Once upon a time there was a snarky little girl who loved public speaking. I know, it’s weird. Right from the start, public speaking appealed to her. In preschool and kindergarten, she loved Fridays. Friday was show and tell day, and life was so interesting that she always had something to show and tell about.
As the snarky little girl grew into a snarky big girl, she would always volunteer to go first on speech day, much to the temporary relief of her classmates. While she struggled to complete worksheets, she always managed to shock her teachers with how well prepared she was for any speech.
In college, the snarky young lady purposely took public speaking classes because they would be an “easy A” and decided that there was something seriously wrong with the American people as a whole when she heard a statistic about how many of them feared death less than public speaking.
She wasn’t very afraid of death either.
Just to be clear, I wasn’t an overly brave child. I feared plenty of things. I was terrified of the vampire that hid under my bed at night. I was also in constant fear of the quicksand that was lurking around every corner. Those things were dangerous. I was afraid of those things. Public speaking? Piece of cake. As long as it was speaking and not singing I was fine. We don’t want to torture people, after all.
I continued to love public speaking into adulthood, I just stopped having time for it. By the time the talent show at our church rolled around, I realized that it had been decades since I had done any real public speaking. The fact that I could use the actual word “decades” to measure anything in my life was seriously disturbing to me. I needed to put an end to that, so I volunteered to speak at the talent show. It was going to be no big deal. I would just read one of my blogs. Piece of cake.
I went and told the gentleman in charge of the talent show that I would like to read my blog in the show. In front of the audience. There was this strange ping feeling in my stomach as I told him. I brushed it aside, as I do with all unpleasant feelings.
“Great!” the gentleman said “Which one are you going to read?”
“Oh, I’m not going to read some boring old thing that I’ve already written,” I declared “I’m going to write something brand new and exciting! Then I will read that at the show!”
“That sounds great!” The gentleman said “Just make sure I get a copy to read at least a week before the show. I need to make sure it is appropriate for all audiences.”
Umm… Me? Inappropriate? Before I got offended I tried to remember if this guy had been in my freshman public speaking class in college and heard my “Conserve Water, Shower With a Buddy” speech.
No. No he was not it that class. So what gave him the right to question my judgment? Then The Pastor told me to “calm down” because he has seen the way my brain works. He has also seen the way my filter does not always work.
Apparently appropriateness was a legitimate concern.
I was excited. I was now going to get back into public speaking. Every time I thought about it, though, that strange little ping would appear in my stomach. That ping felt an awful lot like fear. Fear? I had nothing to be afraid of. I love public speaking! I knew I was not afraid of speaking in front of people. I was even less afraid of reading in front of people. This meant that there was only one logical way to deal with this fear.
I must ignore it completely.
The obvious solution here was to completely block out the event that was causing me fear. I must not talk about it, I must not think about it, and I was not about to start writing for it as that would involve thinking about it. It seemed like a brilliant and very practical solution.
Until a week before the show.
That is when the gentleman in charge of the show asked why he hadn’t received a copy of what I was going to read.
“Ummmmm…” I responded.
“That’s okay,” he said “I trust you. You’ll be appropriate”
I knew it! I knew he hadn’t been in my speech class! Wait, he trusts me? What kind of sick game was he playing here? Now, not only did I have to somehow write a blog to read in front of people, (there goes that strange ping again) but now I had to be solely responsible for the appropriateness of what I read?! This was not okay! There was only one obvious solution here.
Completely block it out.
Suddenly it was the day of the talent show. The show started at seven o’clock. My family would want dinner at five. Five thirty at the latest. I had had a busy day (as I always do when I’m avoiding things) so when I sat down at three o’clock in front of my computer to write something, I had plenty of stuff swimming around in my head. I decided to just write about what I had done that day. It wasn’t great but it would have to do. Now I could get back to pretending I wasn’t speaking so that annoying ping would go away.
When we arrived at the show, the gentleman in charge informed me that I would be on stage after a singer. I almost asked what I would be going on stage for, then that familiar ping. Ugh! What was wrong with me?
The first few performances went by in a blur. The singer did a beautiful job. Then, suddenly, I was on the stage. I was shaking. I was staring into some very bright lights. None of this was as bad as what happened next.
You might think that the worst thing that could happen to a speaker in public would be to wet your pants, or to vomit all over the audience. I did neither of these. Something much worse happened to me. At the exact moment that I got up on stage and faced an audience full of people, someone sucked every bit of oxygen out of the building.
Now, I don’t know how many of my readers are astronauts, but if you are, trust me. You do not want to take off your helmet in an environment without oxygen. I looked and felt EXACTLY like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall. Yeah. Just like this.
I started to panic. Everyone was going to die! I’m no doctor, but I do know that a lack of oxygen would have horrible effects on the crowd. Why were they not evacuating the building? Had the ushers succumbed to oxygen deprivation?
Obviously it was up to me. I was going to have to clear the building and save all of these people. I opened up my mouth and said “Today was the big day.”
Wait. What was that? What were these words coming out of my mouth? These were not the kind of words one uses to evacuate a building! These were the words I had written earlier that day! Somehow, I managed to read the entire blog post in a room without oxygen, and somehow, not a single person in the audience died of oxygen deprivation. How could this be?
Obviously Jesus was there.
The biggest miracle was the way oxygen suddenly rushed back into the room at the very moment I got off the stage.
I survived. Take that, ping of fear! And I would even do it again.
Next time, though, I’m bringing my space helmet.