In the Beginning
In the beginning there was domestic tranquility and harmony in the Le household.
The spirit of peace and happiness reigned there. And all was well and good.
Then trouble began in paradise. A storm was brewing, and threatening to wreck our kingdom of bliss. Will it break up our marriage? Will it result in divorce?
In the Middle
It all began back in late April of the year 2002 when I joined this Toastmasters Club. Little did I know what I was getting into when I signed up. To me a Toastmasters Club was for public speaking, for those who couldn't say ten words without an "mm" or an "er," or for those who would rather die a thousand deaths than speak in front of an audience. And that suited me just fine.
What I didn't know was the amount of preparation that each speech would take. Now I was not exactly wordless when it comes to writing, or speechless when it comes to speaking.
Like someone who leaped before he looked, I plunged into the preparation of my first speech, euphemistically called the Icebreaker speech. The requirement was lenient: Talk about myself or my hobby, and don't worry about fancy stuff like body language or vocal variety. As if that is not easy enough, I needed to talk for only 4 to 6 minutes. Anybody can talk for five minutes, especially when they are excited enough. Piece of cake, right? Yeah, right.
Then I prepared, prepared, prepared. Then I rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed.
On the appointed day, I went to my execution, er, my meeting. When my name was called, I staggered in front of my executioners, sorry, my fellow Toastmasters, who, in my estimation, would have no qualms about discussing how to dispose of me. What should we do? Hang him? Shoot him? Impale him? Or tear him apart? Each option is more exciting than the last. I knew I wouldn't come out of there alive!
But to me death is preferable to facing dozens of people staring at you. So I prayed silently, and stepped up to the plate, legs shaking, head hanging on my neck by a thread.
Then I delivered my Icebreaker speech. Did I say "delivered?" No, I didn't deliver, I stumbled through it, cold sweats, and all!
When I finished, I stood there waiting for the Sergeant-At-Arms to lead me away to you know where. But she was smiling, and a round of applause rose from my would-be "executioners." They didn't crucify me, they didn't hang me. They simply applauded.
I was so happy that in a moment of recklessness, I declared that I was going to give a speech every week for the next nine weeks.
I might not know it at the time, but that was the turning point of my life. My fate was sealed.
I couldn't wait to go home to tell my wife about my Icebreaker speech and how it had been received. That evening, after dinner and as usual, when my wife and I had settled comfortably in our armchairs to enjoy our quality time together, I recounted the story of the day.
When I finished, I looked at my wife again, expecting a word of praise or a nod of approval. Instead, an icy silence followed. It was the first week in May, but it might as well be mid-January at the North Pole.
After a very long uncomfortable moment, my wife slowly enunciated each word,
"Honey, you mortgaged the quality of my life."
Her remark was simple, but you must have heard the tone of her voice! She was seething with ill-disguised anger.
"When did I do that?" I squirmed uneasily in my huge easy chair, looking as innocent as a child.
"This morning!" She splashed me like with a bucket of ice. "You told the world you were going to give a weekly speech for the next nine weeks."
"Yes, but they're Toastmasters speeches, not Ph.D. theses." I tried to calm her down.
"I know you." My wife's voice became bitter. "When you write your stupid stories, or speeches, or whatever you call them, you're so wrapped up you won't budge when I say, 'Dinner is ready.'"
"But I always eat dinner." I replied feebly.
"What happens after dinner?" Sarcasm leaped from her pretty mouth, pretty even in anger. "We've made a pact, remember? After dinner, it's quality time TOGETHER. Nothing else."
"It's still quality time together." I tried, defensively.
"No, mister. Not if you sit in front of your silly computer racking your brain, and typing two words per minute."
"But it's only for nine short weeks, honey." Was my last-ditch effort to get back in her good graces.
"Yes, that's nine weeks of my life." She spurted contemptuously.
"That's also nine weeks of mine."
"Your life doesn't count!"
And thus began a two-and-a-half-month saga of ups and downs in my relationship with my wife. She knew that when I made up my mind, I usually went through with it.
Yet somehow she managed to put things in perspective. And I did my best not to squander too much of our quality time together.
Finally after nine weeks of coasting along in this valley of tears, I got my Competent Toastmaster (CTM) certification.
In the End
My wife was preparing dinner in the kitchen when I walked in the door with a light heart to break the news, "Honey, I finished my tenth speech this morning."
She turned off the faucet, dropped the greens she was washing, and hurried toward me. I was uncertain what she was going to do. Tenderly she wrapped her arms around my neck, and planted a big kiss on my mouth, "You did it!"
The kiss was heard around the world.
In the end there was domestic tranquility and harmony again at the Le household.