Wow, this is the first blog I've ever done!
“And now.... for... The Invocation!”
Rats. And while the heads bow, mine remains tall, and while the eyes close, mine roam the room for another who may reject the nonsense as I do; some common soul. But as is often the case, either there are none or they aren’t brave enough to de-cloak. I’ve done this “look around” lots of times.
And then the Pledge of Allegiance. Usually, when reciting elsewhere, I recite it all and then remain ominously silent for the line “under god” and then pick it up again. I can get away with that. I DARE someone to tell me I’m not a patriot for doing so. But in this setting, as the new one here, I speak the line I loathe. And then I’m embarrassed and angry with myself that I did.
I used to speak in public all the time. I was in the Navy for 20 years. The last part I was an Officer, and used to talk in front of people every day. And, I was a Navy instructor for a few years when I was enlisted, teaching electronics and data systems theory. Again, talking in front of people, and all day long. And I used to teach for the Red Cross as a volunteer on the weekends, CPR, First Aid, Lifeguarding, CPR for professional rescuers, and the instructor class. I talked in front of people!!! That’s just what I did.
But I stopped teaching for the Red Cross about a decade ago, and I retired from the Navy 4 years ago, and since then, well, I haven’t spoken in front of people. And it started to get scary again. Like when I was a kid. I don’t know when the scariness crept in, but it did.
Two weeks ago I did a brief for a group on a wireless project we were working on. It went “okay”, but I knew it wasn’t my best. I talked too fast, I was too agitated, I was nervous. Then, last week I went to give a presentation to the execs on some research we’d done. It was kind of a big deal. And I FROZE. Choked. Totally froze up. Like I had not done since I was 20. It was terrible. I recovered, but not without damage. I know the looks and it isn’t just paranoia. Before this, I was overly confident, a somewhat eccentric and unconcerned engineer and manager. Respected. After that, I was no longer overly confident, nor really a manager, I was one of those people who was afraid to speak in front of a group. One to be pitied. Poor thing. OMG, OMG, OMG, the WORST. Oh god DAMN it!!!!!! I really poked myself in the eyeball, I know it, and there's no "do-overs". I just have to be damned sure I am my normal cocky and eccentric self next time.
So I decided the next day that I needed more practice in public speaking, as I’d obviously gotten “skeered” through lack of practice. So I decided to join the Toastmasters. There is a new chapter where I work. I went to my first meeting today at lunch.
It wasn’t just the invocation and the pledge of allegiance. The first speech given was all about “god given loves” etc. And most of the team was women. (WHY WHY WHY is it that so many more women than men seem to be wrapped up in all the god crap, anyways??) I just felt out of place, uncomfortable. Like it was one of those conversations about church that I was forced to hear, but as an introduction to something I was interested in. DAMN IT. But this is something I want to do!
I decided I’m going to join. I need the practice, and this is the forum to do it, and it is not supposed to be an organization that aligns with any religion, and I will not be chased off. And even if it were a self-proclaimed religious thing, there really isn’t a “non-religious toastmasters” to take its place.
Maybe I will at some point do a speech that explains why an invocation is inappropriate in a toastmaster’s meeting. I’ll bet there will be some hidden half-smiles in the audience from those who wish they would have said it themselves.