Photo: Fabrizio Ferri
The one time I lost my balance before a show was the day of my live interview with Michael Jackson in 1993. In the weeks leading up to that prime-time conversation, the hype had reached dizzying heights—Michael, who hadn't given a television interview in 14 years, had agreed to talk with me. I wanted our exchange to be spontaneous, so I hadn't even prepared questions.
But a few minutes before the cameras rolled, a wave of fear rose up inside me. My mind raced. What should my first question be? Will I go completely blank during the interview? What if I don't recover? When Michael arrived and we prepared to go on-air, I was so tense that the first question I asked him was "How nervous are you?" He looked right at me and said, "I'm not nervous at all." That simple exchange was enough to transport me back to the present: If he could stand before the world and tell his story without fear, why should I be afraid? I could feel the tension drain from my body as I drew in a breath and began what I'd done a hundred times before, trusting the energy of our conversation to carry me from one moment to the next.
Every challenge we take on has the power to shake us—to knock us to our knees. And yet, what's even more disconcerting than the jolt itself is our fear that we won't withstand it. When we feel the ground beneath us shifting, we panic. We forget everything we know and allow fear to freeze us. Just the thought of what could happen is enough to throw us off balance.
What I know for sure is that the only way to endure the quake is to adjust your stance. You can't avoid the daily tremors. They come with being alive. These experiences are really gifts that force us to step to the right or left in search of a new center of gravity. Don't fight them. Just find a different way to stand.
Balance lives in the present. The surest way to lose your footing is to focus on what dreadful things might happen. When you feel the Earth moving, bring yourself back to the now. You'll handle whatever shake-up the next moment brings when you get to it. In this moment, you're still breathing. In this moment, you've survived. In this moment, you've found a new place to move your feet so you can step onto higher ground.
What Oprah Knows for Sure
From the April 2003 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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