Well, I think it’s pretty clear from the comments that I’m not the only one traumatized by my elementary school spelling bee experience. It’s just too bad we can’t all turn back time and demand a do-over to try and rectify the momentary lapses of spelling judgment we so sadly experienced, all of us Great Spellers of the World.
In all seriousness, that 5th grade spelling bee debacle set me up for a lifetime of anxiety when it comes to speaking in front of people. Put me in front of a microphone, and I panic. My mind goes blank, and I forget to exhale. I remember to inhale, but forget to exhale, which makes it hard to talk when your lungs are FULL of oxygen and yet you’re still gasping for air like a beached fish. You might or might not remember that it took me until my 40th birthday, and a silo of amaretto, before I worked up the courage to do karaoke by myself in front of anyone.
Public speaking. It’s a situation I avoid at all costs. I LOATHE standing up in front of a group and talking. High school speech class? Hated it. College speech class? Practically needed valium. I even get nervous when I’m with a group that is going around the room introducing ourselves. Two or three people before it’s my turn, I start sweating, and getting a little hyper-ventil-y, and start cackling with this stupid nervous laughter because OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO SAY I’M GOING TO SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT I CAN’T REMEMBER MY NAME WHAT THE HELL IS MY NAME???? Like the women at a baby shower are going to point and laugh, do I really think that is going to happen??? … I get *that* nervous. Seriously. I even get this awful splotchy rash across my chest. You should see my wedding pictures; it looks like my boobs have roseola.
So imagine my extreme happiness and excitement when a representative from the AFLAC cancer clinic in Atlanta, where Kendrie received her cancer treatment, called me last month to ask if I would speak at a meeting of AFLAC employees from western Kentucky who had donated the most money to build the new clinic back in 2004. To ask if I would give a thank you speech of sorts, letting them know how much their generosity and kindness had benefited our family’s life.
And did I also mention that if I said yes, I would be giving my talk in front of 400 people?
That’s not a typo -- that’s FOUR HUNDRED!
Um, yeah. I would rather roll around naked, covered in tar, on thumb tacks and feathers, and have the entire thing played on YouTube. THAT'S how much I hate public speaking.
But how can you say no to a request like that? To saying a heartfelt and sincere “thank you” to the employees who donated their own money and commissions to help finance the clinic? The (did I mention?) $2.5 MILLION dollar clinic? I mean, am I really going to say, “No, I don’t want to say thank you. These people indirectly helped save my daughter’s life, but my tummy gets butterflies in front of a group, so I think I’ll pass. Thanks for asking!”
No, of course not.
I’m going to go, and make my speech, and most likely throw up on the podium.
Blaine gave me the always-helpful advice to imagine them all in their underwear. Honey, I don’t think Fruit of the Loom can even make that many at one time.
Last night, I told the kids I was nervous and asked if I could practice my speech in front of them, explaining how sometimes practicing in front of a crowd will make it easier when it comes time to do the real thing.
They responded with great enthusiasm, and even did their best job to help matters by courting me an audience:
Truly, have you ever seen a more rapt group of spectators?
Hanging on my every word?? Kellen counted, and there were 40 beings listening. Great, I’m only 360 short.
Oh, look, I mention the word “bald” in my speech twice. These two little girls should feel right at home.
Even the dog got in on the action. To be honest, they were a good crowd. Not one person heckled me or threw a tomato.
Please keep me and Kendrie in your thoughts tomorrow as we fly to Kentucky with the cancer clinic representative. First, that our plane not plummet to the ground in a fiery crash (you know how I feel about these things.)
Secondly, that if my only choices are vomiting or fainting, that I faint. I can always blame the pregnancy. **
Third, that the high-neck shirt that I’m planning to wear in an attempt to hide the blotches on my chest not constrict my airway any more than necessary. Otherwise, I really will forget to exhale and turn blue and pass out right there in front of all 400 people. I hope Aflac employees are required to pass some sort of CPR class, because I’ll most likely need resuscitation before all is said and done.
**No, I’m not pregnant, but my stomach is so fat I could get away with using that as an excuse. And hey, if I faint at the beginning, I don’t have to worry about forgetting the speech!