I am writing this now on the brink of exhaustion. I have just finished my first full day lecture in front of a large audience here in Toronto. I haven't done one of these events since last November and as such should have been relaxed and ready. Unfortunately, that's not how it goes with me. The longer between 'gigs' the more insecure I get. I do not trust my talent, I do not trust that it will be there waiting for me. I begin to be visited by old fears and old anxieties. If catastrophizing wasn't a word, it would need to be invented for me.
Oddly, part of my talk today focused on the fact we have to be concerned about the fact that intellectual disabilities brings with it a set of low expectations. That we need to chide educators, staff and family to expect the most out of someone, about the need for people to rise to expectations. All that's true, but the greatest concern is the fact that people with disabilities also cap expectations of themselves, that they can 'give up' without trying because of a constant anticipation of failure as the end result of trying. There was much talked about at the lecture about how to have people with disabilities raise their expectations of themselves. That internal expectations are more important than any others.
I felt somewhat fraudulent going on and on about this because this is the very problem I have myself. Despite having experienced much success in my life, my early experience with failure and the expectations of failure are still set in my mind as default positions when it comes to personal goal setting, personal planning and personal striving. I'm always astonished that things go well and attribute success to the kindness of others rather than to the efforts of self. It's not a good way to live and not a good way to be.
Yet it's easier to talk about the process with others. Halfway through the afternoon session, which was, if I say so myself, 'blistering hot' ... I got this feeling in my stomach, it could have been fear, it could have been anticipation of being nearly done, it could have been the expectation that it would all fall apart in a second or two ... but what ever it was - it didn't win, it didn't distract me, it didn't gain ground. I looked out over an audience that, by then, was willing me to keep going, willing me to challenge them, willing me to be honest and truthful and, even, emotional.
Then. It was done. Applause happened. I sat down and looked at my desk, the papers spread out, the outline of the day carefully placed for me to follow. Evidence was everywhere that I had entered in fearful. But fear didn't win. History of failure and expectations of failure lost a bit of a grip on me today.
Giving a lecture takes energy.
Grappling with demons, however, is the real work.