Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or to usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
6 p.m. Everything was cool. Our non-profit managed to pack the house for a benefit lecture featuring Dr. Bernie Siegel, so the financial pressure was off there. People were milling about enjoying organic smoothies, fresh vegetables and good conversation, so that was cool too. I was calm and serene, checking in with the volunteers at their various locations making sure all was going well, and it was.
6:45 p.m. Running slightly behind schedule but overall, everything is still going well. The co-executive directors of the non-profit took the stage after a brief acro-yoga entrance. One of the directors made a human chair while laying on her back, while the other director balanced himself on her feet and hands and proceeded to share a bit about the non-profit and its mission. It was really quite impressive. When they were finished, the acro-yogis made a fun human circle for the other board members to walk through as their names were read to the crowd… and then, my name was called.
6:55 p.m. As I walked through the makeshift circle I still felt calm. I’d taken a few minutes earlier in the day to picture myself before the audience, giving my opening remarks for Dr. Siegel’s lecture and everything going well. Apparently however, those few minutes were not enough as the moment the microphone touched my hand, any semblance of peace or serenity I’d had only seconds before were no longer anywhere to be found.
Earlier in the day, as I envisioned myself on stage, I really believed everything would be cool. I had a loose idea of what I was going to say but intentionally didn’t want to write anything down in an effort to have the talk be more organic, though in retrospect, that wouldn’t have been such a bad idea.
As I began to speak, I noticed the lighting in the room was very dim, making it was hard to see audience faces. That may sound like it should have played in my favor, but what it actually did was allow my mind to draw its own conclusions about the facial expressions made towards my speech, and in my mind, those faces were not impressed.
I don’t want to be over-dramatic. It’s not like I threw up on stage or completely froze like a dear in headlights. It was obviously uncomfortable though. My chest tightened while my nervousness showed in my voice cracking at times. I also said um more times than a political candidate blatantly lying in an interview, as I fumbled my way through the speech.
I still don’t remember much of what I said while on stage. My goal was to convey gratitude for the inspiration Dr. Siegel had given me during an interview I did with him earlier in the year, and how he inspired me to become more vulnerable in my writing, but I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen.
After I welcomed Bernie to the stage, I slunk my way upstairs to hide in the back of the balcony, embarrassed by what had just happened. I easily missed the first five to 10 minutes of Bernie’s speech as my mind was focused on berating myself over what a shitastic job I’d just done. The fear then sunk in that I’d never be able to handle public speaking, which was a legitimate concern as with my forthcoming book being published next year, I’ll be required to do plenty of public speaking.
7:10 .pm. It was at this point that a voice, a very authoritative, no fucking around kind of voice chimed in and said, “You did awesome.” I instinctively knew what that meant. It’s not that my speech was in any way awesome—nope, it definitely wasn’t that—but the voice was reassuring in its firm, yet gentle acknowledgement that I had the courage to get up there in the first place. And, that I’ll get up there and do it again, and again, and again until I get it right, because there’s really nothing to be afraid of.
People will find both fault and praise in the things we do, no matter how good or bad they truly are. Ultimately, however, it comes down to ourselves and a gut wrenchingly honest assessment of how we believe we did. Whether it’s public speaking, running a road race or disciplining a child, when we quiet our internal chatter and listen for the truth, a truth that doesn’t speak a language, but rather resonates within ourselves, our honest answer will be there. Sometimes it will be pleasant, others painful, but always, always, it will be honest.
9 a.m. (Three days later.) My original intention of the speech was to thank Bernie for helping me become more vulnerable in my writing, and while I most likely failed in conveying that message the other night on stage, here I am, offering you this brutally honest account of what went down the night I introduced Dr. Bernie Siegel.
Today I can embrace my imperfections exactly as they are, as a part of who I am, and the fact that I’m imperfectly perfect, and you’re imperfectly perfect, well, together we can make a big mess of our imperfections while still making significant contributions along the way.
So let’s get messy, let’s rekindle the carefree kindergartener inside ourselves and spill paint all over our hearts! Let’s get glue stuck in our hair and scribble all over our own pretentious ideas and concepts of the way things are supposed to be! Let’s let the five year old version of ourselves loose and allow that innocence to replace our judgments and condemnations of self, and others. It’s a much simpler way isn’t it?
Atmosphere – She’s Enough
Ed: Lynn Hasselberger
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