“Use Your Words!” Awareness of Fear?

IT by Stephen King

Last week I delivered my first prepared speech. I had the opportunity to talk for 4-6 minutes about myself. I went prepared with a Leg of Skeleton in my backpack. No, really, I borrowed one of Shelly’s legs as a prop in case I fell apart and my index cards were suddenly written in a language I don’t currently speak. (“Shelly” is the full-sized skeleton that stands in my living room. Poor dear, he’ s but a shell of a man…)

Twice a month, I attend Toastmasters and gather with others who want to hone their speaking skills, overcome their discomfort with speaking in public or enjoy speaking and have a desire to share their skills.

Why?

I’m talking to one of my students; someone who comes to class regularly and has supported my work. In other words, I’m talking with someone who appreciates what I’m doing and gets it. We’re talking about form and technique and it’s all good. Then she asks what Movement Alchemy is.

One of two things happen.

Either I hit one of my “cue” words and I’m off and running and well-articulated thoughts are just pouring out.

OR:

I suddenly develop a nasty case of Sludge Mind.

Without warning, I’m in the mental equivalent to an unfamiliar, pitch-dark room and I’m looking for a light switch. I’m all starts and stops (if I used “uhs” and “ums” – I’d be all that too!) as though I just forgot what I was about to say. If I’m lucky, I see the work in my head running like a movie, but my words have abandoned me. In moments like this morning, it’s as though the processing upstairs is grinding to a thick, mucosal  halt. All the while inside my head, I’m screaming, “I know this! I know this!”

This used to happen to me when I was a child (mostly in math class) when I would be called to the board. I’m standing there, in the spotlight (which, for those of you who know me know this is not my happy place) and the light will not come on. I knew the answer 5 seconds ago, sitting at my desk. Like I knew the answer 5 seconds ago when I was teaching class!

I’m an introvert – definitely. Emotional baggage? Yup. Fear of public speaking. It’s in my way.

I’ve learned from experience that if I can’t talk about it, no one is going to come asking. I could be totally crazy and have no chance of building a financially via business, but if I can’t tell anyone about it, I absolutely have no chance.

My first speech went well, especially since throughout most of the experience, I couldn’t feel my face. As someone who spends much of my time in my body and developing whole self balance, this was an uncomfortable mental exercise. I lost my body. I don’t even remember feeling the pounding of my heart. I do remember feeling ungrounded. Eventually I began to float back to earth. Next, I found myself with enough presence of mind and body to check the clock. As I felt a small part of myself begin to regain consciousness, I decided to leave Leg of Skeleton for another time.

Someone recently told me that even after the many, many years Johnny Carson spent on the Tonight Show, he still got nervous before every show.

Great.

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