My Unusual Fear of Public Speaking

My Unusual Fear of Public Speaking

I don’t exactly have a fear of public speaking. When I’m speaking in front of a crowd of people, I actually really enjoy myself. I’m also fine appearing in videos that many people watch.

But my problem isn’t during the public speaking, it’s before. I am capable of feeling low-flame dread before a speaking event for MONTHS. Like the hint of worry I’d have in the pit of my stomach right now if I knew I had an appointment to get 2 cavities filled on November 2nd.

This past May, a teacher from my daughters’ school asked if I could come speak in front of around 70 junior-high-schoolers. On July 4th. About Shabbat.
My gut instinct was “NO WAY!”

But I feel so much gratitude to my daughters’ wonderful school, and I feel like if they want me to come and speak there from time to time, that is the least I can do to help them out…

And I also felt like I have an important message to pass on to these girls, to show them how much they should appreciate the colossal gift they received upon birth–Shabbat. While I had to yearn for that weekly taste of holiness and connectedness and meaning until the age of 20. Maybe I could pass on my BT passion for Shabbat to them?

So then, the waiting started.

2 fillings on July 4th = 2 months of low-flame dread.

In the weeks before, my teacher-husband, Joshua, helped me come up with an outline for my speech. And I practiced it a few times. And I felt quite a bit of low-flame dread. Until it was finally July 4th.

And, like I always do before I speak in front of people, I said a little prayer. That Hashem should speak through me, to spread the message He wants to the world.

And I think I gave an OK speech in the end. I, at least, enjoyed myself, giving myself goosebumps as I described my first Shabbat, choking up with emotion as I remembered the first life-altering steps of my religious journey.

But the energy of the audience was less school-y than summer camp-y. Distracted and giddy.

Had any of the girls even listened to what I’d said?

On the way back home, I felt disappointed. I had wasted not only my afternoon, but had endured 2-months of low-flame dread for zilch!

The day after the talk, I ran into a girl who had heard me speak: “Thank you so much, that was an incredible talk” (maybe she was the one girl who actually was listening? Or, more likely she was just being polite.) And then the teacher who’d organized the lecture called to tell me that a bunch of girls came over to tell me they had really enjoyed it (yeah, right. She just feels sorry for me that my speech was such a flop).

And then Shabbat came. Towards the end of Friday-night dinner, there was a knock on our door–it was our neighbor, Sara.

“Chana, did you see? Your cactus is blooming!”

We have a big cactus in our front yard. And around once a year that cactus makes a single flower that opens for a single night, and is gone by the morning.

This is always big news among the neighbors, who come out with flashlights and even ladders to take photos close up of the cactus’ annual flower.

But when I went out with Sara to take a look at this year’s blossom, I discovered something absolutely remarkable.

There wasn’t just one flower, there were a whole bunch.

7 flowers. On the 7th day. How strange…

And I wondered, gazing at these unprecedented flowers, was this a bouquet for me?

Because I love Shabbat, and even though it wasn’t easy, I tried my best to help others love it too?

8 comments

  1. Wow thats incredible
    Im sorry you had to feel nervous for so long only to have an audience who wasnt so into it.
    Maybe ask them to call you less in advance next time.

  2. Wow too bad we couldn’t see pictures of the plant!!

  3. Hadassah Aber

    I am surprised at the level of negative self talk you had during and after the speech. Even when you had positive feedback you were negating it. Hashem gave you an amazing bouquet to demonstrate how much He appreciates your endurance and determination to go through with a challenge. May it serve as further inspiration and encouragement to use your verbal talents to help others.

  4. Maybe the flowers mean that not only one girl was moved by your talk, but many.

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