Month: October 2019

An Extroverted Introvert by Lois Hewitt

What does a perfect day look like to you…mine is a chilly fall day, an oversized, soft chair with a snuggly blanket. A cup of hot tea, some kind of treat and either a good book or a journal with a good quality pen. No noise or very soft music in the background. Over the years I have learned to enjoy my own company.

Now do not get me wrong, there are plenty of people I like to hang with, but it’s easiest when it’s just me. That’s one sign of an Introvert. I guess I have always been one.

When I was young, talking to more than four people terrified me. Public speaking was some kind of torture technique like waterboarding.

If I saw people approaching me, my head would go down, my eyes would look away and I would keep walking. I would repeat in my head…. No eye contact ever. Small talk was a big fear of mine.

I would miss school if I had to do a book report in the front of the class. It meant pure terror to me.

While I was working at Kinetico, my job sometimes required that I give a presentation occasionally. I would fret and stew about it for days or weeks. One day, my boss suggested sending me to a Dale Carnegie class for public speaking. Eight weeks to learn how to talk in front of people.

I signed up and immediately tried to come up with an excuse to not go. It seemed like a good idea in theory but the reality was terrifying. But I did not want to let my company down.

When I got to the hotel meeting room for the first week’s meeting, there were 19 other people in attendance. Some looked calm and others, like me, were freaking out.

That first night we had to give a simple two minute speech to the group about ourselves. Nothing fancy or elaborate. My idea was to wait to last and maybe there would not be enough time. I do not remember much except there was plenty of time for me.

I walked to the front of the room, now physically shaking and sweating profusely. My eyes filled with tears. My mind racing as well as my heart. I had experienced terror before and this was one of the worst.

I stood there, head down, streaming tears, voice warbling and said something. I have no idea what. I cannot remember a thing. Afterwards, my classmates all hugged me and said encouraging things. It must have been pathetic to watch.

With each week, it was a little easier. The people in my class were awesome, it was such a safe place. We all improved and on graduation day we all celebrated.

I proceeded to give the random speech here and there. I took several public speaking classes in college. It was still never easy but I was able to cope with the stress of it all.

Fast forward a lot of years. I had not done much public speaking and was reverting back to my intense introverted ways. I find a job on a scenic railroad as a host. I thought it was mostly serving beverages. It turns out it was about being entertaining also.

I had learned that the better you know a subject, the easier it is to talk about it. So I started learning local history. It was a wonderful challenge.

My tours now consisted of a few facts and a few sentences about history. At the end of the trip, I expected huge accolades for all my knowledge and entertainment. In reality, I was greeted with mixed reviews at best.

What was missing? I talked with coworkers and I found out facts where not enough. I had to learn to tell a story. So I started watching comedians and seeing how storytelling was part of the big picture.

So I came up with a way to make the facts more interesting. The sentences turned to paragraphs. I thought I had found the answer. Still mixed reviews.

What was I still doing wrong? According to my classes and the books I read, I was doing everything correctly, but something was still missing. On the train, I got moved to First Class. Now I had to up my game but my concern was that I just did not have the extrovert gene. Maybe this was something I just could not do.

I kept studying. I kept working on my technique. One day watching an older Dave Chappell comedy special, I saw what I was missing. Two things: passion for the subject and a connection to the audience. Without those two things I was always going to be like a flat soda. A flat soda can still quench your thirst but it is not very satisfying.

Tony Evans, from Dallas Theological Seminary, is one of the most dynamic speakers I have ever listened to. I studied his delivery, the way his voice changed and his mannerisms. There I saw what I was missing.

I started learning the history and facts in a way that was more than information, it became alive. Then I started to talk about it with enthusiasm. The more I did that, the more passion I felt. I added antidotes from my life as a way to connect with my guests. Then I started to hear comments from guests that reflected their enjoyment. Being entertaining for four and a half hours now was fun for me and them.

Now I work as a Historic Interpreter. My job is talking to strangers about what they are seeing. The passion I feel for this job sometimes overwhelms me. I feel good about the story and I want to pass it on. Understanding where the audience is coming from and knowing where you want to take them bridges any gaps in the way to a connection.

Of course, there will always be people who do not want to be reached. All you can do is try and move on. For those people who are interested, the sky is the limit.

The last component to remember is, no matter how many times you say something, you must always be genuine. Even if you have said that same thing a thousand times.

On my days off, I am still an introvert. On the days I work, I am an extrovert. It just goes to prove that labels do not necessarily have to define you as a person. Great lesson learned.

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Pure Joy by Lois Hewitt

I am in a mood today. It’s about to get real….

My youngest memory of pure joy was when my mom still lived with us. Hot, lazy summer days. She had a consul stereo, she loved music. We would listen to Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and the like. We would sing and dance. My sister even danced in her wheelchair. Then we would change to Stevie Wonder and Blood, Sweat and Tears. I wished those times would never end as we laughed the afternoon away. Life was still simple and innocent.

As life tends to do, the innocence leaves and the times become complicated. Music was not so much a source of fun any longer but a companion and a comforter. Music stayed with me in my loneliest hours. Music in those teenage years was loud and visceral to keep the inner demons out.

Then came my rebel years full of Urban Cowboy, country music, lots of beer and Jack Daniels. Smoking and two stepping were the order of the day.

Then one day a Little Red Corvette appeared on MTV and I was thrown into what was called Urban Contemporary. My view expanded from the small town I lived in. Prince amazed and thrilled me. I could not get enough.

Then came flannels, messed hair, work boots and grunge. The demons were back talking about a world on the brink. Misery filled the days.

Then the women stepped front and center. Alanis, Alicia, Lilith fair. Powerful, angry women making music to allict change and to say it was time to be heard.

I started to get tired, still unsure of who I was. Racing toward 40 and feeling in a rut. I worked for a great company and I had my own office in the back of the building with windows all around. I had a fantastic view of the woods.

I would go to work on Saturdays especially in the summer and sit in my own private domain. A place where everything was in its place and order was the word of the day.

I would play music on my computer about catching a freight train or having the Keys To The Highway. I day dreamed about a life on the road with no ties to anything. I dreamed of running away. Music was my soundtrack.

I finally did run away but the reality was nothing like I dreamed. I longed for an uncomplicated journey. I longed for the past to finally be in the past. But it alluded me as did music. I was even more lost than I had been and I had no compass to show me the way.

Then came a crazy train and a place in North Carolina. A place where I got to figure things out. Where the music I loved back in the day revisited me. I was starting to feel whole. The past took its rightful place away from the present.

Today, my skin is mostly comfortable. I know more who I am and I am good with that reality. I see with clarity all the roads I have been down. Some I took and some others took me. But they all lead to this place, a place set in 1895 that is the most comfortable with people from a different time. Yet I can relate to them.

Today music is like those first days dancing with my mom in the living room. She is no longer here but she still dances with me. I think she would have really liked Michael Buble.

Listening to a wonderful song transports one away from the hurts and pain. It clears the mind and frees the soul. Today I will experience pure joy once again. Thank you to everyone who makes music, you make the world a better place.