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Speaking Up

By Joanne Hunt

I have a history of speaking up when I have needed to. I will have difficult conversations with people versus letting things go unsaid or fester. For the most part, I think I stay relatively capable in those conversations. I try to stay ontologically clean; as Mel Toomey used to say, "It's time for an ontological shower." In corporate life, I didn't "lose" many arguments. I could think through solutions and speak quickly. I was not usually hesitant to speak up.

So: for someone who is verbally proficient, it is strange to admit that I get tongue-tied when I am near people I admire. I once shared an elevator with Trisha Yearwood and I didn't say a word. We were clearly staying in the same hotel and I would be attending her concert later that night. There we were. Just the two of us. I shrank into the back of the elevator and didn't say a word to this warm, approachable, sweats clad, water bottle in hand, blond hair in a pony tailed woman who must have just finished a work out in the hotel fitness centre. She had that healthy gleam. Not a word did I utter. If I could have blended any further into the elevator wall, I would have. She had smiled at me when she entered the enclosed space. I stared back. Perhaps she thought I was a stalker. She exited without another word.

This is a pattern for me that started decades ago. I met Dan Hill back stage at the National Arts Centre when I was thirteen years old. I was in love with Dan Hill as only a pubescent young girl could be. He sang beautiful songs with incredibly heart-aching lyrics. I'm a Romantic Enneagram Four; he couldn't miss. I brought a long-stemmed red rose to the concert and sat in the second row of the Opera House. After the show, my Mom took me and my sisters to the side door to see if there was any way I could give him his rose. (I would have never done this on my own.) The security guard generously let us in and we were led back to Dan Hill's dressing room with a few other back stage groupies who had gathered near the young girl with the rose. He came out wearing a green t- shirt and blue jeans. I stood there not saying a word. One of my sisters said, "She loves you and has all your records and sings all your songs. Joanne. Joanne. Say something!" I stood still and mute. Frozen. He asked, "Is that rose for me?" I stuck out my arm stiffly and he took the red bloom from my hand. He stuck it in the front pocket of his jeans. "Did you like the show?" he asked. I nodded.

There was a woman standing behind me from a town nearby, Pembroke, I think. She had a camera and asked if I would like a picture taken of Dan and me. I was thrilled and so I nodded silently. He stood next to me and put his arm around my waist softly whispering, "It's okay. I won't bite." Our picture was taken. The very kind woman asked Mom for our address saying that she would be happy to mail the picture to me. She did. I still have it. I am positively beaming in that photo. Grinning into the silence next to Dan Hill with a red rose in his pocket.

I have been that way with most artists whose paths have crossed mine. I back away. I get really shy. I am always encouraged by friends and family: Go say "Hi" to them. I never do. Frozen in my admiration for them, I lose connection with connecting.

I remember a quote that I read some time ago that went something like this: "When you are near someone who you are in awe of, be gentle with yourself. When you are near someone who is in awe of you, be gentle with them."

I try to live that way now. More gentle with me when overwhelmed, fatigued, awed, or intimidated. More gentle with others who look at me with admiring eyes. I understand.

© Joanne Hunt

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