I sat there, willing my body to remain still. My left foot wanted to fidget. It burned to start snaking its way around the floor. My torso desired to twist and slouch down in my chair, and my fingers sought their way up to my face, eager to pick and rub and scratch. I sat there, perfectly still and perfectly proper, while a symphony of urges and thoughts resonated throughout my body.
Yet it was not enough to only appear attentive and professional, one had to sound like they belonged as well, and that required concentration. Tremendous amounts of concentration that were near impossible to employ, at least not throughout the arduously long meeting. Instead I chose to approach the problem strategically, focusing with my full attention for brief periods of time, and then pulling back and allowing the many distractions time to feed.
But then my mind started to wander. This was another danger. Concentration brought on fatigue, and fatigue broke down my willpower to continue this internal battle. Once my mind began to wander my limbs would regain control and return to their natural states. A few seconds too long and someone would ask me a question, with me in no condition to reply.
This thought caused a flash of panic, releasing much needed adrenalin into my blood stream. With renewed energy I took a chance, leaned forward slightly in my mock leather chair and glanced around the room. Our lead of technology was speaking, and immediately made eye contact with me. A moment later I was slapped with a startling revelation, and my foot started fidgeting freely beneath the table. He was talking to me.
I caught the tail end of his last sentence. Something about counting on my department to deliver some objective within some time line. This was it, I had to form a reply. Every significant player at my company was staring at me, they would all hear what I had to say and it had to sound thoughtful, insightful and articulate. My vocabulary was not extraordinary but I had to make do. There was little time but my mind worked quickly as I glanced upwards to give the impression that I was considering what my colleague had said.
First I formed a list of words that I would require in order to reply. It was desperate folly to start a sentence that you could not finish, which could happen easily by simply forgetting an everyday word. Once my list was complete I waited an extra moment while the adrenalin ran its course so that I would speak in a calm and smooth tone. Finally I allowed myself a tiny, barely audible cough to clear my throat. I would not let my voice crack in front of this crowd.
Now, fully prepared and having taken only slightly longer then one would consider 'normal', I was ready.
Barely seconds later the discussion had moved on. I completed my task successfully and resumed sitting in deliberate stillness. With any luck that would be it, the meeting would be adjourned and I would return to my desk without incident. I had done well, but already I could feel the stress workings its sinful way through my system. A cold was coming on, and I wondered how long I would be able to keep playing at this game.