It's 7 a.m. and I'm lying in bed wondering why this hard knot in the pit of my stomach won’t leave me alone. This morning is the going away party for my boss, Theresa and I’ve got a really short and sweet speech planned for her. It’ll be witty, entertaining and I’ll project that elusive confidence of a woman very comfortable in her skin. Piece of cake.
After hopping in the shower I dress "casually elegant" and just about vomit as I attempt to down a bowl of oatmeal. My stomach is like cement and I can barely swallow. This is bad.
“I’ll get over it,” I kid myself as I scribble my farewell card for Theresa. I intend to write something to reflect my planned speech, but once I see the mushy paragraph my pen has written, I know I am in deep trouble.
At the party I relax a bit, forcing down some irresistible homemade blueberry, strawberry torte that Jen, my other mother, has brought. Chatting with my friends, all fellow volunteers at the thrift boutique where I work, I am feeling quite preoccupied with resisting that nagging public speaking fear. So much that I am not really present in my own body. To paraphrase Looney Tunes' Foghorn Leghorn - People’s gums are flapping but they’re not making any sense.
Watching myself from the other end of the room I become aware that I’m having a total out of body experience. Now I’m really scared.
Perhaps no one will speak at all and we’ll just eat stuff, give Theresa her farewell cards, kisses and hugs and be blissfully done with the whole affair.
June, our MC, clinks the punch bowl containing the non-alcoholic mango punch to get our attention and terror grips my stomach so strongly my heart pounds painfully against my chest. Who the hell ixnayed the Mimosa idea anyway? A little adult beverage would surely help loosen my tongue right about now.
Why does June have to make public speaking look so damned easy? All the jackals within a 5,000-mile radius are harshly urging me to ditch the speech idea. They are downright derisive, get a load of this:
“You’ve got nothing to say and Theresa doesn’t care, you fool. Keep your mouth shut.”
“Don’t do it, you’ll make a complete ass of yourself.”
“You’re fooling yourself, you bloody idiot, you’re boring and they’re all going to laugh at you. Who do you think you are?”
“Hah, I’ll bet you’ll forget every worthless word you had planned and you’ll freeze in mid-sentence!”
“Stop while you’re ahead, you will so mess this up.”
“You will lose it and start blubbering. Leave town now.”
Lord knows I was raised to take it like a man and not cry so this last missile hits home.
I feel as if the deeply buried blueprint of verbal abuse that was etched into my self confidence aeons ago just got excavated. Every hateful, hurtful comment and thought that has ever been hurled at me in the past is suddenly coming back to life and the inner battle is on ... full throttle.
Ladies, choose your weapons.
“Does anyone have something they want to say to Theresa?” chirps June?
Suddenly an angel raises my hand and I hear myself speak “I’ve got something to say!” I have no idea where that came from, but holy frijoles, everyone’s expectant eyes are now on me. There is no escape.
I break into a cold sweat and go for it. The witty bits I had planned elude me entirely and I manage two sentences before I lose my composure. The room is now hushed, what comes out is pure emotion and appreciation for what Theresa means to me. Her tear-filled eyes are riveted on me and my whole being knows I got my point across.
My speech does not at all come out as intended but it is good enough. I have won this epic battle with pure honesty and the inner knowing that it’s okay to speak straight from the heart. The dust settles and all that remains is me, triumphant.
The jackals are headed for the hills. Beware, I have a secret weapon.
It’s me ...
The author of this post is Esmée St James, personal image consultant for women and men and founder of Hotwire Your Life™ - Mojo For Boomer Chicks™, a blogsite on fitness and beauty for female baby boomers. Esmée also shares some riotous personal life experiences ... For more see www.HotwireYourLife.com.