For several years, I have attended a conference in Iowa called the “Empowerment Conference” for persons with disabilities. Last year, they requested suggestions for this year’s conference. I suggested a workshop on the benefits of Therapeutic Writing as this is a subject I feel so strongly about, and which has helped me so very much in dealing with my disabilities, as well as just the challenges of life in general.
Suggesting was apparently very close to volunteering and I was asked late last year to conduct the workshop. I accepted enthusiastically. As time for the conference neared, I felt less and less like I could fulfill this obligation.
After my severe illness in May which has left me with some degree of cognitive and memory impairment, I really did not feel I would be able to lead this workshop.
My thinking was cloudy and as I tried to prepare the handouts for the July first deadline, I couldn’t figure out how to approach this subject. I did finally assemble the handouts, nine days late and submitted them.
Following this, I still could not seem to plan what I would say in an hour and came very close to cancelling numerous times. Yet, as I so strongly believe in the power of the written word, I kept postponing the decision of whether to cancel or try to find someone else to lead the workshop.
By the end of July, I made the decision I would proceed with it doing the best I could.
Next, I had the logistics of how to get there. I knew I had to have my electric wheelchair. My manual one would require too much energy and I would tire too fast. As I have written about before, obtaining handicapped transportation in this area is about as likely as making a fortune panning for gold. Service after service told me they could not accommodate my needs. After two days of calling with frustrating results, I found an ambulance service which would transport me the thirty-six miles to the conference for $134 dollars—one way. I readily accepted this, realizing there was no other way. Then, I set about writing my presentation. I finished it on Monday, the conference being Tuesday through Thursday.
I was also apprehensive realizing I would be out of my “comfort zone” of home for three days and two nights. I did stay in a wonderful handicapped room, and due to my sleep disorder, was allowed a private room, whereas others were required to have roommates.
The trip down was great and I enjoyed the first day of the conference.. My presentation was the second morning, the second session. I skipped the first session to focus on my presentation.
I went down early to assess the room and make sure I had a microphone which did not require standing at the podium. I moved the tables around to where I felt comfortable that. even without being able to stand, I felt like I would be able to be seen.
My session initially had forty-five signed to attend, then a couple days before my presentation, it rose to fifty-six. In reality, seventy-five people attended, several wanting to start their own therapeutic writing groups. Others were just interested in some independent writing/journaling. I did point out the role of an online writing community which allows connection with other writers as an important part of my writing program.
I have done some public speaking before, but this time, talking about a subject I am so passionate about, I was not even nervous. I wanted to share with others the gift of writing I have received. I would say it was my best presentation ever.
I made it through the rest of the conference in fine shape, although was happy to get home to my beagle and the comforts of home, but so glad I persevered in attending the conference and presenting.
Today, I am tired and sore from too many hours of sitting in a wheelchair, but ever so glad I went, and I feel, made a difference in the lives of others with disabilities.