birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

When It's Needful

“I have found that running away from one’s fears doesn’t work. One must go through them….”

In the NatGeo series Genius, Carl Jung says this when Einstein admits that he is going to turn down an invitation to lecture on Special Relativity.

Apparently Einstein was afraid of speaking in public—a surprise to me. I too have a problem with teaching, and other forms of public speaking.

I was terrified when I first began preaching. I discovered that my acceptance, of a theological prohibition of women preaching, helped me avoid facing my fear. Over time I found I had God to lean on—a personal experience of “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)

While I overcame my unwillingness to preach, it never came easy. And, I have never succeeded (at least to my standards) in the teaching realm. I panic, and I tremble, and my words disappear from my head and get tangled together in my mouth.

I avoid it, and have for a very long time! I have always hidden behind a philosophical rejection of “the expert role”, and I do want not to be a know-it-all. But, this philosophy is also a huge, and cowardly, cop-out. I do better with a group in a facilitative, or interviewing, role. I don’t know why I am so afraid of standing in front of a group of people and telling what I know—but I do, and in a very big way.

Last week I found myself in front of a small group—I was the only one, in front that is. I said I would watch the space. I thought it involved merely WATCHING, while others moved to music. But, I also—because I was the only one watching—had to stop and start the songs on my friend’s iPod. AND, I had to give a few instructions in segues from one activity segment to the next.

I might not have volunteered had I stopped to recall just what my responsibilities would be. Even that little bit of talk—and authority over people’s experience—frightened me.

By the time I realized I would have to speak, it was too late. Everyone else was already to move. They were depending on me. There was no one else but me. I took a breath, and another breath.

In a split second I recalled what was usually said at this moment in the activity. I opened my mouth, and licked my lips. “Oh, yeh, there’s the phrase. I hear it in our master teachers’ voices.” (I got a glimpse of what channeling must feel like.) And then I heard my own voice giving direction, and encouragement.

Luckily, it was a brevity of words. And then the movement went on. I had several minutes of solitude with Chopin’s Nocturne in F major, and all I had to do was watch what the others did.

Then it was time again for a few words of direction and encouragement. I opened my mouth, and memory followed. The words slid across my lips pretty easily. There was none of the sticking, none of the self-criticism. There was only the necessity of the words of direction and encouragement.

I found myself, during the solitudes of three Chopin Nocturnes, reflecting on my fear, my transcendence of fear, and my absolute sense of “faking it”. And, I saw that I was faking it for the sake of making it a good experience for those moving out on the floor.

I thought of Einstein—“How amazing that he did not want to speak. How lucky, for all of us, that he had that chance exchange with Jung. How reassuring to know that I am like Einstein in this tiny yet meaningful way.”

Maybe I’d discovered a reason that could outweigh the fear—of not knowing and needing to know it all, that would allow me to speak to people who need what I do know.

Is this “faking it”? Is this “making it”? Is this, as Jung said, going through it? It was at least doing what was needed at the moment of need.

Is it possible others need what I know? I don’t know, but I’m thinking on it now—differently.

Faking It

Fakery as a Career