They say the two things people fear most are death and public speaking, but I’ll bet that’s not true.
I, for one, don’t have any fear of public speaking. I do want to do my best when I give a reading. Most of the pressure I feel is due to the time constraints the organizers box us writers into following. Unless I know my piece falls well below the time limit, I know I’ve got to be very careful to avoid dilly-dallying. As far as the “audience” part goes, I’m totally cool.
With humans in general, I’m not scared to converse or ad lib or perform or joke around. So what’s this “public speaking” deal? I’m not agoraphobic or shy. Anyone who thinks I am doesn’t know me.
Here’s a myth about shyness: People assume that a person who doesn’t speak much is shy. The person is quiet. Big diff. Or soft-spoken. Big diff. Sometimes, a person is just pausing, waiting, momentarily holding back. We as a society need to be patient to listen far better than we do now.
Which gets me to this: What my REAL fear is. Being misunderstood. Misinterpreted. Misread. Stepped on. Walked all over. Forgotten about.
Imagine (as I often do):
“What a sick fuck she was.”
“I’m glad I always kept her at arms’ length. I was afraid to get to know her, especially after I learned she had anorexia.”
“She deserved what she got.”
“Sad. They should have institutionalized her.”
“Why didn’t they force her? Isn’t that what they do? Tie them down and shove things into them?”
“Good thing she didn’t take anyone down with her. This could have been a worse tragedy.”
“She only complained. She was ungrateful anyway.”
We don’t know if the dead hear what we say about them after they are gone, do we? Can we say for sure? Honestly, the one thing I dreaded most was to be misread or to have those that outlived me totally miss the boat.
That’s not what’s going to happen. I won’t let that happen. It’s my wish that no one on earth to be misread or misunderstood ever, not only after they die, but even more important, while still alive.
Yet everywhere I turn, I hear of folks with eating disorders denied care or being mistreated. That, friends, is an example of society not listening. And you hear about people still dying.
I titled this entry “kicking and screaming….” for a reason. You notice I haven’t shut up yet. I don’t plan to.
I believe that these days, you really have to kick very very hard, and scream at the top of your voice. It takes persistence to get your words out there. The world is a noisy place, and the background hiss gets louder as the years pass.
Please, keep kicking, as I have. It takes time and patience. Even if you are convinced you are gasping your last breath.
We will not be forgotten. We will not be overlooked. Someday, that small flicker of light will grow into a deep, blazing torch for all to see.