Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to “Fierce Conversations with Toby,” the show that explores challenging topics often left in the shadows. I’m Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we’re going to meet Leslie Ahmadi, who will help us understand how different cultures, races, and even countries can come together to create an extended family. I’m delighted to introduce you to my friend, Leslie. Hi, Leslie. Thanks so much for joining me on Fierce Conversations with Toby.
Leslie Ahmadi: Thanks, Toby. I’m thrilled to be here.
Toby Dorr: I know you are. I’ve been looking forward to this.
Leslie Ahmadi: Me, too!
Toby Dorr: So I like to start out by asking just a simple question to get us started without anything too difficult, and that is what is your favorite color and why?
Leslie Ahmadi: You know, actually, I have more than one favorite color. In the, um, in the interest of justice, I think I’ll choose a color that maybe is less talked about in the context of being a favorite color. It’s a color that well, in my experience, it’s often overlooked – undervalued, but it’s the color brown.
Toby Dorr: Brown. Interesting. I’ve never had anybody pick brown. I’ve had people pick black and white and everything in between, but not brown.
Leslie Ahmadi: Yeah, exactly. And I was exactly the same way too. I didn’t pay much attention to the color brown, until when I was in college, I started experimenting with hair color, my natural hair color was black and I put a warm cocoa brown in my hair and of course that changed the whole what should I say? Palette of what would look good on me in terms colors. So, I began to notice that when I put on brown shades, suddenly I would come to life. I put on the chocolatey browns, the caramel browns, the honey brown, the hazelnut browns, the deep dark chocolate or mahogany browns. And they all looked good against my own complexion, which is also brown. Then I noticed, because I still didn’t give up on, give up on wearing bright, brilliant colors, I started to notice also that these colors would look more vibrant. These reds, these oranges, these greens, these rainbow colors, these jewel tones, these ice tones would look even more beautiful when put against a brown background, like a garden of beautiful, bright blossoms on the good, solid, brown, dark earth.
Toby Dorr: I love that. I love that. That’s really interesting.
Leslie Ahmadi: Thanks for asking that.
Toby Dorr: Totally different and I love that answer. I like things that are outside the box. So, can you tell us about a turning point in your life and how the path you chose impacted you?
Leslie Ahmadi: Sure. When I was barely 30 years old and I was starting graduate school at The Ohio State University in Columbus, I met, became friends with, and quickly fell in love with an extraordinary human being who was from a different country, a different race, and a different faith tradition from mine. So he wasn’t exactly the person that I would have thought I would marry someday. But not only did this gentleman have the audacity to propose to me, but he also asked that when we both finished our graduate studies, would I start a new life with him in his home country, which happened to be the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Toby Dorr: What a difference from America.
Leslie Ahmadi: And so I had a very important choice to make. Here was this wonderful, beautiful human being and man who I really was in love with and who I really trusted with all my heart. And here was a place that I had never been to. And whenever I did hear about it or see about it, it was generally through images in the media that didn’t sit easily with me and a lot of people. And so, I had to decide which way I was going to go. And it was the hardest decision I’d ever had to make. But in the end, after four years, I married him. And then four years after that, we moved and lived in Iran.
Toby Dorr: Yes. That is quite an adjustment. And you had to learn a different language too, didn’t you? And a different culture.
Leslie Ahmadi: I did. I did.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. And you speak several languages, don’t you?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes. Well, I speak English, my native language. I speak Spanish, which was the language I chose as my career to teach Spanish, because I just think it’s a beautiful language. Um, no other reason. And, being a language and culture person, I mean, that was part of my career, to teach others foreign languages and to teach them to appreciate other cultures. So I was kind of in an ironic situation where I didn’t know if I was that comfortable going culture, but I couldn’t tell anybody because that didn’t fit the role.
Toby Dorr: And I know your blog, you have shared some beautiful poetry in Farsi and Persian and, you’ve interviewed a few and brought some Iranian people into our lives. So I think it’s beautiful how you cross that culture and combine them. You captured this story in a memoir. Can you tell us about it? And is your book available?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes, I have written a memoir. I remember the day in Iran I was driving in a car and I knew at that moment I was going to write this book. And it tells a story a story of me, a black American Christian woman, and, as I said, the person who was teaching other people to appreciate other cultures. Who was too ashamed or maybe too proud to admit that I’m terrified to make this move over to Iran. I didn’t even tell my husband. He wanted me to start a new life with him in his homeland, Iran. So the rest of the story is about how I really deny those feelings and leave Columbus, Ohio and start a new life with him anyway. The book right now in search of a publisher, so it’s not presently available. But I do have a website. I would invite anyone who wants to hear more of this story or more about the fascinating life people live in Iran and, and, and through my eyes. I would be delighted if they would come to my website at Leslie Ahmadi, that’s just my name, a h m a d i, dot com and sign up for my newsletter.
Toby Dorr: And we’re going to have a link to that in the show notes, so listeners will be able to just click on it and go to your website. And if you’re interested in Leslie’s book, if you join her email list, you will certainly know when it’s available. So I think that’s beautiful. What’s the title of your book?
Leslie Ahmadi: Road Between Two Hearts: a Black American bride discovers Iran. And if I can briefly explain where ‘the road between two hearts’ comes from. It may sound like it’s the connection between a man and a woman, the love that Mahmood and I had, that’s easy to assume, but it really isn’t a refrain to that. It all started with that, but it’s certainly, expanded to a heart between me and the man, my husband, and it spread to my heart, to all of the people that I came to know and love in Iran. And so there’s an expression in Persian that’s, the Persian language is full of all these kinds of quotes. And it says “A road can always be found between two hearts.”
Toby Dorr: Oh, I love that.
Leslie Ahmadi: Isn’t that beautiful?
Toby Dorr: Can you say that in Persian?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes. “Del be del rah dare”.
Toby Dorr: I love that. I think that that is such a beautiful language to hear.
Leslie Ahmadi: It is to me too.
Toby Dorr: And I love how you’ve combined that. and made it into the title of your book, and it has a special meaning in Iran. But it also has a special meaning because we know it’s a love story between two people. I kind of like titles that have that double entendre. My book did that with Living With Conviction. I just think it expands the possibilities of the book. So, I love that. But I never knew until just now that that was an Iranian saying, and I love that.
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, can I say one quick other thing about it?
Toby Dorr: Yes.
Leslie Ahmadi: Yeah. There’s a scene in the book that it’s a scene, but it really happened, of course, because it was a memoir. But when we brought our one-year-old daughter to Iran for the first time, there was a circle of my husband’s family curious to meet us all and curious especially to know Parisa, our little girl, who was just one year old. And her grandmother, we were seated in a circle. And her grandmother was seated directly across on the other side of the circle. And her grandmother took her arms and opened them up, saying, Come, come with her hands. Parisa had not seen her before, and I don’t know what happened, but she broke free from her daddy’s hug, and ran straight to the arms of her grandmother, and hugged her. And that’s when my mother-in-law, her grandmother, said, “Del be del rah dare”. There’s always a road between two hearts.
Toby Dorr: Wow! A third meaning for the book title. I love that. Wow. That just gives me goosebumps. That’s beautiful. I love that. So, was there ever a time that you really felt imprisoned, and if so, what did you do to liberate yourself?
Leslie Ahmadi: I’m so glad that you asked the question that way, Toby, because it brings me back to a book I really love and admire, which is your book, Living with Conviction and talking about prisons. And as you do so ably, you point out that there are physical prisons, such as you experienced, but that there are also other, all kinds of other prisons, prisons that can impact us negatively because of trauma because of the prisons we put ourselves in, whether it’s guilt, shame, self-doubt, any number of negative feelings that keep us from moving forward. In my case. Well, it was this fear. I had this terror that I couldn’t tell anyone about going to Iran. It haunted me. I felt committed to do this and I loved my husband. But I was not a happy camper about going. And so how do you reconcile that? I guess in the end, Toby, I followed my heart. I took a leap of faith. And I halfway reached out. No, maybe a little more than half. I reached out to the people in that new world and who are so dear to my husband and to people and the whole culture and whatever I did to reach out, it was return to me 10 times by the heart of these people who took me in.
Toby Dorr: I love that. That is beautiful. And you know, I can imagine, I’ve never really left the country. I’ve been to Canada, I’ve been to Mexico, but those kind of don’t count. I know I would be thinking, “Oh my gosh, I gotta wear one of those things and cover my face and my head and what am I doing?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yeah, that’s very true. And I think it was only five years after the Iranian or the Islamic revolution and the American hostage crisis, a bestselling book about an American woman who had lived with her husband in the States and under false pretenses, he took her to Iran and told her that she and her daughter were not leaving. And I knew with my head thst these things, you can’t judge a whole group of people based on one story or groups of people that we might be exposed to. And yet, you know that in your head, but it messes with your head. I remember seeing this on the TV, the images of women wearing clothes that I could not imagine myself wearing. And it really did contribute to the terror. As a black American woman, I know what it feels like to be judged based on misconceptions or to be seen through those eyes. So I knew that, but I couldn’t shake it right away until, again, bit by bit, people themselves eased my fear and showed me, gave me a completely different set of eyes.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. So, it’s interesting, you said, as a Black American woman, you kind of felt that there were times when you were judged. Without merit, you know, judged by something else and in this fear of yours about going to Iran you were kind of almost doing the very same thing.
Leslie Ahmadi: Exactly. It didn’t get me off the hook. We all have to do our work. We all have biases.
Toby Dorr: That’s true. And sometimes I think you can’t really understand an issue until you can see both sides of it until you can experience both sides of it, and then it opens your eyes and changes your perspective.
Leslie Ahmadi: I agree with you.
Toby Dorr: So that was definitely a great experience, I think. Who has been your most important mentor?
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, I’ve had in my lifetime a few mentors, but I think in the context of this conversation, I think one of my most special mentors was my father-in-law, my husband’s father, whom I called. Baba, which means daddy in Persian. I did not know or notice that all the nine children of Baba and Maman’s called him the equivalent of sir, but here I was just calling him daddy. Nobody told me, nobody. She gets to do that. But we had a very intimate relationship and I believe that in terms of graciousness, in terms of sense of humor, in terms of wisdom, and in terms of faith in God, he was one of the best examples to me, and he was also one of the best as a devout Muslim man. He also was a wonderful model to me of how to enjoy and be enriched by an interfaith relationship. You know, he, in my case, coming as a Christian to a predominantly Muslim country and, legally, officially with the religion of Islam. He never made me feel less than I was. I was a minority there. I was in the minority faith, rather than the majority faith, as I am in the United States, but he always made me feel like a fellow sister, a fellow person of faith. And we had some wonderful conversations because of that.
Toby Dorr: Do I remember a story where he gave you a cross or something?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes, indeed. He and my mother-in-law, I haven’t said much about because she didn’t talk a lot, but she just showed everything through her actions. She was dear and lovely. But before I met either Baba or Maman, they gave a gift to me through my husband, who came back from Iran, and it was from them. It was a gold pendant, and it had the word God inscribed on it. And I wondered what the message was. I didn’t know if that meant they wanted me to see God in a certain way and to conform in a certain way or I just didn’t know what it meant. Then when the light hit it, I noticed it from a different way and I saw there was the image of a cross imposed on it. And I, it took my breath away because it was his way, it was their way of saying we love you and we accept you, who you are and your life is in God’s hands and this is you and this is for you.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. And this was before you’d met them. Is that correct?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s a beautiful reaching out of a gift. That had help ease your mind.
Leslie Ahmadi: I should have worn it.
Toby Dorr: Oh, yes, that have been beautiful. Well, when we get together in October, you need to bring it so I can see it.
Leslie Ahmadi: Okay,
Toby Dorr: So you return to the USA from Iran in 1996. What brought you back to the States and how has living here Impacted your husband and children and your family since then?
Leslie Ahmadi: That was a much tougher decision than some might think. My hardest, the hardest decision I ever had to make was whether to marry and start a new life with my husband and go to Iran. But the second hardest decision was whether to go back to the United States or not? And it was hard because, yes, I was longing for home. I won’t lie. I was longing for the familiarity of home and, my sisters, my family, my friends, my communities. I would also be leaving my husband’s home and a place that had really become a home for me too, not only for me, but the children. So, you know, it was really hard emotionally, but it actually, in the end, it boiled down to practical considerations, mostly around what would life look like for our children here versus there? And again, not so as easy a decision as one thinks, but it was that and also the consideration of which of the two countries would better allow us economically to keep connections with both countries, to be able to travel back and forth. And so, in the end, the U. S. won out. Once again, , I so appreciate Baba and Maman who said to us, they didn’t say, no, you should stay here. They said, whatever is best for your family, you must think in terms of that. And so, we, with their blessings, we went. By that time, we had two children, not just Parisa, but a little boy named Niki. And we went home.
Toby Dorr: You left home to be able to go home. That would be a tough decision but have you been back to Iran to visit many times
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes, that was that again. That was one of our goals. We wouldn’t have been able to come to America and visit as much from Iran as vice versa. So, every 2 to 3 years we would make a trip and spend the summer. I had a job, a teaching job that allowed me to do that.
Toby Dorr: Did your mother and father-in-law ever come to the United States?
Leslie Ahmadi: No, they never did. They never did. I know that Baba and Maman, Baba had a brother who lived in Scotland and they went as far as that, but they never were able to come. They’ve since passed. They died 12 years ago, but my love and respect for them hasn’t.
Toby Dorr: I can tell. tell that. So now that you live back in the United States, you’re actually back in Columbus, Ohio, where everything began. How has your time in Iran had an impact on your current life?
Leslie Ahmadi: I think there are little things that rubbed off on me when I was in Iran. It’s not quite as strong as it was 30 years ago when we came back. I can’t believe it’s been 30 years. But, little gestures that I had found very charming. Little niceties, that was something I liked about the Persian culture. These little formalities really were signs of affection to me or warmth So, for example, standing up when a guest or an older person came into the room. Now I’m the older person. Everybody stands up.
Toby Dorr: Yes, I know the feeling!
Leslie Ahmadi: Putting my hand on my heart as a greeting rather than extending a hand and limiting body contact, but still showing that it matters. And in fact, I think that’s almost a warmer way of greeting.
Toby Dorr: I love that. It’s more enriching.
Leslie Ahmadi: Yeah. I really, I really like that. Bringing somebody who comes by refreshment without help.
Toby Dorr: Oh, yes. I think I remember you telling me that story. Can you repeat that here? The purpose of that?
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, I don’t remember this conversation with you, but I’ll tell you anyway, it’s just that in the Persian culture, people don’t want to bother each other. So, if I were to say, Toby, would you like a cup of tea? You’re supposed to say, “Oh no, no”. Because you don’t want to bother me. So I make sure that I just bring you the tea.
Toby Dorr: Without asking.
Leslie Ahmadi: But nobody told me that rule. So there were a lot of people who left our house hungry and thirsty because I offered something they said no. And I said, Oh, okay.
Toby Dorr: I bet that didn’t happen for too long.
Leslie Ahmadi: I hope not. But I think the most significant thing I had to do with my tolerance for or my ability to be in spaces where other people were. I needed – as a bona fide introvert – I needed a lot of time by myself, but I didn’t get much of that at all when I was in Iran and there were always people around and we stayed with my husband’s family for a few months before we moved into our own house. By the time we got to our new house, and it was just he and me and Parisa in this big house, it felt so empty and I was so lonely. And that’s something that has rubbed off on me even now. I think it has influenced me. We are now, our children are grown up. One daughter and her husband live with us and my husband’s brother lives with us. We are a – what do you call it a multi-generational family? And that’s how we like it. And I think that’s what you have in common, right?
Toby Dorr: iIt is because we live with my stepson and his wife and their two children and we have a space in the walkout basement. That’s our own space so we can close the door and we have our space. But we’re right here in the same house and the kids come down and up like there’s no door there. We have breakfast together once a week and we go out to eat together. And I think there is so much strength and so much enrichment and so much bonding when you live in an expanded family. And I that’s how cultures used to be everywhere. And we’ve grown apart from that. And I tell you, I like it this way. I just feel a part of something bigger than myself.
Leslie Ahmadi: I know, Toby. I bet there are, I know there are lots of people who wonder how we can possibly want this arrangement. But we do. We really like it, right, Toby?
Toby Dorr: Yes!
Leslie Ahmadi: It’s nice to talk to you in Zoom conversations and see your grandchildren come into view. Smiles shy waves.
Toby Dorr: My little granddaughter, she’s special, but she knows what I love. And, so I love birds’ nests and eggs. And so see my little Robin’s eggs. I’ll come down to my desk and there’ll be a robin’s egg laying on my desk and she’s found it out yard and she knows how much I love them and she just lays them gently on my desk. So, I’ve started putting them in a shell and, and keeping them on my desk. And, you know, it just is such a deeper relationship than we ever had when we lived separately. So, I think beautiful. I love it. Can you offer any advice to people who are contemplating a cross-cultural romantic relationship or marriage or even a friendship?
Leslie Ahmadi: Wow. We only have 10, five minutes. Right?
Toby Dorr: Oh, no time limit. No, we don’t have a time limit.
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, I’ll try to keep it down to a couple of principles. I don’t know if I’ll be successful, but I think the most important thing is for a person to know himself or herself. Know your values and those things that are most dear to you. That’s not as easy a thing to identify as we might think because our values, the things that we think are important for governing our lives, and our relationships with other people come to us so naturally. We grow up in cultures and we kind of learn from our surroundings and we think everybody else knows that’s how it works.
Toby Dorr: Right.
Leslie Ahmadi: The truth is that people don’t all know what it works. People, everybody has their own, um, every country has different cultures and cultures within cultures. It’s very important, first of all, to know one’s own values and then to be able to figure out what are the most important and to find out the same thing from our perspective partner or friend, that’s more in the context of romance and to find out which ones, you can compromise on and which ones are the non-negotiables.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, that’s a really good point.
Leslie Ahmadi: Yeah. And I think, when you’re in love, those are the last things you think about. But it’s really helpful to do that. As I said, it is challenging because you don’t know what questions to ask each other. You don’t even know how to delineate the different values, but there are books out there that reference you, you can go on to Google or you can go to Amazon, there are more and more cross-cultural couples in the United States and in the world. So you can go into Google or, uh, Amazon and enter the search term cross-cultural love or intercultural love. And there’s some really pretty nice guides that help you know to ask each other questions. You could even make it a romantic game of it, an evening of it, asking questions that help to gauge what your beliefs are about time and timeliness, how a person should spend their money, how much privacy does one require or not require. And, so just be sure that you give yourself a space to explore those things. I think the second thing I would say is to know that. Well, in all fairness, cross-cultural relationships are not necessarily for everybody. In fact, it’s not for everybody. I think there are challenges. I know I spoke in an enamored way like a kid with a crush about my experience in Iran. But it wasn’t all easy. It wasn’t all goodness and light. There were things to have to struggle with. But I do believe there are some people who may be predisposed to tolerate those differences because of the rewards and the delights of being in a new world and with different people and new adventures. Some are stronger and make it possible to overcome those things. There’s no shame in saying, “Oh, I like you a lot. I love you a lot, but this is not for us.” A big, big question also is what country are you going to live in? You know, so God has been good to us. Toby, we’ve been in both countries and we’re still together, enjoying the best of both worlds.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. You know, our daughter-in-law is from Moldova, which is a small country that’s next to Ukraine. It’s between Ukraine and Romania. I didn’t even know Moldova existed until she came into our life. So we have some of that cross-cultural stuff too. And her parents, Lucia’s parents don’t speak any English at all. And they’ve been here several times to visit. And, I just talk to them and keep going and Lucia will say, you know, they don’t understand English? And I said, well, that’s all right. They’ll figure it out, and just keep talking. But one of the sweetest things I think is Lucia’s mother knew that I was writing a book and she knew what my story was. She was in the US when Dateline episode came out. And she watched it on TV and I’m thinking, what is she thinking? You know, here I am, getting arrested and what could she be thinking? But, she never had a problem with it. When my book was published, she said to Lucia, Why didn’t Toby give me a book, send me a book! And I said, well, it’s in English, but I sent her a book and I looked up the Romanian, their language, they speak Romanian and Russian, but I looked up in Romanian and I signed the book and I wrote it in Romanian. She read the whole thing and you know how she read it? One page at a time, she’d take a picture of it with her phone and do Google Translate. She read the whole book that way.
Leslie Ahmadi: Oh my goodness, wow, that sounds like something like the cross story, you know, she wanted so much to know your story.
Toby Dorr: And now she’s passing my book all around in Moldova. So I think that’s so interesting.
Leslie Ahmadi: I love that.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, it’s a pretty fun story.
Toby Dorr: So, is there a question you wish I had asked you?
Leslie Ahmadi: Yes, Toby, there is.
Toby Dorr: Oh, good.
Leslie Ahmadi: I wish that you had asked me how it was that we first came to know each other. How that happened.
Toby Dorr: So, tell us about that.
Leslie Ahmadi: Okay. So once upon a time about maybe 14 years ago, I was getting ready. I was in the living room. I was getting ready to work and I had the TV on. I think it was the Today Show – one of the morning programs and lo and behold, I heard in the news that there was a story of a young volunteer, a woman who had escaped and helped an inmate who had been convicted of a serious crime escape and they ran off because of love together. And I just stopped everything I was doing and I listened and it impressed me. I don’t know. I wish I could remember more in what specific way, but I know it really left an impression on me. Little did I know that 14 years later, I would meet Toby Dorr in a group of aspiring memoir writers!
Toby Dorr: Isn’t that interesting? I never knew that. I didn’t know that you remembered me from TV. That’s, that’s really interesting. Yes.
Leslie Ahmadi: It’s so cool! so glad we met, Toby.
Toby Dorr: Me too. I think it’s beautiful. You know one time Chris and I were doing some garage sale shopping and this was maybe three or four years after I’d gotten out of prison and we went into this garage sale and this woman told us she was moving and she said, and I really need to find a home for my dog. Do you want to take my dog? And she said, you know, my dog has such an awesome story. He was in this prison dog program called Safe Harbor. And I went into PetSmart and this woman who ran it said, I have just the perfect dog for you. And she showed me this dog and I adopted it. And then, several weeks later, she ran away with one of the inmates and I have always wondered my whole life. How is she doing? Chris looked at her and she looked at me and he said I think she’s doing pretty good. And she said now, how would you know and then she looked at me and she said “you’re her!”
Leslie Ahmadi: My goodness. That’s so sweet!
Toby Dorr: Yes Yes, I love that. So is there a question you’d like to ask me?
Leslie Ahmadi: Oh, well, that was the that was the question. Well, let’s see the question that I Oh, no, I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I had a goofy moment.
Toby Dorr: That’s all right.
Leslie Ahmadi: Toby, anyone who has read your book or knows your story knows that extraordinary life. And part of that extraordinary experience has also included very difficult, very painful experiences and losses in your life. And yet, just like I was talking about my Babba, I think when I see you, I see not that you don’t have your times of discouragement like everyone – but most of the time when I see you I see I feel a joy – I feel an energy, and I feel a fearlessness that’s in every atom of your being, and I think the other women in our pod group could, would say the same. And so I wanted to ask you, to what do you attribute that, and do you have any advice attached to that?
Toby Dorr: I’ve had several people point out something similar and I really think, I lost everything. Truly lost everything. I’ve lost so many things. But I think it’s those places that are the hardest in our lives that enrich us the most. And I think it’s your choice to take from something, either the heartbreak and the horror and the trauma of it, or to take from it the overcoming of it and and the lesson that you learned from it. And it’s your choice to choose what you take. And I choose to move forward. simply because I’ve been in that dark place and I don’t want to stay there. I don’t want to go back. I want to keep moving forward. And so I look at all these things that have happened in my life, you know, losing a baby and losing a son to cancer and, and destroying my marriage and, there’s just so many things. I look at them as blessed opportunities for growth.
Leslie Ahmadi: Well, Toby, and I know you mean that with every fiber of your being, I’ve known you for two years now, and maybe even more, and you remind me of a dear friend of mine. If I would share something that really discouraged me or disappointed me, she would say, “Okay, I understand that. What was the gift in it for you?”
What was the gift in it? And, when I hear you talk, I feel like that’s what, you’re saying the same thing, that you’re looking for what good are you extracting or learning from that?
Toby Dorr: Sometimes it’s just that I had the strength to put one foot forward. And sometimes it was only one step. But was a step forward. I didn’t stay stuck there.
Leslie Ahmadi: Wow.
Toby Dorr: And, I recently had a knee surgery, total knee replacement. And they found a tumor in there and so I had to go to the orthopedic oncologist and, of course, when you go to something like that, they want to know your whole life story, every pregnancy you’ve had, every illness you’ve had, what your family’s medical history is. And as I told this physician’s assistant my story, she’s like, wow! You’ve been through a lot of stuff and when the doctor came in and he looked at my knee and I was just a few weeks out of surgery, but I already had it bent in a natural position. And he’s like, how did you heal so quickly?
And I said, Oh, I don’t know. I just did what I had to do. And the physician’s assistant said “she healed so quickly because she has an unbelievable mental strength”. I just think, sometimes life hurts a little bit, and sometimes your heart breaks a little bit, but you move forward anyway, because it doesn’t do anyone any good for you to stay stuck there.
Leslie Ahmadi: That’s very profound.
Toby Dorr: Thank you. and another thing I think that really inspires me is that I have found my purpose in life and for so long I looked for my purpose and I didn’t know what it was and now I found it, it’s so freeing to know what you’re supposed to be doing and then do it.
Leslie Ahmadi: Because you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing and doing it so well, you’re touching the life of other people, including myself, including so many people.
Toby Dorr: That is my goal, and I’ll keep doing it. I don’t see myself stopping until physically I can’t sit in a chair.
Leslie Ahmadi: I agree with you.
Toby Dorr: So Leslie. I’d like to ask you one final question and that is what’s one word that inspires you?
Leslie Ahmadi: Authenticity.
Toby Dorr: That’s a good one,
Leslie Ahmadi: You know would define that as the ability and the willingness to be yourself with someone. I think it means also the willingness to be your natural self, to show and interact with your heart as well as your head, to be willing to show what lies beneath the surface, whether it, is not always the fancy bright stuff, but sometimes the sad stuff.
Toby Dorr: I think even if someone doesn’t know us, they know when we’re authentic
Leslie Ahmadi: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think you’re right. When I think of an authentic person in my life, I think of you Toby and I do, I think of you and that’s why I like you so much.
Toby Dorr: Thank you Leslie that’s beautiful I really appreciate that. It means a lot to me
Leslie Ahmadi: I think that also being authentic to someone else is the most beautiful and genuine invitation for them to be authentic and kind. And so. It’s, it’s, that’s why our pod is so close.
Toby Dorr: I think so too. We’ve come to that point. I also think in our pod, the fact that we’re all working on memoirs requires us to bear our souls to each other and so really accelerated the friendship that formed in our group. So I think that’s pretty powerful. I love that word authenticity. That’s a really important word. So thank you so much, Leslie, for your time today. I loved hearing your story and I know our listeners will too.
Leslie Ahmadi: I’m so shy and I had so much fun.
Toby Dorr: It was fun. It’s always talk to you – you’re a vibrant red today.
Leslie Ahmadi: Thank you very much.
Toby Dorr: Thank you for listening to Fierce Conversations with Toby. We appreciate all the support you can give, and I’d like to share four ways that really help our show.
One, subscribe to our Patreon channel at patreon. com slash fierce conversations, where 10 percent of our proceeds are used to provide workbooks to women in prison.
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The show notes contain links to all the ways you can support us as well as links to information for our guest today, Leslie Ahmadi, and links to purchase my books.
Fierce Conversations with Toby is created and hosted by Toby Dorr and produced by No. 3 Productions, a division of Grace Point Publishing. Music created and arranged by Lisa Plasse, owner of From the Top Music Studio. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby. Escape your prison.