Tag Archives: public speaking

Finding your tribe

I woke up early this morning with a nervous stomach, which shook loose this memory:

I’m in college.

I’m wearing a black sweater and a pair of black and hunter green checked pants that have one of those funny hook and button things like men’s dress slacks.

I’m sporting a pair of black penny loafers, a shiny penny looking out from the center of each like cooper eyes.

The campus is cold and dark and still at this time of the morning. A group of us are boarding a small yellow school bus that will take us to our student teaching assignments.

I don’t want to be a student teacher, but my parents are pushing for it. Besides, what else do you do with a degree in English?

I feel sick in my stomach those weeks that I teach. Sure, part of it is plain old nerves. But there’s something else. That feeling of not belonging that I can’t seem to shake.

This weekend, I’m attending a creative nonfiction conference. This weekend, I’m speaking at a creative nonfiction conference.

Along with the founder of my writing group, I’ll be presenting How to Find Your Tribe or How a Writing Group Saved My Life.

A little dramatic, I know. But we’re writers, folks.

So, that’s where the nervous stomach is coming from.

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Me and my magical mullet circa 1985. You know you want to run your fingers through it, ladies.

But I know I’ll be okay. Talking about my writing group is a passion of mine. And I’m no longer that 20-some-year-old mullet-headed kid in the penny loafers. Did I not mention that magical mullet of mine? Must have slipped my mind.

I’ve got a tribe. A tribe of writer friends who make me feel like a cross between Dorothy Allison and Alison Bechdel.

A tribe of blogging buddies who make me feel like a flannel-covered rock star. A little bit of Melissa Etheridge and a little bit of Joan Jett and a little bit of Xena Warrior Princess because she is a bad ass, too, and this is my blog so I can write what I want. And anyway, she could play a helluva lute, at least when she was inspired.

On my last post, my catsup-versus-mayo-on-fries post, Family Values Lesbian replied that “mayo on fries is as butch as glitter.”

downloadI laughed out loud then smiled real big on the inside, sorta like the Grinch when the corners of his smile almost touch the sky and his heart grows three sizes that day.

“What?” W asked.

“My peeps,” I said. “They get me.”

And that’s my hope for everyone–the writers I’ll be speaking to on Saturday at the conference, all the LGBTQ folks out there who might not have built-in support systems and the rest of the world, too. People who get you. A personal cheering section. Folks who support you like a really good bra and tell you to keep going, you got this, you can do it. Even if the road ahead is paved with glitter. Or whatever it is that’s your kryptonite.

Thanks, guys, for always being a part of my tribe.

 

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Middle-age Butch speaks

So, guys, I had my corporate speaking gig on Thursday.  It went really well.  Who’s the butch?  That would be me.

Remember how nervous I was?  I wrote about my fear here.

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Looking good.

To get myself psyched up, I watched wrestling.  And I wore my power tie.  One that had belonged to a friend who passed away a few weeks ago.  The guy got things done.  I’m taking you with me, I told him.  I figured I needed all the help I could get.

And there at 11:30 a.m. I stood in the front of a conference room full of people in my black Dr. Marten’s and navy blue vest and red-and-blue striped silk tie.

I talked about the power of story.  I told this story:

About 20 years ago, my mother threw me a bridal shower at a very fancy country inn.

I had wanted a bowling alley bridal shower with rented shoes and pepperoni pizza and pitchers of beer.

Note: You might be a lesbian and should not be marrying a man if you want your bridal shower to be held at a bowling alley.

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Me and my flowered dress.

There I stood in a pair of black high heels and a flowered dress drinking punch out of a small glass cup with a handle.  I wore a paper plate hat made out of ribbons and bows.  The shower was ending and I was supposed to thank everyone for coming.

I froze.  I had to be rescued by my best friend.

Penn State was playing Michigan that day.  “Kick-off is in 30 minutes,” she said.  “We have to go.”  We were PSU alumni after all.

And that’s been our running joke or running story.  “Kick-off is in 30 minutes.”  It has gotten me out of every single uncomfortable situation for the past 20 years.

I rewrote my story on Thursday.

I’ve never been big on all of that positive thinking stuff. It’s always seemed hokey.

But I’m thinking about things differently these days.  I’m careful with the stories I tell myself.  I pay close attention to the thoughts I allow in my head.

It just goes to show what a flip in your thinking can do.  That and a power necktie.

* * *

What personal story do you want to rewrite?

Fear

Like this guy.

Or like this guy.

I’ve been feeling really small these days. Not small in a good way. Like, hey, I lost 12 pounds and these cargo shorts are hanging off of me. But small in an all-balled-up way. Like a fist.

I have a slew of things I need to do. One of those things is write a presentation for a corporate event slated for early November. This company has an LGBT group, and I’ve been asked to speak about my book. I’m planning on talking about the power of story — the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we share with others.

I have it all mapped out. A notebook filled with thoughts and quotes. I don’t even need the notebook. Everything is floating around in my head.

But I’ve yet to sit down and type it all up. I was going to do it last weekend. Now, it’s on my to-do list for this weekend.

Writing it out makes it real.

It’s not that I don’t think that I can do it.

It’s that I’m scared.

Even butches get scared sometimes. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone.

I’m not sure what I’m scared of.

“I need to get that Marianne Williamson quote tattooed on me,” W tells me.

She’s talking about this:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

It would be a very large tattoo.

So, I will sit and write. Write through the fear.

The stories we tell

When I had my bridal shower back in the day when marrying a man seemed like a good idea, I was supposed to stand up at the end and say a few words.

I’m not very good at speaking in front of groups of people.  Even in front of people I know.

As I sat on a chair in the center of the room in my floral dress from The Limited and started stammering, I was rescued by my best friend.

Beaver Stadium“Kick-off is in 30 minutes.  We have to go she said.”

It was a perk that came with being alumni of a university with a dominating football program.

It’s been our running gag every time I am nervous about speaking in front of a group of people or trying to get out of an uncomfortable situation.

“Can’t you come and tell them kick-off is in 30 minutes?” I ask.

Even when it’s not football season.

Last week, I called my friend and told her that because of my book I have an opportunity to speak at a large, multinational company that has an office near my house.  The company has an LGBT group and often has speakers come in.

She tells me to go for it.

“But you know me and public speaking,” I say.

“Maybe it’s time to stop telling yourself the story that you’re not good at public speaking,” she says.

She’s a terrible friend.  The worst, really.

After I get off the phone with her, I think about the power of story.  The stories we tell ourselves.  The stories we tell others.

Then I stumble across this quote about storytelling:

“Being a storyteller is about helping other people tell their stories.”

I know my presentation will address the power of story.  That’s my passion.

In my head, I am mapping out how it will go.

NecktieI am working on a new story about going to the company that first time for a meeting. I am unsure about what to wear.  I am afraid about being judged for being a woman wearing men’s clothes in a corporate work environment.  About looking like a little girl who just raided her dad’s closet.

I sit on the edge of my bed and remind myself to be me.

It will be ok, I tell myself.  Stand tall.  Be strong.  Be butch.  Be yourself.

It’s a pep talk.

Another story.

* * *

What are the stories (good and bad) you tell yourself?

What’s next?

Birthday cake with one candleThat was one of the prompts at my writing group today.  We were celebrating the one-year birthday of the group, so we did a lot of reflecting about the past and projecting about the future.  Birthdays are good for that kind of thing.

Here’s what I wrote:

In the next year, I want to keep at this writing thing.  I want to work toward developing a regular writing practice.  I say work “toward” a disciplined writing practice, because I don’t know that I will ever write every single day for an hour or between the hours of 8 and 10 Monday through Friday.  For me, part of the magic of writing is allowing myself to be enchanted by my muse, who is unpredictable and spontaneous with a touch of crazy and fantastic cleavage that always wins my attention.

Book dealI will finish my memoir and sell it to a small LGBT publisher.  I don’t plan on getting rich.  I will help sell my book by organizing book signings and participating in conferences.  I will travel to cool, gay-friendly places like Rehoboth, Del., and Provincetown, Mass., and attend Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival where I will dance in the moonlight with the Indigo Girls.

W says that I will be too busy for her when all of this happens.  I tell her that she can come with me.  This will be a grand adventure for both of us.

Butch Voices logoI tell a friend that my book will be so wildly popular and successful that I will be asked to attend the Butch Voices conference in California in two years and speak on a panel.

I inform W that she can go to this, too.  She smiles real big at the thought of being in a room packed with butch women.

My public speaking experience is limited.  As a college freshman, I gave an instructional speech on flossing.  And there was the dramatic reading class that I took, reciting lines from Neil Simon plays.

“Have you ever spoken on a panel?” my friend asks.

“No,” I reply.  “But I will.”