I am reading on Friday. God, reading is the best, I love reading. Don't you? I don't. I'm terrified.
Why am I afraid of speaking in front of people? Why?
It's not a rhetorical question, I would really like to know.
If I had to guess, I would guess this: Sometimes I go to a reading, and it is very boring. And the person who is generating all the boredom does not seem aware of it. This person looks out at me in the audience and seems to be thinking, I am here to please you. I can see that you are pleased, I can definitely see that in you. Therefore, I am going to read for another 20 minutes.
I don't want to be that person. But the person who is that person? I doubt they want to be that person either. Do they? But they are.
I am a grown woman. I have a job and whatnot. It's embarrassing, isn't it? It is. Fear is embarrassing.
If I drink I will feel less fear but afterwards I will feel more fear and I will wonder, Which parts of me did everybody hate that were the real me? And which parts of me did everybody hate that were the drunk me?
If I don't drink, I only have to answer the first question. Unfortunately I also have to be terrified real-time.
When my kids were critically ill, I was suddenly and temporarily freed from stage fright. I went to work every day, and talked my head off in meetings, and for the first time in life, I was not scared whatsoever. Impending Baby Death took up all the fear space in my head and Public Speaking could not wedge its way in. Then they got better.
Thank god, but still, what am I supposed to do about this reading?
Here is my thought: Do you think someone would be willing to almost die right before my reading to help me out? Is that, generally speaking, thought of as "a lot to ask?"
Sometimes to calm my nerves, I tell myself, "Somebody is in a war getting his arms blown off at this very moment. And also, at this very moment, somebody is reading poetry in front of five people."
Does this work? No. I feel really sorry for the person getting his arms blown off but that's about it.
I started this post on Thursday. And now, in one hour, unless I die on the way to the Book Cellar, I will be reading in front of a live audience.
It occurs to me that talking about fear may be stupid. Does letting the lion out of its cage make the lion even bigger? A lion cannot be made bigger, can it? Aside from something radical like a high-calorie diet, no. A lion is a lion.
I would like to tell myself something meaningful now, something I believe, and then repeat it and repeat it and repeat it.
What do you tell yourself in times of fear? How does one learn to love fear?