Two things happened this week that stopped me in my tracks ...
... the first may have been simply a warning, but one that may need to be heeded.
(Fatigue setting in?)
On Tuesday afternoon there was a long-scheduled filming of my two o'clock program in the theater. The team was one that I've grown accustomed to being in my shadow on occasion, but this day they were augmented by two others, plus a relatively well-known host of a local PBS program. I understood that Doug McConnell would be here to briefly interview members of my audience as the presentation ended -- that would be across the hall in our classroom. I'd been well prepared for the event, and fairly comfortable as we all arrived at around nine in the morning and as I went about my normal day picking up accumulated email on my computer -- they went directly to the theater to set up the complicated lighting so that, not only would I be lit, but the audience as well. I wouldn't see them until just before my program was scheduled to begin at two.
At about 1:40 I entered the little theater to find tall portable bright lights, and camera gear stacked in the rear of the room taking up the limited spaces usually set aside for extra chairs to be brought in from the classroom to deal with the overflow of our usual 48 seat capacity.
The intimacy had disappeared.
I normally come into an empty space, move my kitchen stool from its place behind the lectern to the center in front of the screen to wait for folks to arrive in ones and twos until the room is filled. I've always avoided being formally introduced, and usually begin the interaction with folks who have normally just seen a screening of Blossoms & Thorns, the story of the internment of local Japanese and Japanese/Americans during WWII. I begin a casual Q&A having to do with any questions or comments they may have about the film. That lasts for about ten minutes during which I'm sizing up my audience and claiming my space. They've entered a space that I command, and that command is slowly arrived at within those ten minutes. I'm not sure that I could do it any other way. But I now realize that what is being established is the intimacy that fills the room, and my very personal story can be shared honestly and without blame or shame. That intimacy is a critical piece of the experience. I'm sure that this is the element that sets the stage for the magic that invariably happens as if baked into the event by design.
On Tuesday, under those bright lights, cameramen, and film gear, that important factor had vanished!
I drew my stool from its hiding place, centered it in place just before the screen, but nothing seemed right.
The members of the audience (each of whom had signed releases) entered in twos and threes, sat in designated places (leaving a wide swath measured out by 2 rows of tape down the middle -- in order for the cameras to film me as object). This meant that the audience was bisected into two distinct parts with a long space between. (Could this have caused the disconnection with a part of myself?)
As my talk began a strange thing happened. It felt as though I were shouting! For the entire time I was tense and edgy, and when it all ended about an hour later, I took off for home feeling embarrassed that I'd not performed well, and that all that effort by that team of fine filmmakers, that everyone on the assignment had been let down, and precious funds had been wasted ... .
Upon arrival home I sat down at my computer and wrote a brief note to Carl, the director/producer, explaining ... and was surprised when he reassured me almost immediately that nothing was amiss. That I'd lived fully up to expectations, and that I shouldn't worry at all that I'd disappointed anyone.
I went to bed not at all convinced.
Received an electronic file the next day from Carl. It held not only the transcript of all proceedings, but a video-file of my talk. In addition, he included that of the audience responses that followed after I'd left for home. They were all positive, some unbelievably so, or, if not, he'd omitted all those that weren't. My voice was surely no louder than normal. I was definitely not shouting. I appeared absolutely confident with nary a sign of discomfort.
What is my body trying to tell me?
How could I have ever gotten so out of sync with myself?
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