Sir Rustalot


As the seminar approaches I am feeling very unprepared.  (breathe, breathe, breathe)  Let me fill you in on a secret – I tend to be  a perfectionist. I know it doesn’t seem like it at times because I fall short of perfection by a mile, but that’s only because I just keep trying.  I want it to be perfect. I want to nail it!  It’s the same thing with everything I do, part of why I’ve been a quitter in the past.  If I can’t be the best then why try?

If I left it at that I’d never do anything!  Instead, I give it my best try and then spend a very long time convincing myself that it was the best I could do.  It’s not like I’ve been shirking on this, I’ve been preparing.  I spent weeks deciding what I would speak on given the broad topic I was given.  I spent another two weeks gathering research.  I have enough material to do the entire seminar by myself on the expanded topic of Soullish Matters.  Alas, I only get one hour to make my presentation and leave the audience in awe.

I’m so not feeling it!  Maybe it’s because I’ve been over the material so many times, or because to me this is old news and I’m ready to move on to the next shiny.  I edited  my material down to an hour and twelve minutes.   I realize that most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying.  That’s not my problem, although I do get nervous.   I learned a long time ago not to eat much before I speak.  I can always eat afterwards.  Lucky for me they scheduled me for the 10 a.m. slot before lunch.

My problem is the perfectionism thing.  I want to be the best speaker they’ve ever paid money to hear.  I want to wow them, dazzle them with my brilliance, baffle them with my . . well, you know.  I want to give an excellent performance, make an impression, and give them something to think about after they leave the seminar.  It’s got to be worth them sitting in those hard chairs all day.

I don’t want to just read from my notes either.  As a writer, I tend to write out everything I’m going to say, even the jokes.  They deserve better than that though.  This is the second year in a row I’ve been invited to speak at this seminar. Last year, I felt the same way; unprepared and unqualified, yet it turned out well.

I’m recycling some of my props I used from last time.  Last year I had a wooden sword, a small letter opener that looked like a dagger, a Civil War sword and a claymore.  At the end of the stage I had Sir Rustalot propped up.  It was all about training yourself from the wooden sword to be able to swing the six-foot blade of the claymore with precision and accuracy.  The difference between a play sword and the real deal.  I like swords.  When we move to a house that has a fireplace, I will have a sword collection above the mantle. Weird maybe, but whatever.  It was an impressive demonstration and it got the point across about weilding our swords effectively. My slogan was “Armour Up!”

This year Sir Rustalot will return as the main star.  He didn’t get a proper introduction last year.  This former stage prop of a seven-foot tin knight is showing his age.  There are a lot more rust spots on him than there used to be.  I thought about repainting him and making him all shiny, but I decided to use the aged rust.  On stage left there will be a mannequin representing the plastic Barbie people.  You know who they are,  bubble heads that can tell you all the latest celebrity gossip but can’t figure out how to actually do much of anything. Between them lies Mt. Doom.  A mountain made from cloth draped over the percussion set.  The mountain is our trials in life, the ones everyone has to go through –  the trying times we learn from.

I get to strap on my flame thrower.  I inherited it, it was my fathers.  It is World War II vintage, and he used it often.  He planted zoysia grass so he could burn the yard.  We raked the leaves to the ditch so he could set fire to them.  He had a thing about fire, but never torched any buildings.  We lived in the country so it was ok. Anyway, they won’t let me actually fire up the flame thrower – some nonsense about fire codes.  Also, the shop owner wants her mannequin back on Monday.  Darn the luck anyway!

What happens to plastic in a fire?  It melts into a puddle of goo.  Sort of like the Plastic people do under pressure.  What happens to metal?  Metal is tempered by fire, made harder, stronger, more durable.   In between the two lies the secret.

While I’m making references to Barbie, I’ll be taking them out to the woodshed via Mt. Doom.  The badlands, the place even Murphy was scared of.  Mastering our minds, taking control of those wandering thoughts.  Engaging our wills and not operating on autopilot.  Mastering our emotions and not just working when we “feel” like it.  Yeah, I’m not going to be very nice to them but it’s the tough love thing.  the fun princess will pop in for a few jokes and visuals, but Fräulein Task master will  have them saying: Yes Mam!

Boot camp is tough for the soft boys and girls that get off the bus, but the commanding officer turns them into men, and women of valor.  They’ve been trained, conditioned, and toughened up from the civilians they formerly were.  It’s sort of the same thing here, I’m not actually allowed to make them drop and give me twenty or take them on a five-mile road run, but I am allowed to point out simple things that they’ve been missing.

I speak from the voice of experience here, I’ve been the soft person and I had to make the choices for myself.  I’m more of the warrior now than the plastic Barbie but inside my suit of armour is a child shaking in her boots!  I’m sure everyone will appreciate when the seminar is over, because I’ll get off this subject.  I always feel like this before I teach, and before I speak in public like this.  I’ve never felt as unprepared as I do this time.  I’ve never had such a difficult time beforehand with life trials.  It fits though, my trials were dealing with the very subject I’m teaching on.  Ironic isn’t it?  The teacher is the one that learns the most.

The first time was like the tip of the iceberg.  Each time thereafter has been an increased learning experience for me.  Afterwards the people seem to be thrilled with my presentation, many sharing with me that indeed they struggle with these very things.  I’m going to believe that it will go well this time as well.  If not, maybe I’ll just toss Sir Rustalot from the stage and run like the wind!

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6 comments on “Sir Rustalot

  1. The problem with being perfect at everything is that you can’t; it’s impossible. Isaac Asimov used to say that his biggest problem was never being able to end a story the way he liked. He said once he had a story that he just kept rewriting over and over, and finally he showed it to editor John W. Campbell. He took it on the spot. When Asimov told him it wasn’t finished, Campbell told him, “If I don’t take it from you now, you’ll never finish it. You can’t make it better than it already is!”

    That’s the thing we have to learn: when to stop. When to say, “It’s done.” Then you can move on and not worry so much.

    Like

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