At the end of a rainbow

Lucy found her diamond sky

Of jelly legs and dry mouths

on October 15, 2015

As a species, ‘we’ are usually outright embarrassed or mildly mortified at the sight or mention of behaviours which remind us our bestial origins and primary identity. Of course, a vast majority take genuine pleasure in toilet jokes and intercourse but would rather not declare the same while introducing themselves. Such are the complexities of human interactions. However, there is yet another phenomena reminding most of us that our brains haven’t come a long way from our savannah foraging ancestors. This happens to constitute sweaty palms, clenched fists, temporary lack of control over limbs and other not-so-comfortable visceral experiences. Yes, it is the all too familiar stage-fright. The range of bodily reactions occur due to the brain’s interpretation of the scenario parallel to a bunch of hyenas cornering the poor little rabbit ‘you’. After all, wired as we are to be concerned about our reputation in the society, the idea that our little performance might damage our mostly imagined stature in the society triggers an evolutionarily robust stress system– adequately prepared to escape the hyenas, except there aren’t any here! So, while your legs wobble in anticipation of a sprint, you have to manage that confident stride up to the dais and while your pupils dilate to cover long range action, you squint at your notes as the last resort of inconsequential help.

Back in college, my now-partner-then-classmate trudged up the stage clutching a few pieces of paper only to realize that the lights were dimmed to project the powerpoint slides (another bane of our society). Unable to bear the torture, he fumbled with the flashlight in his phone and read the text verbatim, making it look more like a ghost drama rather than academic presentations. In my case, despite all possible preparations, the day I am supposed to give a public talk begins with me vomiting empty stomach. So much for gut instincts. Our physiology reveals our closeness to animal brethren to a degree we rarely admit but can’t control anyway. So, what we really manage to do is adapt to the situation through practice, situation and relaxation tactics to avoid a full-scale stress trigger. Heart beats fast, but heck that means you are alive, and probably mean what you say! As aptly put by Mark Twain, “There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” For the all upsides of being capable for anticipating the future, perhaps it is best to make peace with the occasions when the unwanted clairvoyance backfires (literally), for we are a bunch of nervous idealists aren’t we?

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