Archive for November, 2010

Pills, Skills, or Will?

November 28th, 2010 No comments

Someone said to me, “How did you get over your depression?” Looking back 17 years, after researching and writing a book on the subject, I recalled sleeping in till afternoon, unable to concentrate, sad, worried, physically underactive, mentally overactive including questioning the value of staying alive — and always my attention on myself. And I couldn’t help recalling, too, the difficulties I experienced after four strong drugs were prescribed in the psychiatric ward of that Toronto hospital. In fact, my short-term memory damage affects me still.                    

What I told my friend took about two minutes, but I thought I should give you a slightly longer version, starting with how it’s treated.                    

Clinical or major depression is generally treated in one of two ways — antidepressant pills or antidepressant skills. (I’m not touching here on bipolar or manic depression, nor am I touching on ECT — Electro Convulsive Therapy — commonly known as shock treatment). Commonly prescribed antidepressant pills include those such as Prozac  and Paxil. Antidepressant skills are generally developed through Talk Therapy — usually CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy).                        

Antidepressant pills. Why are antidepressant drugs like Prozac and Paxil prescribed and how do they work? It is assumed there is a physical problem — effectively brain-disease. That there is a chemical imbalance, specifically that the level of serotonin is too low. That the lower mood is a consequence of this lower level of serotonin. When you’re depressed, some of this chemical has gone awol, and there isn’t enough available to enable you to access your happy feelings. The antidepressant drugs work by raising the level of serotonin. Raise your serotonin, raise your mood.                        

Antidepressant skills. Why are antidepressant skills recommended and how do they work? CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) assumes there is a cognitive problem in the mind — effectively incorrect thinking. That the depressed mood is a consequence of this improper thought pattern. Change your mind, change your mood. The great psychologist William James said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can change his life by changing his attitude.” By changing his way of thinking.                        

Antidepressant will. Why is an antidepressant will, or relationship lifestyle, recommended and how does it work?  It is assumed by this spiritual-malaise model that the problem lies in one’s interactions with others — effectively self-centeredness. That the lower mood is the consequence of self-preoccupation. It prescribes getting your eyes off yourself and onto the needs of others. It would say that it is not the condition of my brain or how I think (although these are important) that is central to my peace of mind, but what I do. Life has a bounce-back. What I do for others (good or bad), I effectively do for myself. What I do for myself alone, I do for nobody.       

In the mystic tradition of Islam, Rumi says:
In that moment you are drunk on yourself,
You are the prey of a mosquito…
You lock yourself away in cloud after cloud of grief;
And in that moment you leap free of yourself,
The moon catches you and hugs you in its arms.                                                              

We may know the story of Job in the Torah of Judaism, how he was badly depressed, having lost his business, his family and his health. We may be familiar with the expression “the patience of Job.” But do we know how he was cured of his depression — how he raised his serotonin level? ‘And God turned the captivity of Job when he prayed for his friends.’ When he got his eyes off himself and onto the needs of others.                       

This shows up in the New Testament also. ‘Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’ When we  confess other people’s sins and put the greater attention on ourselves, we get the cart before the horse. But healing requires we do it the other way around — clear our own deck of guilt and get our eyes off ourselves and onto the needs of others.          

To take one example (otherwise this will be not a blog, but a book!), when I was 21 and in  my first year of teaching in the little village of Marlbank, I recommended a student be expelled, and I exaggerated his behaviour — effectively lying — in court. Forty years later while reading a novel by George MacDonald, I realized I had to deal with it. But how? When I finally asked Billy for his forgiveness, which he readily granted, the black cloud I used to see when I woke in the morning, lifted.                       

Where the physical brain-disease model of major or clinical depression prescribes antidepressant pills, and the cognitive-illness view prescribes the antidepressant skills of correct thinking, this relationship lifestyle model prescribes getting one’s eyes off oneself and onto the needs of others after clearing the deck of guilt. For guilt, our stongest emotion, often dresses up as depression and anxiety. You can take a pailful of Paxil, but you won’t budge a depression based on guilt.       

Clearing the deck of guilt is a kind of qualifying condition. Many, in removing their guilt, have thereby removed their depression. Whereas the antidepressant pills path assumes we’re a body, and the antidepressant skills path assumes that beyond the body there’s a mind, what I’m calling the antidepressant will or lifestyle path assumes that beyond the mind there is something else (commonly called spirit). You probably won’t find this ‘antidepressant will’ (or relationship lifestyle) label in medical literature. It’s a tag I came up with after ‘seeing’ the concept in my study of spirituality underlying and common to the various religions. What drove me to that study was finding myself a victim of collateral damage after being prescribed antidepressant and related pills, and finding I needed more than the correct thinking skills offered by CBT.                      

What I am calling the antidepressant will or lifestyle finds no fault with Talk Therapy’s correct thinking model. It simply goes farther. And neither the skills approach nor the will/relationship lifestyle approach results in negative side-effects.      

What are the advantages and disadvantages of each method?  For the doctor, the advantage of pills is they’re easy. Simply write a prescription. And make some follow-up appointments. And as one doctor said to me, “You get the parents off your back because at least you did something.”  There’s never a shortage of pills, while there may be a shortage of money, or available professionals, for Talk Therapy. “How long,” I once asked a pharmacist, “must one must stay on an antidepressant?” His reply? “Well, forever.” And this is true, because if, for any reason, you stop taking the drug,  and it’s out of your system, you’re right back where you started! Unless, in the meantime, you’ve put in place some antidepressant skills or an antidepressant will (lifestyle). I can’t speak to the disadvantages of the skills and the will/lifestyle models as I believe there are none. No one ever got rich selling Talk Therapy. In my own case, at the end of a 25-year marriage I went into hospital with depression. They put me on Prozac, Ativan, Elavil, and Mogodan.  I came out with depression, slow plumbing, no sleep for three weeks, short-term brain memory damage and no sex drive. Now everything is back up again — except my short-term brain memory damage. That’s why I have to keep my notes handy during my speeches.                       

Is there a connection between depression and suicide? In Canada, 90% of teenagers who committed suicide suffered from depression!  The Health Board in the UK has recommended SSRI antidepressants not be prescribed to anyone younger than twenty-five. Why? In this age group, these drugs actually increase thoughts of suicide. As an adult driving to work one morning, I nearly drove over the edge of a bridge. And I feel very sorry for all those who didn’t stop before they went over the edge  — and for those they left behind.                 

Where does this illness reside? Some see depression and anxiety as a brain disease, some as a thinking disease, I see it as a relationship disease. And the relationship disease has repercussions in our thinking pattern and on chemical levels in the brain. I now believe this illness is basically self-preoccupation. One doctor said it is not caused by a shortage of Prozac. In my view, it is caused by an excess of self-attention. In my self-pity, I can lock and bar the door. But the bar that keep others out, keeps me in — in the dark dungeon of despair. And until I open the door to others (which is an inside job), I’m my own jailer.     

If serotonin were seen to be the definitive marker for this illness, it would make sense that getting a blood test to confirm it would be easy if not mandatory. Yet, when I asked for one, my doctor said he’d never heard of it before. And it was hell to pay to get the lab to test for it when I was able to persuade my doctor to give me a requisition. And even if serotonin were always low in a depressed individual (which it probably is) does not prove that is the cause of the illness. It might be a symptom. The real question might be, Does the low level of serotonin cause the low mood? Or, does the low mood cause the low level of serotonin?           

Trade in your self-pity for pity for others. In the place of depression, you’ll pick up peace of mind. For peace of mind and selfishness do not hold hands. Not only do they not go together, they’ve never met. But if the crux of depression is self-preoccupation, how do I remove it? When you take your car to get lubricated, do you worry about getting rid of the old grease? No. The ejection of the old grease results from the injection of the new. So with depression. Don’t focus on getting rid of your self-attention. As you put your eyes on the needs of others, your attention on yourself  lessens automatically.    

Is there a slogan that will help keep me on track? There is. Just as there’s a four-word motto which works every time for losing weight — Eat less, exercise more — so there’s an equally effective mantra for losing depression. Help others, help yourself.                       

Murray acknowledges this blog omits many important aspects of depression. He admits you get a better picture of this widespread illness after reading the book and hearing the speech. He also says, “My purpose is to share smiles, wisdom and encouragement. If you would like me to give a speech to your school or other group, please contact me.”

Have Speeches Will Travel

November 26th, 2010 No comments

Three things happened this week which seem to have something in common.

First, I was telling a friend, fellow writer and one-time neighbour that most of the feedback on my last speech related to depression. This had surprised me because the presentation was not on depression and anxiety, but was on a humorous topic. At least I thought it was humorous. And the frequent laughter from the audience suggested they agreed with  me. My only references to depression were two indirect comments made in passing — that I had changed my mind and was going to speak on a lighter topic, and that I had spent the summer holidays of 1993 in the psychiatric ward of a Toronto hospital. It’s true the young lady who thanked me, following my presentation, did mention the title of my latest book (If Only Sleep Would Last Forever! Help for Depression and Anxiety from One Who’s Been There).

My ears perked up when my friend said, “You should hook up with Margaret Trudeau.” He went on to say we’d both experienced it (in her case bipolar, in mine major depression), we’d both experienced serious repercussions because of it, we’d both written about it, we both give speeches about it. He related he had attended a speech by Margaret at the high school in Campbellford, Ontario, that he had to leave the hall more than once to compose himself. “It really touched me,”  he said. He admits he has been no stranger to depression himself. And he was familiar with the positive feedback I had received in April from the grade 9 and grade 12 students at Norwood District High School — students who had not long before lost a fellow student to suicide. One wrote, “It wasn’t a speech by someone who didn’t know what it’s actually like to be depressed…and how to fix it.”

In fact, my friend who is now telling me to contact Margaret Trudeau was the one who initially encouraged me to give the speech in high schools. He said he would even make the first contact at Norwood. “Who should I speak to?” he asked. I said probably the guidance counselor. And he had made the first telephone call and paid the first visit to the school. “Imagine the number of people you could help,” he said. “Send her an e-mail,” he urged. I’m still screwing up my courage.

Second, in the parking lot of a grocery store today, I heard a man’s voice say, “Mr. Watson, could I speak with you for a second?” Since I retired from teaching ten years ago, not many people have called me ‘mister’ . As a younger man was with him, I surmised he could’ve been the father of a former student. But he quickly explained. “I saw the sign on your car. And my wife is often looking for a speaker….” As we were walking into the store — he and his son for some salads and I for water cress for a salad (we seemed to be on the same wavelength)– he asked me for my business card and said his wife would be calling me.

Third, a young lady was telling me her son just entered junior high. She said, “Stand-up comic that he is — still doesn’t like to be in front of a group.” I told her I didn’t give my very first speech (or ‘oral composition’) until I was in grade 9 at Norwood District High School. Usually very shy and self-conscious, I was not nervous. I was scared stiff!

Now, the person whose greatest fear was speaking in public in front of others (that’s me), ironically stands up in front of students and coaches them on (you guessed it!) public speaking. The title of my speech is ‘Ways to Reduce Fear in Public Speaking.’ Like me back then, the vast majority of students seem to have three basic questions of the audience: Will they like me? Will they be interested in what I have to say? Will they be able to hear me over the sound of my hammering heart and knocking knees? They are quite surprised — happily surprised — when I explain the secret of composing and delivering a speech that will turn fear and apprehension to peace of mind and confidence. And get a  ‘yes’ answer to all three questions. And, if the secret worked for me, it can certainly work for anybody. And turn any fearful individual into a more confident communicator.  

In fact, when I gave that speech in February to the pupils in grade 4 to 8 at St. Paul’s Elementary School in Norwood, Ontario, the teacher in charge of their public speaking contest said, “Many students, directly after your speech, were very keen to work on and improve their speeches…. I personally enjoyed your speech very much…. Thank you again and again.”

After I had finished telling that young lady about my speech on public speaking, she said, “You could probably present that particular speech to every school in the area.” And, if invited, I’m ready to do just that. For I see myself in those classrooms — wanting to do my best, fearing failure, looking for help. And I’d love to save even one student from the pitfalls and banana peels that lay in my earlier path.

What do these three happenings have in common? They all relate in one way or another to speeches. When I was considering a name for my website, two thoughts were bouncing around in my mind. ‘Speaking to Inspire’ was not my first idea. My first idea was HAVE SPEECHES WILL TRAVEL. Imagine what my e-mail address would’ve been.  Since so many listeners have called me a motivational or inspirational speaker — “You really inspire me” or “You really motivate me!” — I finally decided my e-mail should be

My speeches this year included Peer Support Niagara in St. Catharines, St. Paul’s Elementary School in Norwood, Norwood District High School, The Toronto Public Library, The Warkworth Community Service Club. Thinking about these different places, and different speeches, I realize my label could just as easily have been HAVE SPEECHES WILL TRAVEL. (Now, if I could just come up with a short speech that could travel to a laudable lady named Margaret!)


Murray says, “My purpose is to share smiles, wisdom and encouragement — to lift your life. If I can serve you by making a speech to your group, please contact me.

On My Last Speech (or I Feel Better When I Give Something Away)

November 20th, 2010 No comments

Someone asked me yesterday, “Well, how did your speech go?” She was referring to my speech — ‘Adam Had a Garden’ — presented to The Warkworth Community Service Club on Thursday last. In my response, I mentioned three individuals whose words were fresh in my mind.

The first person whose words left an impression on me came up to me shortly after I had delivered the speech. She asked me if I remembered her. I had to admit I did not. I’m finding people I haven’t seen for some time are looking older (myself excepted). She reminded me she had attended a reading club I had hosted at my farm in 2003 and that her name was Carol. But what struck me was what Carol confided to me. It had nothing to do with the humorous speech I had just delivered. She said she had fallen into a bad bout of depression, she found my book at the bookstore in Havelock (Cottage Country Books), and that it had really helped her.

The second person whose words touched me was Jan Wood. She is the one who shot my 11 speech introductions and uploaded them to my YouTube channel. At the last minute, I asked if she could shoot my speech in Warkworth. No, only because she was giving an on-line seminar that evening. But she would loan me her camera. (And a kind man at the club by the name of Cullen set it up and took charge of the shooting. Thank you, Cullen.) When I returned the camera the next day, Jan said to me she didn’t mind admitting to me that she’d had a hard time the last couple months [she had lost a family member], because I knew what depression was all about. (She was referring to the fact that, as I admit in my book and in my speeches, I was admitted in 1993 to a Toronto hospital  under the care of a psychiatrist, was prescribed four strong drugs, and, among other problems, ended up with short-term brain memory damage.)  Then she said she had picked up my book on depression the other day, had finished reading it the same day, and that it had helped her. Then she said, “You do important stuff, and I want to help you get it out there.”

The third person, whose words I remember, was club memberJohn Belton who was in charge of introducing me to the audience. In a conversation earlier in the week, he had, in referring to members of the club, used the expression “Vitamin V — for volunteering.” I hadn’t heard this one before, quoted it in my speech, and consider it a masterful metaphor, whoever came up with it. In my speech, I said that when my daughter was eight years old, I had heard her say to her brother in the yard, “You know, I feel better when I give something away.” In my speech, I told the 75 club members and guests that I believe that in life there is a bounce-back. That what I give to others — good or bad — I effectively give to myself.

What do I see in common among these three people? They’re on the wavelength of giving. John saw his fellow club members as volunteering to help. Although she couldn’t attend the dinner meeting in person, Jan gave me the use of her camera to support my calling. Carol effectively came back and gave me a ‘thank you’ for researching and writing my book on depression that ended up helping her.

To me, it seemed somehow ironic that after a speech intended to supply more smiles than wisdom, most of the feedback I received was essentially “Thank you, Murray, for writing your book on depression.” Ironic or not, I’m glad that in my speech (‘Adam Had a Garden’) I did make one reference to my own experience of depression. It reminds me of the words of a student at Norwood District High School after my speech on the link between depression and teenage suicide — “It wasn’t a speech by someone who didn’t know what it’s actually like to be depressed…and how to fix it.”

I may not know exactly how you feel about giving help to others, but I do know how Jan and Carol feel about the help they reported receiving. And I know how I feel when someone gives me a ‘thank you’, or buys one of my CDs or books for someone they know is struggling, or engages me to make a speech. And I know how I feel when I try, in my books and speeches, to give away smiles, wisdom and encouragement. I feel better when I give something away.


The particular book referred to above is If Only Sleep Would Last Forever: Help for Depression and Anxiety from One Who’s Been There. In my books and speeches, my intention is to share smiles, wisdom and encouragement — to lift your life. If I can help you by sending you a copy of this book, or making a speech to one of your groups (schools, churches, service clubs, libraries), please contact me.

The Wheelbarrow

November 9th, 2010 No comments

‘The Wheelbarrow’ — a short story in the book Steel Buggy Wheels on a Hard Dirt Road     

People often ask me questions about my short story: Where did it come from?  How did it come to win an award? How did it end up in your book Steel Buggy Wheels on a Hard Dirt Road?          

Where did it come from? Two summers ago I was driving west from Huntsville across to highway 69 leading north to Parry Sound where I once lived and taught school. This connecting route, # 141, was really fun to drive, with its winding turns and rolling hills. There were many drive-ways along this highway and the woods carowded right up to their edges. Near the end of one of these narrow lane-ways I noticed an overturned wheelbarrow. And a story started to form in my mind. (I’ve tried writing others, but this one seemed to virtually write itself.)      

How did it come to win an award? In April of this year I entered Toastmasters International speech Contest, in Area 43, held in Peterborough. The speech I decided to deliver was this short story. It turned out that I finished in second place. A lady in the audience came up to me afterward and persuaded me to do something I had never done  — enter the story in a writing contest. “Well,” she said, “you were runner-up in this speaking competition, and your story is touching and well written.”  In the writing contest, it was awarded first place.       

How did it end up in Steel Buggy Wheels on a Hard Dirt Road? When I finished writing the story, I e-mailed a copy to my daughter. She read it and immediately e-mailed it to a friend. Reportedly there was Kleenex used. And my daughter said, “Publish it, Dad.” The question was ‘Where?’ At the time, I was working on my twenty-fifth book, Steel Buggy Wheels on a Hard Dirt Road, a collection of snippets including family biography, autobiography and philosophy/spirituality. I told my daughter that I wanted to have this particular book published professionally (which would make it number three in that group alongside Smiles, Wisdom and Encouragement and If Only Sleep Would Last Forever!) So the decision was made to place it in this book, near the beginning. Although the book title itself, Steel Buggy Wheels on a Hard Dirt Road, is taken from the second piece in the book, of my experiences as a young teenager accidentally breaking a window and listening for the sounds of my parents returning (we traveked by horse-and-buggy), ‘The Wheelbarrow’ is now the opening story.  

That’s how a story that started from a driving experience ended up in my latest book and was awarded first prize in a writing contest along the way.      

The Wheelbarrow          

A man came home late and angrily woke up his young son. “How many times have I told you to put things away where they belong! I almost ran into that overturned wheelbarrow! Why did you leave it in the lane-way! Now get up and get it and put it behind the house!”           

“Daddy,” said the boy, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, “I put the wheelbarrow there because….”           

“Have you forgotten what I said about making excuses!” shouted his father.          

The young boy at once got out of bed and started dressing. “Daddy, would you please come with me? You know I’m scared of the dark.” Tears were now streaming down the soft cheeks, and his voice didn’t sound right.           

You left it there, Sissy. Go get it yourself!”           

His mother, over-hearing her husband’s voice, went to the closet and took down her son’s windbreaker and a sweater for herself. Then she bent down and pulled out two pairs of rubber boots as there were still puddles everywhere. A driving drenching storm had started two nights earlier and only ended at noon.           

She handed him his jacket and, noticing the tears on his face, stood by him as she put on her sweater and buttoned it up. He started to explain. “Mommy, you weren’t home and I was going to tell you….” She put a finger to her lips. “It’s okay, son,” she said, intending to comfort him. Then she went to get the big flashlight.           

Just before the school-bus had brought their son home, the daughter of her best friend and closest neighbour had come across-country, asking for help. They had quickly taken the same shortcut, through the fields at the back of their small farm, instead of walking out the lane-way and taking the road. When she got back home, her son was already in bed.           

Exhausted, but holding the light in one hand and her son’s hand in the other, she and her boy began walking out the long narrow dirt lane-way. The dark trees whispered mysteriously.           

When they came to the over-turned wheelbarrow, and just beyond it the small car, they stopped. She was beginning to hand the light to the boy, but he was already bending down and grasping the handles lying in the mud. Small as he was, he didn’t take long to turn it right-side up. Now it was the mother’s turn to cry.           

For where the wheelbarrow had been, there was a gaping washed-out hole. She could see in an instant, that had the boy not covered this cavity, the front corner of their small car would’ve dropped in and taken serious damage.           

Trying to stifle her sobs, she wrapped her free arm around her boy and pulled him close. Then, with the boy pushing the wheelbarrow, and his mother showing the way, they started back home. The branches of the trees reached out to touch them with friendly fingers.           

The young boy went back to bed, and his mother went to the living-room where her husband lay on the couch. He started to say, “What do you want?” but she only motioned to him. Thinking it must’ve been something important, he got up and followed her, out of the house and into the narrow drive-way. When they approached the car and his eyes followed the beam of light down into the deep pit, he uttered the sacred name. When he caught himself, he said quietly, “Good grief.”           

On their way back home he was quiet. New feelings were stirring in his heart. Automatically he put his cap on the peg, bent down and pulled off each of his rubber boots, and then immediately – although slowly, because he was finding it hard to see – found his way into the narrow hallway, and to his son’s bedroom. After knocking softly, he quietly opened the door. Well, what he came here for could wait until morning. For their son was sleeping the sleep of the innocent – the innocent misunderstood – and his father had decided who he wanted to become.           

As he was gently closing the door, he noticed tacked on the wall, above the boy’s head, at the end of the small cot, a picture of himself and his boy — and the wheelbarrow. It was when he was splitting the wood, and his son had insisted on helping him, by wheeling the firewood to the lean-to shed against the side of their house.           

That night in the country, in a little house both unpretentious and unremarkable, three people slept ‘the sleep of the just’ – a little boy who used a wheelbarrow to keep his father from having an accident with the car, a tired woman who having just helped bring her best friend’s new son into this world, encouraged her own, without one unkind word to her husband, and a man who was inspired to become a better father, because his innocent son had simply done what he thought was right, and did not insist on justifying himself.           

And that’s the story of how a young boy who turned over a wheelbarrow, helped turn over a life.           

If I can do a reading or deliver a speech to your group, please contact me.         

Murray C. Watson

The Warkworth Service Club – November 18, 2010

November 6th, 2010 No comments

‘Adam Had a Garden’ is the title of my upcoming speech to The Warkworth Service Club in the village of Warkworth, Ontario. The club, apparently one of the largest for a small community, is holding its Dinner-Business meeting at St. Paul’s United Church on the evening of November 18.

For me as a speaker, one thing will be the same but in other ways it will be a new venture. What will be the same? My use of a lectern and notes — because of my brain-memory damage. My short-term memory problem was one of several conditions that followed my being prescribed four strong drugs when I was admitted, during the summer holidays in1993, to the psychiatric wing of a Toronto hospital with major depression.

What will be new? Several things including my speech topic, age of audience and time of day. As for time, this speech will be sandwiched (pun intended) between a dinner at 6:30 and a business meeting at 7:30. Most of my speeches are delivered in the morning or afternoon. My presentation this year at St. Paul’s Elementary School in Norwood was in the morning before first recess. My two speeches at Norwood District High School were in the afternoon. When I’m not in schools, meeting time is usually in the evening, one example being my speech this year at The Toronto Public Library.

As for age, this audience will be adults only. Usually I’m in front of mainly teenage students with a few teachers. At the elementary school in Norwood, referred to above, the pupils ranged in age from nine to twelve, grade four to eight. At the high school in Norwood (I seem to like Norwood!), the students were the 13 to 14-year-old grade nines and the 16 to 17-year-old grade twelves.

It was a real joy to be with these audiences. I make it a practice to hand out a feedback form at the end of nearly all my presentations. What a lovely surprise it was to have every student hand in a completed form. One student wrote, “It wasn’t a speech by someone who didn’t actually know what it is to be depressed…and how to fix it.”

The third novelty will be my speech topic. In this case, ‘Adam Had a Garden’ is an intentionally humorous speech. I say ‘intentionally’ because even in my speeches on depression, there are lots of laughs.

When I stand in front of secondary students, the topic is usually the teen version of Down with Depression, in which I deal with the connection between teenage depression and suicide. At The Toronto Public Library, where the youngest audience member was 18, I delivered the adult version of this same speech. In both places, I drew on my own experience and from my latest-published book — If Only Sleep Would Last Forever: Help for Depression and Anxiety from One Who’s Been There. Different speeches obviously allow a speaker to serve different needs in the audiences. My original intention was to deliver that same speech on depression to the Service club. Also on my short list were The Private and the President (Abraham Lincoln), In the Land of Nod (on dreams), and my short story ‘The Wheelbarrow.’ But Adam Had a Garden seemed to rise to the top.

In front of elementary students, the topic is usually ‘Ways to Reduce Fear in Public Speaking.’ Which is rather ironic when you understand that when I gave my very first speech, which was at NDHS (you guessed it — Norwood District High School!), I fell flat on my face. In fact, for most of my life, speaking in front of others topped my list of Life’s Most Dreaded Activities. Yet, at the same time, it was my childhood dream.

Back then, I was a fearful, shy, and self-conscious little know-nothing from a little farm, having to stand up in front of a teacher (!) and peers who I saw as mainly confident, sophisticated city-slickers. What my topic was I don’t recall. What I do recall were my tied tongue, knocking knees, and that I never wanted to do it again.

Now, I see my audience members as duplicates of myself, each having some problem, needing some help. I see myself taking to my neighbours a tool of vital importance, that they really need but don’t have, and only I can give them. What I offer to share are smiles, wisdom and encouragement. Which helps me perspire a little less and maybe inspire a little more.

As a person who spent his first few weeks of life in SickKids Hospital with digestive problems, who was extremely shy, who has sleep apnea and gluten intolerance, who ended up in the psychiatric ward with major depression, who needs notes and a lectern to offset his memory damage, I consider myself privileged to stand in front of audiences of individuals like myself — individuals having some problem and needing some help — and maybe inspire one of them to overcome.

The good folks at The Warkworth Service Club may not take home any extra wisdom from ‘Adam Had a Garden,’ but they may leave with a few smiles and a little encouragement, if they have a heart — and a funnybone.

Murray C. Watson

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