Monday, November 1, 2010

No "ums"

The night before leaving for beautiful Vancouver Island I was sitting cross-legged on a stool at CJ's Cafe in Burlington, reciting my poem ODE TO A YO-GI. This was no small feat and I'm not talking about my precarious perch - that's a piece of cake (I'm sitting this way on a stool as I write my blog). I'm talking about public speaking.

In public school every year from about grade 5 to 8 we had to write and give a 5 minute speech. My older sister excelled at this task and the unspoken expectation from my teachers was that I would too. But this wasn't the case. Being shy, short and feeling out of place in my pleated skirt that hiked geezer-like above my waist and knee socks that rolled down at my ankles, I decided to stand behind the lectern. As I spoke, for what was at that time the longest 5 minutes in my life, soft sounds of someone counting in the background could be heard.


My teacher grinned all the while I must be doing pretty good. And at the end he applauded... and then broke into gales of laughter. "That was the funniest thing I've ever heard". (My topic, an informative presentation on Mario Lanza, my Dad's favourite singer of the moment, was, I assure you very earnest and without any hint of humour.) "You said 105 um's (he looked at the boy who was counting them for confirmation) in a 5 minute speech. Not only that, we couldn't even see you."

I was mortified, I'm NEVER doing this s**t again I vowed as slunk back to my front row seat.

I was told, in high school by my English teacher to stop talking once, "I find your voice extremely irritating" was all he said. I shut up for the remainder of the school year.

This from people in a position who should know better!
It's enough to give someone a complex.

Yet here I am, someone who's been a yoga teacher for the past 34 years; a hypnotist for 3. Somewhere along the line I was able to let these experiences go. Amazingly to me, people ask me to record hypnosis sessions for their use and often I've been told that guided relaxation is the favourite part of a yoga class...because of my voice.

It wasn't a conscious thing, it just happened.

When I found myself sitting under the glare of the spotlight that night a brief shiver of foreboding, remembrance ran down my spine. But, I had practiced for this moment over and over in my mind as I drove the car, went to sleep, showered; I spoke it aloud to establish points of emphasis; I imagined sitting in front of a hushed crowd listening to my flawless recitation. All pure SELF-HYPNOSIS 101 techniques for conquering stage fright.

What I didn't account for was laughter (this time welcomed) nor for the cloak of darkness the spotlight illuminating me, cast over the crowd, cocooning me and lending the moment an unexpected feeling of intimacy.

Best of all, there were no "ums" in my recitation of the poem nor in the other selections that I read that night and no one counted in the background.

Thanks Brian and CJ for the opportunity to give it another shot after all these years.
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