As I was trying to clear off an old computer that no longer is sustainable, I noticed a floppy disk that was the only record of some speeches I had once given for a Toastmasters International group. I grew curious, booted up the old computer, and was drawn back in time.
At the time, I still was caring for three elders. I felt the need to start writing their stories – and mine. I needed to try to make sense of it all.
Looking back, I realize that, through writing, I was forming my own support group. There was little, at the time, in human support for family caregivers. It wasn’t considered work. It was basically invisible.
So it began; the public journey of this private caregiver. I wrote my own caregiving stories and interviewed other caregivers. I labored in the pre-dawn hours; the only hours I felt free to be me. These stories said a lot about where I was in my life, at the time.
By then, I was encouraged by other caregivers to share what I wrote. I knew that to do this I would have to go far outside my comfort zone. I would have to learn to speak in front of groups of people.
It’s likely that a number of you have read statistics stating that public speaking is higher on the list of fears, for many people, than death. Pretty astounding, but this tidbit has supposedly been quantified. I don’t know if my fear was that great, but I do know that I would tremble if I had to get up from a chair and walk in front of a group, even to place a pencil on a desk.
I could talk in groups as long as I was sitting in a chair. But have me stand up in front, and I was Jello. I knew I had to do something about this fear, and the most affordable option was to join a local chapter of Toastmasters International. These groups are generally small and friendly. Experienced speakers and peers guide you through a series of speeches.
I joined. I spoke. I conquered. I accomplished what I wanted. Many people in Toastmasters go on to compete and do other neat things, but my aim was simply to be able to stand in front of a group and connect; to share my caregiving experiences and those of other caregivers with people who need to hear how we got through it all; to break the isolation felt by so many of us.
I now speak to groups of all sizes. Since I speak about caregiving, it comes from my heart. I don’t need to write speeches. I get a feel for what the groups wants and do my best to deliver. I find it very exciting and rewarding.
Published On: April 15, 2007