In two days Jonathan and I will speak for TED Women 2018 here in Palm Springs, California. We’ve been preparing for months, with multiple rewrites and rehearsals. The week has finally come. Our flights arrived yesterday afternoon.
I don’t think I’m quite as nervous as I was last year for TEDxMileHigh, but I’m still plenty nervous. I’ve gone over the talk so many times it has become pretty boring to me, but that didn’t stop me from forgetting lines twice in my first rehearsal after I got on site here at LaQuinta Resort. I mean, there is a giant television production truck outside the auditorium, like it’s an NFL game or something. And inside, cameras everywhere. Yep, adequately intimidating.
It is true that I have been speaking for large crowds for decades. But there is a reason you get to speak to large crowds. It’s because you prepare until you’re sick of preparing. I know of no other way to put together a talk that does not waste people’s time. Winging it is not an option. I’m not good enough to wing it. And as today’s practice showed, I’m not even that great at memorization.
Jonathan and I are talking about my transition from Paul to Paula, and how it affected his life. It’s not an easy talk, just as his book, She’s My Dad, is not an easy read. But both are good, redemptively good. I must admit, however, that telling the story over and over is not easy. With each recitation of our TED talk, I am reminded how much pain my family endured, and still endures.
There is a line in the TED talk in which I say, “But the call toward authenticity asks you to trust that the truth will not only set you free, it will set everyone free. I decided to stake my life on it.” And so I did. My family’s story is theirs to tell. Jonathan told his story in his book. I can only speak of my own life.
My life is not as easy as it was before I transitioned. It is not as comfortable, and I am certainly nowhere near as financially secure. But I cannot tell you how much it means to live authentically, especially when it comes to my spiritual life. It’s like I used to see God through a glass darkly. Now I experience the Trinity – the glory of God, the unparalleled love of Jesus, the mothering of Spirit, breathing hope into my renewing soul. And then, joy of joys, I get to serve as a pastor, and work side by side with co-pastors who are in love with the same Jesus I adore.
I have a lot of readers who are astonished I am still a Christian. I remind those people that I felt called by God to transition. It was that call that gave me the endurance I needed to face the pain and rejection I knew I would experience. And that call sustains me still.
Which brings me back to TED. As I watched the video crews scurrying about and talked with the TED staff yesterday, I thought, “And why am I here?” “Who am I to receive this honor?” Then I saw the welcome sign, reminding me of the theme of this year’s event, SHOWING UP.
Ah yes, that’s why I am here. Because I dared to show up. And Jonathan dared to show up with me. We both lost our standing in the denomination of which our family has been a part for over five generations. But that was not our decision. It was theirs. So we moved on. Being true to the call demanded it.
Thursday afternoon we will give our talk about the narrow path, redemption, love, and authenticity. Jubi will be here supporting Jonathan. Jen Jepsen will be here supporting me. Cathy will be watching from Jonathan and Jubi’s New York apartment as she stays with their girls. And if you are so inclined, you might offer a little prayer around 2:30 Pacific Time. Because to the two of us, this thing is holy – all of it.
12 thoughts on “TED Women 2018 – Showing Up”
Looking forward to it Paula! I hope there’s some humour like why men on tv always get to talk first and male presenters talk first!
I will be praying for you both at 2:30. Glad you showed up. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your experience leading up to the TED talk. What a pleasure to read!
I am so happy your posts are emails, otherwise I would never get go online and I would miss all the great things you write.
I am a hair short of being a 50years old woman — you have seriously made me feel good about myself and inspired me to think the human race can do fabulous things.
A family friend recently became transgender and I have to say there is absolutely no way I could have ever understood without the help of your TED talk.
I love you. Please just be your and know that you are wonderful —- that means no pressure to BE wonderful
Good morning Paula I wish you and Jonathan my best and my prayers will be with you. I just finished Jonathan’s book. And found it ito be gut wrenching in places. Those of us who come out, to whatever degree, experience numerous obstacles let alone pain. What we hope for is at the end of the day, we come out reborn with a renewed relationship with our family. God bless Johhie
I look forward to the book, and the TED talk. Please let me know where to view it when you know. I know you are having a ball doing the Show, yet, this can’t be easy.
It won’t be available until TED decides to release it – should be some time in 2019.
I will say a prayer for you. You will do great Best Jeri
Thank you for sharing your story. Authentic living, I am counting on too!, will overcome the fear and negative consequences of leaving a comfortable life…
The Artists LeFey moved to the Palm Springs area less than 2 months ago (and LOVE IT!). Khrysso and I are both disappointed we didn’t get acclimated in time to see you live at Ted. But we’ve shown your TEDX talk to all our friends and are looking forward to seeing your talk with Jonathan. You’re in our prayers and thoughts, Paula!
Paula you are in my prayers and thoughts, as I read your posts I reflect on my thoughts, beliefs and commitments to my family and most importantly my wife and to be totally honest what I read from you is the process of being real and transitioning is someplace that when started is anything less than relieving or satisfying, I already talk to God nearly everyday and I wish I could have the thought that its God will that I become who I really am, this process is horrible. Good luck and again you are in my prayers
I saw your talk on TEDLive. It was really a touching talk! I think it was a symbolic lecture that shows how many of the issues we face today will be accepted over time. GranPaula such adorable expression! never forget your story. Thank you!
Thank you so much! Doing the talk was an honor!