Speaking in front of a large group of people isn’t something I do often. In fact, it’s downright scary. I’ve written about it before in my blog post about the fear of public speaking, which ironically, led me to Listen To Your Mother (LTYM, for short).
On the eve of “show time,” I am feeling uncomfortable.
Public speaking can be unpredictable because it feels uncontrollable. What if something doesn’t go right? What if my timing is off? What if the microphone doesn’t work? What if I fail? It’s a helpless feeling when I lose focus and things escape my control. But I remind myself that it can also be an opportunity for a creative response.
For me, it helps to visualize everything that could go wrong, and everything that could go right. Most likely, I’ll will find myself somewhere in the middle when I get up to read my story at the Listen To Your Mother event.
Things that could go wrong:
+ I could trip walking to the podium
+ The mic doesn’t work
+ I skip an essential piece of my story
+ The audience doesn’t laugh in the right places
+ I have to pee
+ The fire alarm goes off
+ I get a frog in my throat
Things that could go right:
+ I count to three before I start reading
+ I project my voice
+ I breathe
+ I pause after the audience laughs
+ I count to three after I read an emotional line
+ The audience applauds
+ All the equipment works
I practiced reading my story in front of friends a few times, in the hope of ridding myself of these uncertain little butterflies. I also read my story to James a few nights ago while we were sitting in my office – the former dining room – which also serves as his homework station.
“So, do you feel nervous?” James asked.
“Not yet,” I replied, feeling like I was being interviewed by a crackerjack reporter. “But I will get nervous just before I go on stage.”
“That’s very brave of you. I wouldn’t want to get up in front of a lot of people and talk. I’m better in a group,” he said, referring to singing with the chorus or playing an instrument with the school band.
“Thanks, Would you like to hear my story?” I said. I was a little worried that the content might be too “adult” for him and he wouldn’t understand my story. But to my surprise, he said yes.
As I read the story, he laughed at the right parts, and asked me questions when he didn’t understand something.
“I like your similes and metaphors,” he said, when I was finished.
We talked about fertility treatment and why I would want another child: Isn’t he enough?
I hope I answered his questions, but I suspect he will have a few more. I’m not sure he fully understands the conundrum of planning a family and the bundle of challenges that come along for the ride.
My friend Karen told me that things in life don’t happen “to” you. They happen “for” you. Situations. Predicaments. Conundrums. All are opportunities to act, respond and learn from.
Thirteen “opportunities” will be presented by 12 women and a man on the Memorial Art Gallery stage Friday evening to a sold out show of 500 people.
Some stories will haunt you. Others will make you laugh and cry at the same time. My cast mates have become part of my extended family. We are all making our own way down a path that is ultimately exactly what we need.
James will be in the audience, too. At 13, he’s at a turning point and these stories will affect him. As my new friend Mary Grace reminds me: I am enough.
I hope that James also realizes that he is enough.
Thanks for the pep talk.
What do you think?
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