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Defying the gravitational pull of doubt

The thing about tightrope walking is that you can't do it until you believe you can.

And, of course, you don't believe you can until you've tried many times. And failed.

Practicing with a net helps you survive all those failures. But, at some point, you've got to do it without the net.

You don't have to be related to The Flying Wallendas to know what I mean. We've all got our own version of a high-wire act we're hoping to do, planning to do, maybe even praying to do, if only... If only we could figure out that magical mix of skill and confidence that enables us to be more powerful than we thought.

It doesn't help that the failures are often miserable experiences, making us question our aspirations: Why am I trying to defy gravity?

My own version of the high-wire act is considerably less awe-inspiring than Nik Wallenda's 1,800-foot tightrope walk (without a net) over Masaya volcano in Nicaragua on March, 4, 2020.

But, like Nik, I was ultimately victorious. He lived to tell the tale. And I feel like I did, too.

As a person who stutters, I stopped letting fear dictate my choices: I decided I'd try to do a live TV interview.

I was doing a book signing at Horizon Books in Traverse City the next day, and Xavier Hershovitz of “the four” on TV 9&10 in northern Michigan had agreed to interview me. I gave him every opportunity to back out, stressing my severe stutter, but he didn't back away. I'd be on at 4:15 p.m.

For me this was big. I had done a radio interview, but it was highly edited, so I didn't sound nearly as disfluent as I really was. This would be unedited. Gulp.

Also, no notes, which is terrifying because when I speak I have to think not only about what I'm saying, but how I'm saying it. I have to devote a lot of mental power to determining the best mechanics for speaking the words I want to say. This makes me nervous about saying something stupid. I've always tried to err on the side of meaning, because I want to make it worthwhile for my listeners. But I don't want to alienate them with my staccato delivery. So it's a battle, either way.

The third big challenge was being unable to see my interviewer. I wanted to ensure I was connecting with my interviewer, and by extension, the TV audience. TV 9&10's system for Zoom interviews permitted them to relay me speaking, but didn't allow me to see Xavier.

So, all my safety nets were gone: No notes. No eye contact. No do-overs.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and in the ear of the listener, but to me this interview is beautiful.

I did what I didn't think I could ever do: I defied the gravitational pull of my own doubts and misgivings. For five minutes, I was aloft on the airwaves.

Photo credit: Tri-State Voice, 2019

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