Tomorrow at ComedySportz Indianapolis, I will be doing something I’m terrified of doing.
I know myself well enough to know that I will be tense about it for most of the day. During work hours, I will (obviously) distract myself with work. During lunch hour, I will be reading an extremely dense and complicated novel that I’ve been enjoying. (Infinite Jest by the late David Foster Wallace. It very accurately describes the desperation of depression at one point as “the soul’s certainty that the day will have to be not traversed but sort of climbed, vertically, and then that going to sleep again at the end of it will be like falling, again, off something tall and sheer.” Another description of sadness and the physics of a half-mast flag still has me pondering, days after reading it.)
When work ends, I will drive home. The drive home will be very difficult. The music stations will be full of commercials that I will sit through, nearly despondent at their interminability, until finally a song starts that I recognize as one that I despise, at which point I will change the channel to the same commercials that just aired; the sports stations will be full of smug local would-be experts discussing a sport I don’t watch with people whose names are as vaguely familiar as the fourth verse of a hymn I sang in elementary school; the news stations — regrettably, grievously, and with a complete disregard for the optimism that I will be craving — will be playing news. The CDs in my 6-CD player will undergo a mysterious change in which their familiarity, normally comforting and pleasing, will be aggravating and contemptibly bred. The cell phone will tempt me from its position in my cupholder, where I keep it in case there is a sudden emergency involving my wife and/or daughter that will require me to magically transform into Steve McQueen, shedding six or more hubcaps as he does in Bullitt, while racing to save the day — but I know both the dangers of talking on the cell phone while driving and the annoyance I will feel if the connection is any less than perfect, as it will prey on my central auditory processing disorder and my tension in equal measure.
When I get home, I will think of all the things that I need to do — chores that may need attention and things I could accomplish to make all of our lives a little bit easier — and instead I will most likely turn on the XBox to take solace in being Batman for perhaps an hour. I will play badly, thinking ahead to the enemy I can’t conquer with fancy technology and endless retries (but that will, in a way that somehow seems ironic but is actually barely even coincidental, require more fingers).
I will do my best to be pleasant and present when my family arrives home. I will gain some fantastic moments of respite when playing when my beautiful daughter or chatting with my beautiful wife, which will experience stalactite-shaped dips into dread every time my eyes wander across a clock face.
The drive to ComedySportz will be lesser in duration but greater in tension.
I will attempt to laugh and relax with the others when I arrive, but I will be distracted and I will occasionally forget the social cues to smile, to make eye contact, to pretend to be calm when my insides are twisting.
When my name is first called, I will have a short, sharp shock of a flashback to past failures, because frankly my brain can be a real party pooper.
And when it’s over. When it’s done. When the ninety minutes have passed and I can look back and realize that I was involved in probably less than ten minutes of it and almost certainly less than fifteen, and that all of my tension was overblown and that (despite the insistence of logic that I have been attempting to apply like salve to a burn) I have been scared for basically no reason… when it’s complete.
When it’s complete.
Then it will never be that terrifying again.
It is that simple; I have had similar experiences before, and I know my patterns. Get through it — survive it — and it will no longer hold power.
Tomorrow, I am playing the keyboard at ComedySportz Indianapolis. I will be accompanying the players as they make up songs on the spot. I don’t know what games we’ll be playing. I don’t know what music will come out of my fingers.
Tonight, I will fall asleep listening to the thunder and trying not to fall off of something tall and sheer.
Tomorrow night, it will be worth it.