Today I only had two presentations.

Alhamdu lillah.

And I got home reasonably early so I have an entire afternoon to, um, relax.

Feels weird.

I’ve been running on empty the past few days.

You know it gets bad when you look at the clock at 7 pm and think, “Okay, I have to leave the house in twelve hours!”

On Sunday I even found myself getting all wound up as I was driving to the venue of a Mother’s Day brunch where I was the keynote speaker.

Here I was driving along the 401 and beginning to get a panicky feeling in the pit of my stomach, and I couldn’t figure out why.

And somehow I recalled this interview I’d seen with this broadcaster from some local television news program who suffers from debilitating anxiety attacks and at that moment I could honestly understand how that would happen.

I think the more public speaking we do, and the more adept we get at it, the more a part of ourselves also gets kind of cynical about it.

How do you do the same presentation thousands of times and not get cynical?

You tell the punch lines, you generate the emotions, the kids and teachers react accordingly and appropriately at all the right moments, and at the end of it, you feel kind of strange about it. Almost like it’s a bit fake because you’ve done it so many times.

And yet, it’s all so fresh and new for them! And the emotions you began developing in the program are just as valid the five thousandth time you utter them! So why the disconnect???

Oh alhamdu lillah, I know I’ll work this out. And just seeing the joy on the kids’ faces is so reassuring! It’s all so new to them!!!

And yet, that never happens with my The Roses in My Carpets presentation. That one presentation is my favourite for good reason. It just never gets stale because I know the whole purpose of it has so much  more than just entertainment value. It has to do with urging young people to look beyond their own needs and help those less fortunate.

Just doing the presentation makes me feel good inside because I know that any good deed those little ones do as a result of my presentation will come back to reward me too for having encouraged them to do it!

It’s also amazing to see these little kids get so excited about the plight of others.

And what has been happening is that even though I thought I had completely finished polishing that presentation, turns out I didn’t. And I’m still adding to it!

Whereas the primary presentation (Picture the Story) is mostly just humor: scary chickens, silly chickens and big red lollipops!

I had two of the primary presentations to conduct today and even as I was performing for the grades 1 – 3, I was watching two of the teachers who were marking papers and at other times talking to each other, in the middle of my presentation.

Do you know how distracting that is? (Actually I can ignore the paper marking, but the talking!!!)

I’m not sure why but seeing people talking to each other while you’re conveying a story is extremely distracting!

And these are teachers.

And I thought to myself, okay, this seems to be one of those schools where they bring a lot of artists in, and as a result, it’s like ‘no big deal’.

And I also thought of how so many teachers and adults think so little of children’s literature.

Or maybe it was me, a Pakistani multicultural author up there, I don’t know.

All I know is at times like that I hear my husband’s voice in my ear saying, “What does it matter if they’re talking? What does it matter if they’re setting a bad example for the kids? Get over yourself! If they don’t want to listen, who cares? You’re going to get paid for your effort anyways.”

And he’s right.

But darn it! I want those kids to get absolutely the most out of my being there! I don’t consider it a job well done unless I give it my all, which is probably why I feel so wiped at the end of it!

Oh well. I just know that if I was a teacher booking an author, knowing how expensive it can be, I’d want to make sure we got our money’s worth!

Not only an hour of entertainment for goodness sakes! But also something that would apply well to the curriculum.

And maybe it’s all this pressure that I put on myself that is causing me the anxiety.

I wonder. Maybe that’s why so many artist become dependent on intoxicants. They would relax a person to do the grind of all the presentations.

But since that’s not an option, alhamdu lillah, instead I did some relaxation techniques and last night, for the first time in a long time, I slept very well indeed, alhamdu lillah! Even though I got up after sleeping about an hour and wrote a rough outline of a picture book.

Thought that would wake me up too much and I wouldn’t be able to rest, nope, quite the opposite.

Slept better because of it!

Woke up quite refreshed!

Tomorrow I begin my Universality in Folktales program at a school nearby. Should be fun.

Have to reacquaint myself with the Rhodopolis, Yeh Sien and Sootface versions of Cinderella! And then I’m off and running!

Next chance I’ll have to relax is probably on Monday!

Until then, I just have to remember to keep breathing!

In and out, in and out, alhamdu lillah.