Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

Tag Archives: fear

Butterfly Busters. Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking

My hands were shaking, my knees were quaking, my heart pounding and my throat dry. First date? No. Worse, much worse. How did I get myself into this situation?

Let me take you back. It’s the year 1999 and I am attending college. A late bloomer, but that’s another story! I find myself preparing to give a presentation (for the life of me, I can’t remember what I was presenting on) in front of about 50 – 100 students in the auditorium.

I have a problem, fear has engulfed me. I just wish I would die, right on the spot. Maybe a heart attack? Quick and easy, hopefully relatively painless as I have heard that people can “drop dead” from heart attacks. Yes, that would work. It would certainly get me out of this situation I am in right now. I am ill prepared. Better prepared for the heart attack than for the speech, that’s for sure. I am positive everyone can tell that I am nervous. Certainly my fellow students can tell because we are all standing around back stage murmuring ” I am so nervous, I think I would rather die.”

I have my speech somewhat memorised, although I am now thinking I should have spent more time practicing. What am I saying? I should have spent ANY time practicing. I am so not prepared. Luckily I have the speech typed out in large font so I can just read it. How hard can it be? But then the fear engulfs me again. How did I get myself into this situation? Everyone is going to see my hands shaking as I read my speech. My voice is going to quiver. I don’t look good. I should have worn a dress. Yes, I am thinking of all the negatives and not thinking about my speech at all.

My name is called. F%@K, that was fast. I walk onto the stage, introduce myself ( I think) and start reading my speech hands shaking, knees knocking. Lucky thing I didn’t wear that dress. People would have been able to see my knees. Why the hell didn’t I memorise this speech because the pages are shaking so bad, I can hardly read!

I hurry through thinking the least time on stage, the better! With speech having been delivered (I think), I exit. Stage left, or right or…just exit! I can’t remember how I left the stage or what happened on stage. Did I make it through my speech? I don’t know. I do know, I am never putting myself through this again. I have just been to hell and back and it wasn’t fun!

I never did remember what I said or how I said it on stage and I never put myself in that situation again. But rather than let the fear win, I decided to educate myself ( or rather seek out others who could help) and learn how to speak in public. One of the first things I did was join a Toastmasters Club.

To my shock, I wasn’t the only one who felt this kind of overwhelming fear of public speaking. In fact it’s more the norm. People really do fear death more than they fear speaking in public. When you come right down to it, that’s just ridiculous! I also discovered the audience isn’t there to see you fail, they are there to hear you speak. They are interested in what you have to say. And they care.

I have since realised this after becoming a confident and competent speaker, I have sat through speeches delivered by people who are overwhelmed with fear. And, all I could think of when listening to them struggle is ” I want to help.” I am willing them to get the words out. I want them to succeed. I want them to feel the nervous excitement one feels when they deliver a well prepared speech. It’s exhilarating.

It has taken years and a lot of practice. One does not become a speaker overnight. But with practice, I have learned not to just control my nerves and fear, but use them to enhance my speech with nervous excitement. I have also surrounded myself with supportive people I can practice in front of. I know now that the audience can’t tell how nervous you are and if then can,they are empathetic and want you to succeed.

Some tips I have learned over the years; I practice deep breathing before speaking, this helps to calm nerves as it slows the heart rate down. I move around as much as possible to warm my muscles. More importantly, I practice my speeches and then when I think I have practiced enough, I practice some more. And, I will myself to stay in a positive head space. Public speaking has given me confidence. Not just confidence in myself, but confidence in my message.

I do make mistakes. I have become over confident and found myself in situations where I haven’t practiced enough or I make a mistake in my presentation. It’s okay. I accept imperfection and often the audience doesn’t even notice the mistake. This makes it easier to just “let it go.”

Don’t get me wrong, I am nervous every time I speak. And, that’s okay. My internal voice that once told me, ” I am never putting myself through this again” was a voice that came from fear. But, I have embraced and mastered my fear. I now use my nervous and anxious thoughts and turn them into energy to enhance my speech. I have conquered my fear of public speaking by turning that fear into my friend!

“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death” Harold Wilson

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!

Imagine my disgust as a person who strives to be unique and walk to the beat of my own drum, I find myself with the most common phobia known to man…the fear of spiders. Worse yet, it’s not my only fear. There is also the fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of dirt… Wow, that list is long.

I can’t say I have conquered many of my fears, but what I have done is learn to face them. My fear of heights used to be so extreme that I couldn’t stand on a chair. The problem with having this fear is it gets in the way of having fun, if you let it.

Spelunking…I found myself in the situation where I was attached to a rope (or whatever they call it) and was asked to lean over the hole backwards until I was horizontal and then start walking down the side into a 100ft deep hole. I did it and I am damn proud of it.

I have been to mountain tops via the chairlift. Sure I have to concentrate on my breathing, but who would want to miss that view, it’s spectacular! I have ridden in the highest gondola in the world that stretches the longest span. I didn’t look down, but at least I went in it. So much for my fear of heights! I may not stand on the edge of an open cliff, that’s okay, common sense says one should not stand to close to the edge without a safety harness anyway!

My fear of flying most certainly comes from my Mother, as most of my fears probably do. And, I have had some horrible trips in planes, but at least I get on the planes, I didn’t used to. In high school I missed out on trips to Morocco and Paris because I refused to fly so far. As I matured something strange happened, my curiosity to see the world and find out what’s around the next corner got the better of the fear! I didn’t want to miss out on other opportunities to see the world, so I refused to let the fear overcome.

I have flown quite a bit in my lifetime and have learned to practice little things to help me with my anxiety. I must look out the window on takeoff and landing and have the ability to look out the window at any time during the flight. I concentrate on my breathing or else I will forget to breathe and start to feel dizzy. The important thing is, I just do it. Amazingly, I find myself with family in Canada while I live in Australia which necessitates a yearly trip across the ocean. Such is life, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My fear of dirt definitely comes from my Mother. I was in my 20’s when I learned that most people do not mop their floors three times a day. It was at that time I decided to try to handle small amounts of dirt in my life and not be so concerned with having my house spotless. Unfortunately, it took me many years to learn how to control this phobia. Consequently, I have missed out on many picnics because I couldn’t eat outside where there is dirt and I spent more time cleaning my house than spending quality time playing with my kids. But I am getting better. I now only clean the house once a week, although I still like order, except in closets and drawers where it has become a free for all!

So, why is it that those pesky little spiders still send me in to a panic attack?  The other day Al and I went off to the store. Al was driving. Suddenly a huntsman spider crossed on the outside of our windshield. We had the windows down so Al immediately hit the button to put the windows up. I, in my panic hit the button on top of his finger and pushed harder. I know it doesn’t make the window go up faster, but logic does not come into it when one is dealing with a phobia. The spider decided to go down into the vent on the hood. Our vehicle is fairly new, so it has screens on the vents to filter out air pollution. That fact didn’t’ help me as I struggled to close all the vents inside, pulled my legs up and hyperventilate all at the same time.

Al pulled over as soon as he could. I was out of the vehicle in a shot. Pacing up and down the sidewalk, crying and trying to breathe! It was horrible.

Worse, I now had a choice to make…get back in the car and go home or walk home which was an option because I was not that far from home. I stood for a minute and told myself, “this is an irrational fear, that spider can not harm you” and I got back in the car.

I got back in the car because I understand that irrational fear is a state of mind. It’s okay to be scared, but I can not let that fear rule my life. If I did I wouldn’t be living with the most wonderful man in the world because I had to get on a plane to get here and move to Australia…known for it’s spiders, killer spiders! And, I live in the area where some of those killer spiders live, the feared funnel web.

We made it home without the spider showing itself again. Al, being the honey that he is, got a hose and flushed the huntsman out of the vehicle.

The thing is I know I have to get on top of this fear, after all, what if I had of been driving? I can not cause an accident because of a spider, so I am just going to have to learn.

I have been making baby steps. I went through the spider building at the wildlife park. I never would have done that five years ago. Yes, I have had my house sprayed several times and it’s due for another spray as spiders are showing up in the yard. I try not to let it affect me, but I notice myself choosing to sit inside more often rather than out in our beautiful yard. I will get the yard sprayed again, but I also will continue to work on controlling the strongest emotion of mankind…fear.

It’s okay to be scared as long as one has the courage to not let the fear run their life. For this reason and this reason alone, I am not and will not get on a plane, leave the man I love, the life I have built here, to go home to where spiders are way smaller and much less formidable of an opponent! That would be giving in and that’s just not the way my drum beats…no, it beats my way!

I’m Outta Here!

I was ready to pack up and go home! It was the worst day of my life and it got me thinking “maybe living in Australia is not for me!” What happened? Pretty much the worst that can happen to me occured, there was a really big (Al’s words, not mine) huntsman spider on my deck. My words to describe the spider would have been more like horrible, humungous, terrifying, not big! The worst thing is I have sat out on the deck to eat. I have sat out on that deck to drink. I have sat out on that deck in the sun with my eyes closed. I have sat out on that deck without looking under the table or chairs first. That trust is now gone. In the past, I viewed it as a “safe zone”, but from now on I will be on guard on my own deck.

I was told that the spider would have been looking to get out of the rain. If that is what it was looking for, it didn’t do very well because it ended up being flushed down the toilet! I had thought I was safe living on the 3rd floor. We haven’t had anything more than a few little house spiders show up in the past.

Huntsman Spider

Huntsman Spider

I thought I had been doing well to eat outside with big (my words now) cockroaches running up and down the side of the house while we ate. In fact it is the standing joke now because I shoo them away like they are cats or dogs. I clap my hands and chase them away. They react quite well to this and I hardly ever have to get my spider catcher (it’s a joke for catching spiders, the handle is about 10 feet to short) and scoop the ‘cocky’ up to throw over the balcony! Funny thing is they usually don’t fly when you do this, they land on the roof below with a thud. Maybe underneath all this niceness (my words again), I am truly a sick twisted person because it doesn’t bother me at all when I throw an insect over the ledge. Bombs away!

Australian Cockroach

Australian Cockroach

Apparently having a humungous $%#% (my words) huntsman spider on my deck is not enough to warrant leaving the man I love behind to move back to a country with normal (still very scary though) sized spiders. Fine! I will stay, but I think I should get to know the exterminator better, much better!

It’s Not That You Have the Fear, It’s What You Do With It!

Dogs know what they are doing.  Have you ever seen them?  Hanging their head out the car window?  Just hanging on by their toes?  I read somewhere that dogs enjoy the open window, not because of the wind rushing over their face, but because of all the smells in the air.  Imagine the smells we miss with the windows rolled up and the air conditioning or heater on?

You don’t have to imagine it when riding a motorcycle.  The wind rushes past you and the smells assault your senses.  

When I was a young girl growing up in a remote environment, motorcycles were are part of life.  My sister and I had a mini-bike and a motor scooter.  My brother had a moped as well as a “street” bike.  A man from a neighboring community took me under his arm one year and taught me how to race dirt-bikes on the oval track. I was racing his 125.   I found it exhilirating, to say the least.  

A series of events changed the way I felt about motorcycles.  I was riding the 125 with a “city” girl on the back when she caught her foot in the spokes sending us careening down the dirt road skin first.  I was unscathed, but she had landed on her chin and split it wide open.  I felt responsible.  I should have been more careful with a “non rider” on the back.  

Then, the guy who was teaching me to race, quit calling.  The next I heard was when the police phoned to ask me questions about when I had seen him last and who he was with.  I never saw him or heard from him again.  My dirt-bike racing days were over virtually before they started.

When I was 14 a very good friend had a major accident on his motorcycle.  Totally his fault, going too fast for the road conditions.  He was in a coma for almost a year.  With brain damage, it was a different person who came home.

For whatever reason, I swore off bikes.  The years have gone by and here I am with a new love in my life.  Go figure, he would be a bike fanatic!

The first time I got on the back of his bike, I was nervous.  My heart was beating fast and my hands were sweaty.  It is amazing what can happen when you are trying to impress someone. I persevered! The relationship flourished.

Now we have just bought a new Triumph.  I am so excited, for him and for me.  He is not a complete person without a bike and I have really started to enjoy something that I loved to do as a child.  It helps that he is a very competent rider and I feel totally safe with him at all times.  He is not one of those riders who feels the need to “be a man” and scare the shit out of me.  He is always aware of my uneasiness and discomfort and strives to alleviate my fears.  He does it well because I am becoming more and more comfortable on the back of the bike.

As I relax, I am starting to notice everything around me, especially the smells.  Here in Australia there are many fragrant flowers and trees.  I am now smelling the various scents with vigor.  Okay, I might not like the same smells as a dog, but I do enjoy the onslaught to my senses.  I even relish in the wind blowing in my face.

Where did that fearless little girl go?  I don’t know where she went, but I do know one thing for certain… she’s back!

You can’t escape!

Here comes the fat alien, the one with the mean eyes. He flashes past, all in white. He is after someone, not me this time. Evil bastard! I stare straight ahead; they give us pills that make our necks stiff. It is difficult see staring straight ahead. We are waiting for a chance to escape, someone will come to help, no one has yet… but they will! The television drones away, can’t hear it properly and it seems fuzzy. Have another smoke… watch the telly… just stay calm and wait.

Looks like smiley, the tall thin alien with the evil smirk. What is that screaming? They must be torturing Ryan, it sounds like him. Bastards! There goes Dean, now he scares the shit out of me! Category one, constantly watched by the aliens, they must be scared of him too.

God! Got to escape… got to get out! They’ve had me imprisoned here for months. Strangely though, it sometimes seems safer here than the outside world. They must give me pills to make me feel that way, so I won’t try to escape… but I will!

The other prisoners scare me, they steal my stuff, they hurt me, and they are rude. They sometimes make me have sex, so do the aliens. I just lie there, don’t make a fuss. They just jump on me and then go, don’t really feel it anymore.

Can’t run or hide, just have to stay calm. I don’t think they can see me in this dim room. From the corner of my eyes I can just see the woman sitting across the room. She is called Angel. She has little burn marks all over her upper body and both legs have been cut off. She jumped in front of a train, she was trying to escape the aliens. They said she was just trying to kill herself, they must think we’re stupid.

I can see the music system they want so much. Dad bought it for me, they took it and killed him for it. Killed Mum too. Pricks! I might be next, stay still as possible and they don’t see you, that’s how you survive. I think they killed my daughter too. Can’t get emotional, just stay numb.

Here comes another alien through the door, it’s Jimmy all in white, he won’t hurt me. He is one of them but he is more gentle that the rest. I asked him to help me escape once, I thought he might kill me for asking but I had to try. He just said I was better off in here and would be OK eventually. Bullshit! In the end, he is one of them. Arsehole!

He is coming straight at me. He is talking, using the special talk that you can’t understand. It sounds really slow and drawn out. He talks again, louder. He says Dave is here. Dave? Who the fuck is Dave? He says it is Dave, your boyfriend. Dave! He can save me, he is a member of a group of men who fight these bad bastards, they ride motorcycles, like knights or something. I knew he would come.

I stay cool, don’t want to make a mistake when freedom is so close. I follow Jimmy, shuffling in the way they expect us prisoners to. I don’t look sideways, just look at Jimmy’s back. Other prisoners pass, they too conform to the shuffle and the dull eyed look. Dave will save you all, Dave is here, he will have reinforcements nearby. Freedom is so close. We will all live in a big house and have lots of cats.

Dave is filling in a form and showing his ID, forged of course, he is experienced in combat and knows this stuff. This rescue will be well planned, it will be a push over for him. He looks very relaxed, they suspect nothing.

I wait until we are in the garden to give Dave a big hug and a kiss. We sit down, light a smoke. Dave acts casual, he asks how I’m going. I tell him I’m so glad to see him. I ask him why it has taken him months to find this place. He says I was only brought here two days ago, he must have lost it. Have they drugged him too? Fuck these aliens are tricky, sit tight.

I whisper to him Mum and Dad are dead, they killed them for the stereo. Dave says he saw them on the way over and they are fine. He is just trying to keep me calm until the escape plan starts, he’s good! They killed my baby, Jenny. He says Jenny is fine. Dave is so cool in these situations, he’s fucken good! The birds are singing, the garden is beautiful, peaceful. Seems a shame to have to go.

Dave has his leather vest, gloves and helmet, he is ready for them. His chrome machine is waiting patiently in the car park. I ask him where the rest of the gang are. He says they are coming and touches his nose with his forefinger.

Look, there is Ray! Dave looks towards a thin fellow in a German WWII great coat. Dave nods. We have to rescue Ray also, he is my boyfriend. Dave nods. He is a brain surgeon, they gave him pills and put all those horrible tattoos on him, they look like jail ‘tats’. Ray comes over and bludges a smoke, I light one with him. I whisper to him that we are escaping and that the aliens killed my family. He wanders off.

Dave is quiet now, seems to be soaking in the sun. The aliens patrol the grounds, they smile as Dave talks to them. Little do they suspect Dave’s plan. Hi Jake! I tell Dave about how Jake is my boyfriend. He greets Jake. I look at Jake, he is very attractive, we are taking him with us. He looks so young.

I feel so horny. I’m not supposed to, they have pills for that. Here comes one of the aliens, it’s bitch face. She has more pills. Shit! I hope Dave does not take them! She sits near me. Fuck! Panic! I don’t look at her. Dave makes her laugh… shit she is dangerous, I hope Dave knows what he is doing. I see Jake walking away, he is trying to avoid her.

She gives me pills, I know I have to take them to avoid any suspicion. The usual load. There are different colours and some big ones. I try to hold them under my tongue but there are too many.

Bitch face goes. I tell Dave we should have sex. He smiles and talks about the flowers in the garden. He is staying focused, ready to go into action.

Nana Anna is screaming. She abuses someone for drinking coffee, lectures them on their health at the top of her voice. The fat alien talks to her, threatens to kill her I think. Nana Anna walks away lighting a smoke with the one she just finished. She screams back at the alien, she tells him to fuck himself. I can’t help smiling.

Big Pete goes by, he is so tall and strong. They have given him a lot of the pills, he does not even wave when I see him. I love him though. I tell Dave I love him, he is my boyfriend. Dave comments that he would hate to be around if Pete lost it. I think Dave can see Pete is a good man too, by the way he is staring at him.

I tell Dave, Mum and Dad have been murdered, I think the aliens did it. He says they are OK. I know he is just saying that. The sun is so warm and I feel a little sleepy. I love this garden. I light a smoke…

We are going to the therapy room. I look around the room, I think about the decoupage table I started to do. Some prick has fucked it all up. Dave is listening to Jake playing the piano, Jake plays beautiful classical music. As Dave relaxes, Jake suddenly starts to bang the keys hard with a wild look in his eyes, his hair hanging over his face. The aliens run over, I clap and laugh, I love Jake. The aliens look at me, shit have I blown it?

I show Dave the pottery room, there is no one else in here now. I slide my hand in Dave’s jeans, I tell him to fuck me. He gives me a kiss on the cheek and says we can’t. Impotent bastard! I know, the escape… I’m getting impatient now. I’m really tired. It feels like my eyes are resting on my cheeks.

I hear a distant rumble, Dave’s mates are riding in. Fear and panic rise inside me. I don’t know if I can go through with it. I should go to my room and hide. I tell Dave I’m scared of the escape. He smiles. Does anything worry him? Shit he is so brave.

The rumble is very loud now. I call Dave and Jake, now is the time. Go! I run back to the garden to meet the rescuers. I yell to Ray, Nana Anna, Jake, Pete and some other friends. Follow me! We are saved! Come to me! Run, run, run.

They mill around me. Where is Dave? For Christ’s sake, where is he. Has he been taken? Have they made him take the pills? Bitch face might be making him have sex. The rumble is around the corner. I run to the gate.  An alien is grabbing me and I bite him. Don’t fuck me I scream at him. Dave’s gonna kill you bastards!

I turn and see Dave is looking and I call him. Bitch face is trying to stop me going through the gate. I look for the gang, Dave’s heroic mates. A large truck comes round the corner. More aliens, bloody reinforcements. I scream and struggle. An alien seems to be stabbing me with something sharp, trying to give me AIDS. I struggle… I… I…

Here comes the fat alien, the one with the mean eyes. He flashes past, all in white. He is after someone, not me this time. I stare straight ahead, they give us pills that stop ours necks from turning. I’m waiting for a chance to escape, someone will come, no one has yet. The television drones away, I cannot hear it properly and it seems fuzzy. I light another smoke, watch the telly and wait.

Martin Luther King had a Dream

How much change can one person experience in their lifetime?
As a young child, I didn’t put much thought into change.  I can remember having  8-track tapes and the change that happened when cassettes came on the scene.  At the time they were amazing.  I was very young when Kennedy was assassinated.   I remember much more vividly the day John Lennon was assassinated because I was much older.
Then came computers.  With computers came DVD and CD’s.  No longer was the cassette tape needed.  Also with computers came a new understanding of the world.  In fact computers or more accurately the internet has opened up the entire world to us.  We now have access to information on any subject we can think of. We also now have access to words and pictures that also show us the hatred, hardship, discrimination and suffering in the world.
Then came Sept 11, 2001.  I remember it well.  I remember where I was when I heard the news.  I remember watching the television with horror.  I remember looking up all the information I could on the internet.  I remember the fear.
Religion, race and fear are most often the catalyst used to promote hatred and discrimination.  Today January 20, 2009 offers the world a new hope for peace amongst all regardless of your race, regardless of your religion, regardless of your culture.  Today is the day that Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.  Today is a day for renewed hope.  Today is the day the fearmongers can go home and leave the world to the people that want change.  Barrack Obama wants change.  Barrack Obama is change.
Can president Obama step up to the plate?  If you were like me and listened to his inauguration speech today (for me it was at 4 a.m.), then yes, I believe that he is the man that will lead the world into the 21st century.  Where we as a world can live together and respect one another regardless of race or religion.  Where we as a world will lend a helping hand to those less fortunate than us.  Where we as a world can start rebuilding  the trust that has been lost since 9/11.  Where we as a world will stop living with the fear that has been conditioned into us for the last 8 years.
In the words of Martin Luther King… I have a dream.  Today I believe that President Obama with the help of the world can help make that dream come true.  I believe that I experienced change today, a global change,  a change that President Obama believes, a renewed hope in the world. I believe  that today I experienced history in the making.
I believe that if Martin Luther King were alive today, he would say “today my dream has come true”.  I believe…