A couple of things you should know:
-I am famously clumsy. I once FELL OFF THE STAGE (as an adult, like, six years ago) giving a particularly animated presentation at a big, regional La Leche League conference in front of at least 200 people who had ACTUALLY PAID MONEY to see me
speak fall off the stage.
-I startle easily. In our household, people know that if they talk to me when I am too deeply engrossed in reading something, or put a hand on my shoulder when I am deep in Writer Zone, I will let out this little …or sometimes not so little squeaky, shrieking sound. Like a dog toy. A very loud, annoying dog toy.
-I just got over being really, really sick and I am still kind of weak. Today was the first totally full day I worked without taking a rest.
So now that you know these things, I will tell you of the horribly embarrassing thing that happened to me today. I was giving a presentation to about 80 very smart, accomplished people who had PAID MONEY to hear me as one of the panelists on the topic of social media. The event was organized by Leadership Knoxville, and I felt honored to be included with the other incredibly clever, nice folks on the panel.
The event started at 4pm, at the end of my first full day back on the job. I was tired when I got there, and definitely feeling some of the exhausted “fade out” that has accompanied recovery from my illness. But I figured I could buck up and just do it anyway. After all, I generally love public speaking (weird, I know), and although I can’t do math, cook or work our TV remote, I think I am a pretty darn good public speaker. I know I am. So given that I am generally good at talking to large groups of people, I wasn’t worried that I could overcome the fact that I was feeling kind of, well…unwell.
I went on after Bob Wilson, who did a fantastic job – a hard act to follow. I was feeling somewhat weak and shaky when I hit the podium, but I was enthusiastic about the topic, and eager to do the presentation. As soon as I started speaking, I began feeling sort of faint. Like, literally a little lightheaded. Definitely weak. My normally very loud, enthusiastic voice grew weaker and a little shaky. As I realized this was happening, I became anxious and self-conscious about it, which made it worse. I felt physically wobbly. Finally, after two or three minutes, I decided to slow down, take a breath and reach to the little shelf below me on the podium for a swig of my water bottle.
The audience could not tell that I was beginning the motion to get the water bottle; in fact I was just at the very beginning of my body following my brain’s directive to do this when I lost my balance on my fairly high, stacked heels. One ankle buckled. It hurt like hell, sharply and suddenly. And then, without any volition, it happened: I let out a VERY LOUD, squeaky shriek, like I do when I am startled.
This is me, watching Bob finish, waiting to go on…and to squeak.
I am not even sure that the audience noticed that I had lost my footing and twisted my ankle. It all happened so fast, and that was at foot level and they were looking at my upper body, not my feet. (At my face actually, and my mouth, out of which came this weird, loud squeak.) Did I mention that it was loud? Do I need to mention that it was embarrassing? Horrifying, actually.
The only good thing was that the embarrassment that rushed through me produced a shot of adrenalin that suddenly took away the faint, shaky feeling I’d been experiencing, and I mostly recovered my voice, and finished the presentation in far better form than I had started it. But all I could think about, and all I’ve thought about since, is what people must have thought of that bizarro, high pitched noise that suddenly came out of my mouth.
I. am. a. huge. grown-up. dork.
There is just no getting around this. No matter how old I get, or how many well received speeches and presentations I give, I know that the 1000th time, I will literally fall off the stage. Or get really dizzy and shaky, and then emit a loud squeak in the middle of my talk.
I will. I know I will. And I did today.
People were kind afterward, and told me I did a good job. I asked a few people, who insisted that they “didn’t notice” the bizarre noise I made (or that I almost fell out of my own shoe) during the talk. People are nice that way. But I know they noticed. ACk! I wanted to tell every single person there about how I’d been sick, and felt dizzy and weak, and was just trying to get water, and how my shoe heel was too high and, and, and, and…but I couldn’t and didn’t.
Unfortunately, the entire incident was – yes, you guessed it – videotaped for posterity. I am sure it will eventually appear online somewhere. I will force myself not to watch it.
And now, I shall enjoy an adult beverage. Because my twisted ankle hurts (almost as much as my pride).