Transcript: Season 3, Episode 2 - Doug & Kelly

Kelly Bron Johnson (00:02):

Well, hello and welcome to this totally unscripted episode of Intersections on the Spectrum Podcast. If you haven't heard Doug's and, and my voice enough, we figured we would devote a whole episode to us kind of talking about different issues of kind of going deeper on some of the issues that some of our guests have spoken about. And so this is just gonna be a super free flowing, interesting conversation, we hope on different subjects around disability and autism and everything else in life.

Doug Blecher (00:36):

Yeah, and I don't know how well I'll do on this unscripted episode, Kelly, cause usually I need to spend a lot of time planning for communication, but I think that I'd only do it in an environment where I felt safe. And so I think that's, I think talking with you is always a pleasure of mine. And so I felt like, Hey, let's give it a try and see where it leads us today

Kelly Bron Johnson (01:02):

And we can edit. So, and you're in control of the editing, <laugh>, anything you want, <laugh>,

Doug Blecher (01:08):

I'll edit all of my,  stumbling of the English language and, and we'll go from there. I guess, you know, maybe we could start off by kind of like you said, we're gonna dive deeper into some things that have been talked about,  on the last episode with, the wonderful Kayla Smith. You know, Kayla was talking about embracing new identities in our lives, and she said more recently,  embracing her queer identity. So I know like so much we talk about embracing our autistic identity and learning later in life that we're autistic and all that. But I was wondering if learning you were autistic, learning about that identity, if that made you reflect on other identities in your life and reevaluate them, maybe reengage with other identities that maybe you were hesitant to.

Kelly Bron Johnson (02:06):

I would say, like for me, when it comes to different aspects of my identity, I've had, you know, throughout my life and just through my development, which is totally normal, child development things around my race, I think was probably the first, the earliest identity formation. How about that? I knew that when I was very young, you know, I had a black father and a white mother, and I very much emulated my mother and I remember I wasn't, so there's often a lot of, uh, misunderstanding, I think especially about mixed race people that were confused. And I'm gonna say that I was not confused about my race. There was never been an issue of confusion, but there was a misunderstanding in terms of how color I think in people develops or melanin. And so I had said, well, when I grow up, like obviously I'm a mixture of you and dad, and when I grow up I'm gonna be white.


You mom, like, as if I could kind of choose. I figured, well, I'm female like you, I'm just going to be like you, so I'm going to be white. Like you obviously makes sense for a four year old. And my mom was like, she's like, no, <laugh>, no, you know, she's like, you will always be black. This is how you will always be. You will never be white. It's, I always find it so interesting because that came from my white mother, you know, my mom, my white mom was reinforcing my black identity. So there was never any issue of her feeling like sad that I wasn't her color or, or that she, you know, that she wanted me to be a certain color. It was very much like, no, this is your pigment. This is who you are. You will always be black. Yes, you're still part French Canadian, but you're always going to be black.


And so that was like, I think a very early cementation for me on my identity. So it was never any confusion around that. I find other people are more confused by my, my color or my identity than, than I am. I'm certainly not so <laugh> other people always kind of wanna put me in some sort of category. And I'd say after that, like more in my teen years, I, I thought I was bisexual because I didn't have a good concept or understanding of, I would say gender issues in general. Right. So, you know, I grew up in the eighties, so my concept of what was allowed or what was out there, what was applicable was you were gay or lesbian or bi and that was it. There were, there were, there were no other options. We didn't talk about gender, especially not in those early, uh, for me at least.


And, and that's even disregarding the fact that I grew up, like I said, I grew up in the eighties where we had Boy George and Lenox and I emulated these people and, and David Bowie, you know, looking very either androgynous or androgen. But anyway, I didn't have the term to, to describe my gender identity. And I, I felt like I was a mixture of male and female. And so the closest thing I could come to was sexual orientation was bisexual. So I figured I was bisexual because that was the only term I had. And, you know, that, that didn't stop me from experimenting and stuff and having sex with both men and women and all the exciting things that happened in teenager and, and early twenties until I finally had the term for my actual gender. And I still think I am still kind of,  I call myself gender agnostic, where like I don't put a lot of importance on it.


So I identified as androgen for quite a long time. Now I just say non-binary or I say odd gender, which is kind of a mixed of my weird autistic gender identity. I did change legally my designation of sex on my birth certificate and my legal documents here in Quebec. And it is a sex designation. It was not a gender designation, just to be clear, it has changed my birth certificate to be X. So as if I was born intersex or nobody knows, it changes my children's birth certificate that I become parent instead of mom or mother. And so it is considered a sex change, not a gender change in Quebec legally. So now I have x on most of my documents. I'm still working on some of them. It's a little slow. Anyway, I'm just rambling on about my own identity. I don't know, Doug, if you wanna add some 2 cents in there too.

Doug Blecher (06:25):

Yeah, I mean, I guess for me, like when I think of, and I've been thinking about this lately, for me it's more religion because I'm Jewish. And for most of my life I've felt uncomfortable definitely to a certain extent because of it, because I don't feel like there's been a lot of, I don't feel like a lot of times it's inclusive. I feel like a lot of times when there's Jewish people of color that their experience is different than mine. And maybe not in a, in a positive way. And I've always felt like, just like joining a temple, there's a capitalist aspect to it that may has always made me feel uncomfortable. But I think learning about my autism in recent years is starting to make me reevaluate that. And thinking is are there ways that I could reengage with that aspect of my life? I don't know if there is realistically or not, but you know, recently talking to an autistic rabbi made me think about it. Like, is there a space for me as an autistic person in, or, you know, in organized religion and you know, in my specific religion, I, I don't know, but it is definitely made me kind of as usual, I have more questions than answers. <laugh>.

Kelly Bron Johnson (07:52):

Well isn't that the, the, I think part of a part of all religion I think is always to be questioning, but I think I could understand like your sense of culture and community and then having it separate and saying, well, am I really, do I really belong here? That's, yeah, there's no, wow. Yeah. That's a deep, that's a deep question. you said we were gonna go deep, but No, it's a super deep question, right? Yeah. Cause how you feel you connect doesn't, like, even if they say yes as a community, we welcome you, it doesn't mean that you feel welcome.

Doug Blecher (08:22):

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you know, it's not just, and I've talked to religious leaders in different religions, you know, uh, you know, talking with Lamar Hardwick a couple times and you know, an autistic pastor and hearing, you know, he's written books on these subjects and could definitely articulate these things a lot better than I can. But yeah, what is our place in those things? Just like, even from like sensory perspectives, like those things, you know, it's just really overwhelming and sitting in these kind of crowded spaces, you know, it's just these tall ceilings, <laugh>, all types of things go on in these spaces. Just probably from an executive functioning thing, like just knowing the expectations when you go into these spaces a lot of times is probably not clear enough for all of us. So yeah, I've thought a lot about this and I don't know, you know, I think like it's probably maybe just a reflection of the rest of our society in terms of how spaces are built and how, like you said, community and connection is made.

Kelly Bron Johnson (09:35):

So this is gonna sound really, what's the right word for that? I don't know. Almost dismissive. Yeah, it's probably gonna come across as rude. Let's do it anyway, because <laugh>, I mean, and so I'm one class, I was one class away from having a minor religion, so I got to explore a lot of different religions and, and certain religions more deeply. And part of that was we got to go to different temples. We went to a reform, I went to a reform Jewish synagogue, and I got to see a naming ceremony that day. But what I remember, like that was most fun and interesting for me as a non-Jew was the food after <laugh> gonna say it's not, it's totally not cool anyway, I'm so like, not pc. So there was the food and I mean, because I didn't have, I mean, they carried the Torah and things like that, and I understand the significance of it, but for me as a non-Jew, I don't have the, the same feelings towards it.


So for me it was the afterwards, everybody getting together and this wonderful food spread and, and everybody's celebrating food and these children and things like that. And similarly, I went to a Sikh temple and of course I didn't understand a word about was going on. I was there to watch and participate. I sat in the back and then they had this amazing lunch after <laugh>. So it was, you know, that, and to me it's that sense of communities, I think to be part of a religion or even just part of, let's say a religious community. You don't necessarily have to believe in everything. You're often going for that sense of belonging and that sense of community and the shared food and the things like that. I'm not trying to minimize it, that's what I'm trying to say. Like, I'm not trying to minimize it or make light of it or anything like that. But to me it's part of it. And I think a lot of people when they leave religion, they miss that part. They don't necessarily miss the ceremony part, but they miss the community and the, the eating together and that kind of,

Doug Blecher (11:23):

Yeah, definitely . Well, I'll tell you, it's not rude at all because I think there's a lot of Jewish people that feel the same way about the food and, and sometimes they think they're more culturally Jewish than kind of like the traditional religious aspect of it. And now I lost my thought of what I was gonna say beyond that. Oh, okay. Now I remember. So like, I think that's so key, like thinking about like the community aspect of it, because when we become adults, like where do we find community? Like it's hard, you know, being autistic and developing like relationships and stuff. Where do we look for that? Well, employment, we know what employment is for us, right? <laugh>, it could be a very challenging aspect. And that's kind of like the main place where people develop those relationships as an adult. So if we're kind of taking the religious, a religious building going to, and you know, kind of losing our taking that out of our lives, then like where are we finding that community?

Kelly Bron Johnson (12:31):

I think that's something that a lot of atheists struggle with, where they try to have a community without having the religious part. Yeah, I wasn't raised with any particular religion. And I say that kind of loosely in the sense that I was christened as Anglican Protestant, but I was never confirmed. We didn't go to church every Sunday. I certainly didn't know. I still don't know. Well, <laugh> a lot of how things work, I'm there fumbling in the back. I was at a funeral actually just last week, and I know how to say the Lord's Prayer by heart, and I can, I look at what other people doing and I cross myself when everybody else does and go through the motions. But I don't, I don't have any pull towards it. I don't have any strong beliefs towards it. But I guess kind of like, that's very much like autistic masking, right? I go in, I do the socially accepted thing, I know what I'm supposed to do in that case, but there's no feeling behind it. And it's an act. It feels like an act. It is an act. I mean, that's, I'm, I don't, I can cross myself and it doesn't

Doug Blecher (13:34):


Kelly Bron Johnson (13:35):

Doesn't do anything for me, right?

Doug Blecher (13:36):

So yeah, I definitely can relate. Like there were some things I had some feelings towards, like felt it like, you know, going into temples. But then I think, you know, there was other things that were part of the, are part of these ceremonies still today that, and this is I think a very autistic thing is why, like, why are we, you know, like why are we doing this thing that, you know, like why does this have to be part of this ceremony? I remember as a kid asking these things to rabbis and, and somewhat getting in, in trouble for, for asking those questions. <laugh> as I continue today, just to ask questions and ask questions because I don't understand a lot about this world. And I wanna learn from people about like, well, why, you know,

Kelly Bron Johnson (14:27):

Too many questions, uhoh

Doug Blecher (14:28):

Too many questions. Well, who knows this? So much of this was gonna turn into a, a religious conversation. I didn't anticipate that. But you know, it's,

Kelly Bron Johnson (14:38):

It's, well it's interesting because it's part of the identity. It's, it's, yeah. Yeah. We still never finish answering the question though, <laugh>, about how this, uh, how this affected our autistic identity. <laugh>?

Doug Blecher (14:49):

Yeah, I guess, I guess we didn't, I don't, I don't know. I mean, I guess I'm, so for me, like, I guess it's the identity that I feel most connected with my autistic identity. I feel much more at home talking with autistic people than non-autistic people. I feel like learning about my autism and someone, someone said this a long time ago, so this is not an original thought. It's just an aspect of better understanding who you are and how your brain works. So I love learning and I'm still trying to learn how my brain works. So I guess I feel like, at least for me, it's the most meaningful identity to myself. Well, I guess is it more than like being a spouse? I don't know about that. Maybe I should go back a little bit. Hopefully my spouse doesn't listen to this episode. Kelly.

Kelly Bron Johnson (15:45):

Edit out,

Doug Blecher (15:46):

Edit it out. <laugh>. Um, I, I do love being, I love being married, although I never thought I would do that. I love being a son. I love being a brother. I love being an uncle. Those types of identities are really important to me as well.

Kelly Bron Johnson (16:04):

So I think it's interesting, like when you, you put your autistic identity first. I'm trying to think if, I mean, it is, so for me it is the lens that I see everything through in terms of connecting with others. I would say that there's not like, like I can't, I can't qualitatively measure like what is more connecting. So I know that like for sure when I speak to other autistic people, like 99% of the time we get on like a house on fire, although houses aren't supposed to be fire. That is like a really strange expression. Why do we say that? Why do we say that? Anyway, we get along really well. However, when I'm in community with other black people, I also feel connected and I feel like I'm understood. When I look at aspects of French Canadian culture, I feel a connection. And I might feel like I understand and that I'm part of it.


I'm not necessarily welcomed that way, but it doesn't mean that I don't feel the connection to it. I think that's kind of where the difference is. In that sense. I would say that me being accepted or seen as cemiquas is on the level in the terms of like, the way that they, you know, they don't see me the way that I am unseen is very similar to me being not seen or accepted by Neurotypicals as an autistic person. That's, I think maybe, , it's a loose analogy, but it's probably a pretty apt one. You know, kind of, oh well you don't look autistic and I've gotten that. Oh well you don't cemiquas, right? Or you don't speak the same way I do. Or where, like, I grew up with a mix of both cultures, like, no problem. And that's the thing, my mom, again, my, my white mom credit to her had no problem sharing, not just her culture and my father's culture. There was never like a battle. There was never like, oh, you have to do one or the other. We ate, I ate both traditional foods from both sides of the family. It's more an issue from outsiders not accepting me because of the color of my skin. So yeah, it's very interesting. It's very interesting how we can live with that and reconcile those things at the same time.

Doug Blecher (18:24):

Something else that kind of came up on the episode with Kayla, which for whatever reason I really enjoy talking about this subject probably caus I still have some work to do, is internalized ableism where Kayla kind of talked about that and we talked a little bit about honoring our limitations, you know, in thinking about in those things. So how do you see like honoring your limitations and internalized ableism? Where's the connection for you?

Kelly Bron Johnson (18:58):

I would say it took me a long, not, it didn't take me a long time to accept my autism or even my hearing loss, which came later. It took me a long time to, I think honor and respect it in the sense of, yes, there's limitations, but it gives me amazing strengths. Like I have amazing skills and talents because of it. And I was always kind of told as a child, especially in the education system, to turn that down, to kind of tune it down. Oh, okay, Kelly, that's, you know, it, we know you know it, so stop raising your hand. You don't have to give other kids a chance to answer the question. We know, you know, you're smart Kelly, so turn it down. And so those were the messages I had to, I even up to CEGEP, which is for us, it's after high school teachers telling me, okay, well yep, you can shut up now.


Like, stop answering the questions cuz you're too smart. And so to, it took me a long time to embrace that. So it's not that I didn't know I was intelligent, but because of the messages, I was told, well, you can't shine too brightly. Don't show it off when I wasn't, when that's the thing, the, the feeling behind that, the sentiment behind that was, I was proud. I knew the answer. I was happy that I had done the research and that I, I had these facts in my head and I was shamed. I wasn't allowed to be proud of those things. And so when it came to the workplace, it was very much like, well I've got to just kind of keep my head down and do it, but you can't do it too well because that was my experience. I had coworkers who got jealous.


Well she did that really fast. How'd she do that fast? She must be doing something. Must be cheating. She must be taking some shortcuts somewhere. Like how, you know, oh, oh well she thinks she's better than us then. Well, no, I just happened to do it fast. There's nothing, nothing else other than I just did it quickly and I'm not thinking about you when I'm doing it quickly. I'm thinking about doing my work and maybe if y'all focused on your work and stopped focusing on me, you would get done as fast, but <laugh>. And so, yeah, so even as like,  as a business owner, when I went out on my own, I had to accept the fact that not like, it's not accept, but I guess respect the fact that I work quickly in certain situations where I set myself up for success and that isn't going to look like how other people run their business.


And if I try to force myself to look like how other people run their businesses, I will become demotivated and it will make me want to curl up and die. I mean, <laugh> honestly. And I don't need to put on a show and a song and dance for some, some other project manager at a company so that I can prove to them that I'm doing it the way, however way they want it. No, if you wanna work with me, you're gonna work with me the way that I work best and that's how you're gonna get the best work back. So let me do my thing my way.

Doug Blecher (21:47):

Well first off, I wanna say that I love, I would've loved being in class with you because I loved in classes where students would raise their hand to answer the question. Cause I was always so scared to speak in class <laugh>. So that would've been, I would've been so thrilled to have you as a classmate. It would've been wonderful. Well, I think the second thing is, and I didn't know back then and didn't have the language to understand, but just processing those questions kind of takes me longer times. So those types of things were always very difficult for me. So, and if someone does something better than you, I don't understand that. What's wrong with acknowledging that? You're better at speaking than me Kelly though. Okay, so what, okay, let's move on. You have a skill that's, you know, like we all have different skills, right? Like what's the problem with saying that this person has a skill or it is more advanced in that skill than I am?

Kelly Bron Johnson (22:50):

Like I don't fix computer wires. So even me saying that shows how much I like, I don't know, like all those wires behind the stereo and the tv, my partner does that cuz I'm sorry, it makes no sense to me. <laugh> and I don't, you know, red to red, I don't care. Like I don't, I don't even know what's, what it's doing or why it has to do that or H D M I to what I don't know. So I can't do that. I mean, not that I can't, I could probably learn if I wanted to. I don't, I have somebody that does that for me, <laugh>, and that's okay, right? That's his strength. That's not my strength. So let's just, yeah,

Doug Blecher (23:27):

Well I think part, I don't know if part of it is this, but for me, like when like you get like these instruction manuals, it's so difficult to like understand what's going on in these manuals. The pictures are terrible. I appreciate that they attempt with pictures, but they're terrible usually. So we need, yeah, we need some autistic people designing at least the visual aspect of these instruction manuals a lot more. So there's that. And then I think just the written instructions are not specific enough for me. Like it's very, it's like hard for me to like process the whole thing. I eventually get it and I can usually put the thing together, but it takes a lot more time in my life than I wish that it did. You know, like I <laugh> if those instruction booklets were better, I think it would be a lot easier to do.

Kelly Bron Johnson (24:18):

Just some people who are master at that. There's actually, there's actually an autistic guy in I think Alberta who, um, people pay him. He puts together specifically Ikea furniture. He is the master at IKEA furniture and he doesn't do like anything else. That's what he does. You call him, he goes in, he puts together your like shelf for you . <affirmative> <laugh>. And he does it, you know, he does it quickly as well. He does it. He's efficient. He knows what he is doing.

Doug Blecher (24:41):

Yeah. I can't remember his name off the top of my head now. I know who you're talking about though.

Kelly Bron Johnson (24:47):

Oh, you, you're looking okay Yeah.


Yes, there. Okay, there it is. Brad Fremmerlid. Yes. Something by Brad. Wow. The website. I can't remember something. It's something by Brad. Yeah. Built by Brad or something.


Okay, nice. Yeah, yeah. Like built by Brad. Yeah, that makes sense. Yeah.

Doug Blecher (25:04):

Yeah. So something, yeah, something like,

Kelly Bron Johnson (25:05):

So if you're in his area, in his town, can, , call him up and, , have him put together your stuff. <laugh>,

Doug Blecher (25:13):

I think he, he comes to your home, right? And uh, yeah. And puts together your stuff. So I kind of have a story relating to this that actually happened yesterday. So I was invited to a graduation party and I was very happy to go, happy to see this young man graduate, I've known him since middle school and seen him grow and mature and all those things. And I've learned enough about myself. Like I can't be at a party very long <laugh>. So I, I said, you know, I'm only gonna be there like an hour and a half at the most and then I'm gonna leave. And, you know, and I stuck to that. But as I was going along, there were new people, which are stressful certainly, you know, you never know what to expect and, but you know, if it was a new party with autistic people, I would've, I think I could probably have stayed a lot longer.


But there were, I think a lot of non-autistic people, or at least maybe people that might not know that they're neurodivergent and are kind of indoctrinated in neurotypical culture. And just those conversations were just like, I could feel like the energy drain from me,  <laugh> in having these conversations versus our conversation. Just not right now. Like, I could talk for, for many hours with you. We won't, don't worry Kelly. We won't do that <laugh>. But so just like, yeah, just, or just, you know, typically the interviews that we do, like I could just kind of like go on and on and, and we don't, you know, just respecting our guests time and your time. Like don't want to, don't wanna go on for three hours there. But I just, I just like left this party yesterday. I don't know how I even drove home. It was like a 20 minute drive or something. I was just so exhausted <laugh>. And when I got home, I was, I felt like it was like a zombie. I went to sleep at like 7:30 PM last night and God, I must have slept for like 11 hours or so. I like, which I don't do anymore at all. Like, just always it feels like it's always like a constant like reevaluation. I'm recalibrating what my kind of limitations are with things.

Kelly Bron Johnson (27:33):

I think about like how I kind of psyched myself up for things. Like going back to the, the funeral, I kind of, again, I left this, I left the, my home, but like, it was kind of last minute obviously for a funeral. And I had to get up really early in the morning like at like 3:00 AM so I can get this flight and go out. And I had like a rip roaring headache by the time I landed. Cause I was tired and I can't eat properly. Really. There's, there's no these planes anyways, um, Canadian planes, no food. And then I kind of kept pushing through anyway because there's things I wanted to get done and there's things that I wanted to do. Like personally, it wasn't just about the funeral and I didn't wanna make it just about the funeral and stuff. Anyway, just all that to say like it's, I knew ahead of time that it was gonna be a lot.


So I knew that I had kind of planned in time for myself alone as well. And then, and then it kind of also accepting that it is gonna be awkward no matter what. Right? I was going to a funeral from an ex-coworker. We weren't a hundred percent that close, but, you know, I still care. And you know, I ended up at the reception after with all his family. I was literally the only person that was not family. And I was the only person there that was not just on, not only family, but like from out of town. Like not anywhere. It's not like I showed up and they had had a picnic before or something and I'd seen them. It's going to be awkward. And then I don't do well in groups. And it is, it's after a funeral. What, how do you start a conversation?


Do you go up to somebody and be like, Hey, how is your vacation? Like, you know, like somebody just died, so I mean, <laugh> or, I mean, I'm not gonna go up and be like, Hey, how do you know the person that died? Like, it's just like, it's not like how do you make small talk? So yeah, it was totally, it was totally awkward. I ate, I talked to a few people. I, I sat forbid I, I talked to my coworker and, but I did my, I felt like I did what I did respectfully what I could do. And then I left at a reasonable time and so I left before some other people did. But that's, that's okay. I was still there. And for me, I think my presence was more important than my feelings of awkwardness. So yeah, I balance it out. I kind of prepare myself ahead of time.

Doug Blecher (29:59):

I th yeah, that's, that's the same, that was my same feeling yesterday going to this graduation party. Like I knew this is probably not gonna be in an environment that I'm gonna be super excited to be in, but kind of owed it to the felt like owed it to the person that was graduating. And yeah, small talk I think for me is like, I need connection and I always need to have meaningful conversations with people. I think that's why podcasting and asking people questions on these podcasts is, is so meaningful to me because I think it's an opportunity to connect, to learn, to share. And I think a lot of times in these situations, like, yeah, like how do you connect at a funeral? Like, oh, that's a, that's kind of a tricky situation, isn't it? Yeah,

Kelly Bron Johnson (30:53):

It's not like a wedding, right? Like a wedding, you can be like, oh, how do you know the couple? That's fine. But like, yeah, at a funeral, what the hell do you do?

Doug Blecher (30:59):

Context. Context is so difficult, <laugh>.

Kelly Bron Johnson (31:04):

But I, I think that's actually the fun part about the podcast. I think our podcast represents like autistic communication authentically in a sense that we just, we just dive right in, right? We don't spend a lot of time kind of like being like, oh, so how's the weather where you are? And I wouldn't listen to a podcast that did stuff like that, right? Yeah. It's just not my, my personality. So yeah, we just dive right into the juicy, meaty everything and go for it. And that's, but that's like, that's how we communicate in general. So,

Doug Blecher (31:33):

Absolutely. It's definitely autistic communication. So, last thing, unless there's something else you wanted to get to, I did wanna ask you about,  in terms of communication, you've been, it seems like you've been doing a lot of virtual speaking engagements, a lot of in-person engagements recently, like, seems kind of, I don't know how many you're doing, but it seems like a lot seems like it might be overwhelming. What's been that experience like recently?

Kelly Bron Johnson (32:05):

So, you know, I was giving talks and stuff before the pandemic, and then with the pandemic, it's shifted to virtual. And what I noticed when I went back to in person was that I forgot how to breathe. I know it sounds, it sounds super strange.

Doug Blecher (32:21):

No, not at all.

Kelly Bron Johnson (32:24):

Like I would, I would find myself out breath giving a talk and like suddenly realize, oh, I'm, I'm getting kind of dizzy. I'm kind of lightheaded. I'm okay. I'm like, I'm, I'm burping so I'm swallowing air. Like, what the hell? And I'm like, you know, I, I came back from some of the, the first like in-person ones, I've done it. I said, what the hell is going on? Like, how can I not talk anymore? Like, this is what I do all the time. And so people are like, well, are you nervous? And I said, no, I don't get nervous. Like, this energizes me. I have a great time getting up and speaking. Anyway, it turns out I was just probably speaking too fast, probably, I think. Cause I get so excited. I get so excited and passionate, , like forget that, you know, I'm breathing too shallow.


I'm not breathing deep enough. And so I'm actually running out of air while speaking because I'm just like, so I think I was just like so excited to be back on stage. And so yeah, it was, it was uncomfortable, right? Those, those first couple when it became very uncomfortable and I was actually like, almost in physical pain afterwards because I hadn't been breathing and stuff. And it took quite some recovery time. So it was like, there was a little bit of fear of like, okay, is this gonna happen every time I talk? Because this is one of the most important parts of my business in my opinion. But, you know, I figured it out. And what I've done is I've also integrated my breathing or my knee to remember to breathe into my talk, and I invite the audience to kind of take a deep breath with me. And that helps to slow me down and help to remind me so that I don't end up in pain at the end of the end of my talk.

Doug Blecher (33:59):

I didn't think we'd be talking about breathing when I asked you this question, but I love that because, you know, not that maybe about in the last six months I learned that the majority of us humans, I don't, it's like over 90%. We don't know how to breathe correctly. We have inverted breathing patterns. So, you know, I've learned recently how to breathe correctly and that's definitely been really helpful. But also just reminding myself to breathe throughout the day is, you know, the kind of the executive functioning of it has also, you know, I think is really important. We so often don't remember to breathe. So I love that you're encouraging the audience to do that as well.

Kelly Bron Johnson (34:40):

Yeah, because I, and we we're up here, you can actually cause yourself a panic attack, because you're, you get yeah, all tight in part of that integration or that,  that reminder to have my audience breathe along with me was taught to me when I was doing another validation program, a learning program. And we're talking about how you have to be regulated in order to learn to assimilate information. And so I kind of use that as saying, well, I'm speaking at you a lot, I'm telling you a lot of things. You're learning a lot of new things, some things that might even be uncomfortable for you to learn. And so I invite people to breathe with me just to take a pause and to kind of digest that information, like really breathe it in, so to speak. Right? But it helps 'em, I think it helps me, it helps them be more open to what I'm saying. Again, especially if they find it confrontational, if they find it that it's, it's headbutting with ideas or opinions that they had causing a little bit of an internal conflict, it can be good to step back a moment, breathe, and you're not in trouble. No one's gonna get hurt. No, you're not in danger. We're just learning some new things today. It's gonna be okay.

Doug Blecher (35:51):

What's been like the feedback of your kind of re recent talks and like, how's that been going for you?

Kelly Bron Johnson (35:59):

So, I mean, I've had some great feedback in a sense of like how I do it, how I am, how I make the presentations accessible. I use simple language. I use simple examples. I use myself an example. I'm vulnerable, I'm open. And I think my brain just moves so fast that that thinking and speaking on the fly works for me. And because I'm not nervous, I'm not, like if there is silence, if I am thinking I don't care, like <laugh>, it doesn't bother me. And I think that can be refreshing for an audience as well to not have somebody just blah at lightning speed. But I mean, I think my big issue is even when people are receptive to it, I don't see a lot of changes happening. Or at least, you know, as usual change makers, we don't see it as fast as we want it.


We don't see things going as quickly as we want it. I see a lot of lip service still in terms of companies working on inclusion or, or even just the concept of neurodiversity and anything to do with diversity in general. A lot of talk, but no action or no, no concrete actions or no sustainable actions. Yeah, there's a lot. I don't want to,  I don't wanna put down any business' efforts, especially the ones I've worked with. Like, I don't wanna put down their efforts. So with the, the steps they have taken, and a lot of them are doing the best they can as quickly as they can in terms of their own environment and their own culture. But it's, there's a lot still that needs to be done. And I think that that is intimidating for a lot of businesses, especially.

Doug Blecher (37:42):

Yeah. Do you feel like they're anxious about, do you feel like they're anxious about making the wrong steps or is this more,  or is there also some amount of, this is just like checking a a box to some degree?

Kelly Bron Johnson (38:00):

I'd say there's a mixture in terms of the misunderstanding of the importance of it first. So that awareness piece or not understanding really what it is or what it actually entails. And then there's a fear of getting it wrong. But there's also, I think a concern of, well, we've done this, you know, we've done, we've done gender equity, we've done to us L G B T Q, uh, we're so tired we're it's never gonna end. And it's, and it's like, well, yeah, as long as there are people, it never gonna end. As long as there are different people on this earth, it's never gonna end. And that's not a bad thing. That's not a bad thing. It's not bad to learn how to live with different people. Like, it shouldn't seem as like a, this labor, like this horrible thing that we have to do as a business or something. It should just be part of your natural reality, because that is the world. I mean, unless you put yourself in a bubble somewhere, you're gonna interact with people and you need, you should, you should interact with people, you should interact with different people. And, and there's nothing wrong with doing that. I don't know what to say.

Doug Blecher (39:13):

Yeah, just continuous growth, right?

Kelly Bron Johnson (39:19):

There's a lot of fear, just, yeah.

Doug Blecher (39:21):

Yeah, yeah. Definitely. All right. Well, was there anything else we wanted to, you wanted to talk about today? Or should we wrap this thing up?

Kelly Bron Johnson (39:32):

We can wrap this one up and we can keep talking for another episode later.

Doug Blecher (39:35):

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Well,  I was a little nervous about this episode, but I, once we both showed up wearing the same color, somehow I knew this was gonna be a great episode. So thanks as always, Kelly. And I guess,  stay tuned , next, next time we come back, we are gonna have another wonderful guest.

Kelly Bron Johnson (39:55):

Excellent. Thank you.