holding steady

by lifeonaxis1

i think my plan is working.  i used a strategy that i “discovered” a few years ago in grad school.

i used to be petrified of public speaking.  feeling faint, sweaty palms, hiccups, the whole nine yards.  being in academia, this is quite a handicap.  i repeatedly forced myself to try and try again, sometimes successful, others not so much.  i remember that even at department colloquia, i would have to write down all of my questions, pick the best one, lay my profusely sweating palms flat on the table and try my best to ask the question without a shaky voice.  once i was standing by a pillar, and had to lean on it for support before asking the question because i almost fainted.

in any case, it was a disaster as you might imagine.  so when i had a class presentation in a behavioral genetics course my advisor was teaching, i had created this very interesting powerpoint and discussion on an aspect of the chapter i was supposed to cover.  it would have been very good…the only problem was that it wasn’t a summary of the entire chapter.  in my defense, the instructions for the presentations were not clear at all.

nonetheless, it did not stop my advisor from stopping me a few slides in with his resounding, bellowing voice, yelling that this was not what i was supposed to do.  now, combine terror of public speaking with fear of criticism with fear of yelling (due to ptsd from being raised around domestic violence), and you get me, shaking in my seat, trying to regain control of myself.

still, i could not stop it.  i felt my face burn hot and the tears well up.  i tried to get the words out but the tears started to fall.  i stopped.  i said i needed five minutes and bolted out the door to try and pace, do jumping jacks, shake it off, something to get back on track.  when i felt ready, i returned to the class and began again.  i failed, again, and began to cry.  took another five minutes and came back in again.  i did this three times. finally, my advisor said this wasn’t helping anybody and we ended class early.  it was humiliating.  and it got around too because other grad students who were not in the class asked about it.

i proceeded to go home and drink an entire bottle of wine.

at the end of the semester, when i was to re-present my chapter, i did a no-frills, perfect summary of the key points of the chapter (i.e., boring and not thought provoking because everyone had read it).  whatever.  but when i came in the room where i was to present, i couldn’t breathe.  i was shaking.  the room flashed white, black, red.  i could feel the cry in the back of my throat.  this was not a good way to start.

i didn’t know what to do, but i knew that if my advisor yelled at me again in this state, i would turn into a living geyser.  hell, i might even do it without the yelling.  so, as students came in, i started to write a note to my advisor.  my hand shaking, i asked him not to yell at me while presenting because… i don’t know how far i got, but i looked at the note i was writing.  in an instant i took a full inventory of the situation.  the note, the class, my advisor.  and i thought, this is fucking ridiculous!

suddenly, my fear was gone.  it was possibly one of the most magical experiences of my life.  gone, just like that.  snap of the finger.  i couldn’t believe it.

i sat down, facing the class, renewed confidence in mind.  i smiled at my friends in the class who were looking at me apprehensively and i proceeded to give the best presentation of my life up to that point.  i was a new woman.

sadly, i have no idea how to impart this success unto others, except to say “just keep doing it”.  but the lesson i took for myself is that i need to force myself to face the whole situation, not just the points my emotions would like me to face.  and when i do, and i am able to see things as they are (as much as i can, anyway) the influence the blinding emotions have melts away.

i think that is what i am doing here, with my residual feelings for XBF.  in the few days since i wrote out that inventory, i haven’t felt the slightest amount of regret, sadness, longing, or anything.  it may be a different story on a different day.  but for now, it’s working.

Advertisements