because I spent all those years looking after her and now that she is dead everyone else turns up! I wish they would acknowledge how hard that was for me instead of making excuses.”
“I am afraid. I have never lived alone, I don’t know that I have what it takes.”
I find that just acknowledging this stuff can loosen its grip on me, but I have called a counselling service a few times, when I needed help to work through something. For this reason, I have included links to sites in Australia and New Zealand where you can find information about free services, should you need them.
so, what do you do with all this emotion?
I would use it as a starting point to think about what the person I am going to talk about really means to me. You may get connected to how much the person has contributed to your workplace, to your community and your life. Some of it might make its way into the speech: “Geez, when Mary told me she was leaving, I actually panicked a bit but only because I realised how much she does around this place and I know replacing her will be impossible,” followed by a list of wonderful things Mary contributes to the workplace, of course!
However, the real value of the exercise and connecting to your emotions is that this genuine connection will underpin your speech, making it easier to be real when you are standing up in front of all the people. Please try it and let me know how it goes for you.
This post covered the first of three aspects that I believe you need to consider and integrate to write and deliver a beautiful eulogy or special occasion speech. When I write about the other two aspects: the person you are celebrating; and the people who will receive your speech, I will update this post with the links.
* this is totally my opinion, I am not a counsellor and am not qualified in any healing or therapeutic practices other than sport massage but I don’t tell people about that.
**I would totally recommend Thom’s online course – and a reminder – taking a few courses in nonviolent communication does not make me an expert, or qualified.
counselling: Australia and New Zealand
I’m happy to add more sites, if anyone wants one added, please provide the information in the comments.
Yesterday, on my third day of leave I sat in the long grass, in the shade of our callistemon and right next to the new chook run my daughter and I made the day before. I was exhausted from an hour’s digging, so I sat very still and quiet for a while. Still enough and for long enough to be approached by a pair of usually timid crested pigeons. They hopped, one at a time onto the chooks water container and had a little sip of water, just a hand’s breadth from me.
When I was young I thought these birds were drab beyond belief – just grey and beige and a few black stripes. Yesterday, I got to see them close enough to notice that their stripes are iridescent, purple and green flashing in the sun. The beige is like a blush shawl, dusted gently over the shoulders. These little birds are also delightfully dainty, especially when sitting among my fat hens.
I am grateful today for the beauty in the ordinary and for having taken the time to notice.
Thank you also Melanie J Cook for the beautiful photo.
I’m grateful for writing today, for reading, for writing, for literacy. I’m glad I can get my thoughts and feelings out on paper, or on my screen, to be fully explored and expressed. I love the sense of relief and satisfaction when I have something satisfactorily writ down.
I’m glad to read the thoughts and feelings of others, for a sense of shared reality. I love the sense of quiet and contemplation that can flow easily into a written conversation when all participants take a little time to reflect and go a little deeper than may happen in the spoken world.
I love reading and writing beautiful things, opening little windows and exposing the word in it’s raw, wild, unfathomable beauty. I love poetry.
I love the practicality of writing a list, a note, a memo or email, jotting it down into the external drive, so I don’t need to endlessly toss it around in my mind. The freedom and release of letting that go!
I do wish my handwriting was a little more legible though 🙂
Felling grateful for being kind to myself when I made a mistake. Giving myself a break. Taking it easy. Cutting myself a little slack and reminding myself that it is all already ok and there is no need to stress out.