Whenever I am nervous to face my fears I think of my childhood role model
The Little Engine That Could
Even at my advanced age he still strikes me as incredibly wise!
His sound advice consists of four simple words (ten letters in all).
For me his strategy is far more effective than any grown up technique I have employed including deep breathing exercises, a cocktail or two, a cheer leading section of best friends rooting me on or complete avoidance of the fear producing situation.
The moderator is introducing me.
Fainting feels imminent.
As does an overwhelming desire to flee before speaking at this seminar on Women and Empowerment.
I think my name and “expert in the field” are mistakenly being commingled in the same sentence.
These unsuspecting audience members are in for the surprise of their lives.
They are about to meet a woman about to pee in her pants!
A smattering of obligatory applause accompanies me to the podium.
I do not notice the proximity of the microphone.
It enters my field of vision after I tentatively clear my throat.
My kids would have been proud of the decent sounding sonic boom that permeates the room (kind of like a giant fart without the stink)!
There are snickers as the scene from ‘Maid From Manhattan’ flashes across my mind.
I recall Ralph Fiennes toying with a paper clip in the palm of his hand to calm his frayed nerves.
My throat is as parched as the arid Sahara.
I wish to re-clear.
I do not dare!
Where’s the water glass?
I need a lozenge.
That ridiculous phrase ‘is there a Doctor in the house?’ pops into my head. I keep my giggle to a minimum.
I’m queasier than a cruise ship passenger without the ear patch.
Did you know that your knees have a pre-buckle stage?
Would anyone notice If I sat on my hands?
At least the trembles would have a hiding place.
I cross my legs instead. It might be too late down South.
My upper lip is pooling with flop sweat.
Where are the darn tissues?
The natives are getting restless.
I hear papers shuffling and whispered annoyances.
The speech I rehearsed for weeks has evaporated from my grey matter.
All that’s left behind is a stammering “Hi!”
There is no follow-up sentence. Just “hi!”
They smile back and shout a resounding “HI!”
My inner voice clears her throat and whispers four simple words; a refrain I have relied upon for the past 30 years.
It works like an instant shot of mental adrenaline. It’s a confidence booster so immediate that my shoulders straighten, my voice takes on a teacher’s lilt and I step out from behind the podium and deliberately seek center stage.
I have harnessed my Zen!
I act as though my opening remark (or rather word) was planned.
After all my goal is to create a comfortable atmosphere to put everyone at ease.
There’s not a soul who will ever be the wiser how lost I really felt moments before.
“Welcome all of you glorious and powerful women!”
“If you have ever felt like a warrior will you please stand.”
The entire room is on their feet. I take it as an ovation (for them and me)!
My nerves have been defeated by a robust and positive counterpart; BELIEVING IN MYSELF!
My lost speech miraculously returns in its entirety coupled with enough self-assuredness to allow for the occasional ad-lib.
Two hours seem to vanish in less than five minutes.
When it’s time for the Q & A I conduct myself with far more finesse than the Press Secretary at the White House.
I field every question with grace and aplomb.
The coordinator deems the event a success and books future workshops.
Before leaving I greet many of the attendees and listen to their lively feedback.
One lovely woman is shaking her head as she approaches.
‘I don’t know how you do it! I would pee in my pants if I ever had to speak in front of a group this large. You make it look so easy. What’s your secret?”
I open my book bag and show her a copy of my favorite childhood book.
Then I respond with my faithful and trusty companion’s super words;
“I THINK I CAN!”