Determined to conquer my fear

I recently attended a Toastmasters meeting in Halifax—a group of writing enthusiasts, some of whom have been Toastmasters for a good many years.
They have formed a new club of Toastmasters, embracing writers and artists and those creatively-minded.
I was hesitant to go, anxious even. Public speaking is hardly my strength, which is entirely the point of Toastmasters.
I’ve been trying to attend for months but Mother Nature had other plans. So finally this past week, the roads were clear; the threat of blizzard conditions non-existent.
I walked into a room of 10 faces seated behind tables. Some looked up when I walked in, others didn’t, but what struck me about each of these members of Creatively Speaking Halifax Toastmasters was their human-ness right there on their sleeves for all to see.
The span of ages seemed quite broad; an equal mix of gender. A Toastmasters magazine was open on the table in front of where I found a seat, and whose face should jump off its pages but that of Susan Cain, the author of “Quiet,” a book I wrote about in my column some time ago discussing the “Power of Introverts.”
I sat down and immediately felt at home.
As the evening went along, most members took a turn at the lectern for “Table Topics,” a two-minute impromptu speech.
Courageous is how I would describe these speakers. I was in awe of their willingness to strive to speak with authority and confidence.
It wasn’t easy; there were pauses and a few “ahs” when the words wouldn’t come with ease. They wiggled in their clothes and scratched at their collars, but they tried and didn’t stop trying until they were done.
That takes courage.
My first novel will be released this fall, which will require me to step out of my “Bob Cratchit-ness” and speak about my book and the writing of it. The thought of doing such a thing makes my hands sweat, the contents of my stomach to pitch and bubble and turn, and my head to feel dizzy.
Crawling under the bed seems an obvious solution.
What if I don’t have a good answer to a question? What if I draw a blank when searching for the right word? Worse, what if no one says a single thing or asks a single question?
Who am I to be worthy of standing in front of others and sharing my story? Who am I not to, Nelson Mandela would say.
I’m determined to conquer this limiting attribute of mine, wishing I had done so about 40 years ago. But maybe that’s precisely the point—that we can fine-tune ourselves at any age; that we can keep growing and embracing challenges no matter how old we get.
I have a friend Gladys, who is well into being 80-plus years young, and she never stops engaging in life, is always eager for fun and experiences, who is the first to leap out of her chair at an invitation to go somewhere, who enjoys golfing and laughing and learning.
I find that quality very inspiring. She never lets fear or uncertainty keep her from stretching her arms around living.
So I shall strive to follow her example and do the same.
Now if I can just figure out a way to stop my knees from banging together and not to swallow in the middle of a word, and not to blush until my face looks as though it is going to spontaneously combust and. . . .