It’s 6:30 a.m. Today at 2:30 p.m is the first meet-n-greet with my class and instructor for improv at Second City. Actually, it’s “Improv for Anxiety”, and apart from the class also includes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help overcome fear and avoidance associated with work, school, and family life.
I’m so proud that I’m finally doing something I’m passionate about, but at the same time, the “for anxiety” part really makes me wince. The thing is – until recently (about 3 years ago), I never considered that I had so much fear of rejection inside of me. I just had a ‘fuck everyone’ attitude and drank a lot in my own little apartment with my two best friends, Rebecca and Chaz, whom I miss dearly until this day.
I scrutinize my childhood a lot these days and it’s so obvious to me where things went wrong and my faith was lost in everyone. As a 6 year old, I saw my father hold a gun to mother and older brother’s head before aiming it at mine; he was upset my mother wanted to divorce him. A neighbor called the cops, my father was arrested, and she divorced him anyway.
My father raped me when I was 12 (it was the first instance I vividly remember) and I was changed. Once an A-student at a Catholic school, which my mother sent me to after the divorce because I had never been exposed to religion before since my father was a militant Atheist and Socialist, my grades began to fall and the next semester she took me out and said I could make bad grades for free closer to home.
By this time, she was remarried and with a new baby boy ten years younger I am. I was jealous seeing their family unit and felt alone because I was the only one with my last name in the house (my older brother detached himself from the family as soon as he could).
I began Catholic school in the third grade and loved it. A play I wrote about a family of rats whose butler (a flea) dies was performed by my 4th grade class. I was on the soccer team. I had a diverse tribe of friends. I made all A’s. I won a spelling bee. I had my first communion. All that shit.
Then my father fucked it up and I will hate him forever for that. But the thing is – I don’t hate him. I see too much of him in myself to hate him. The difference between he and I is that I got help and he didn’t (There, but for the grace of God). Also, aside from all of that, I have a lot to thank him for; he taught me to question authority (which at one time made me an obnoxious teenager, but now I’m self-righteous and stick up for myself and others, which ultimately led me to working in non-profit – anger over inequality is really the only emotion that motivates me to speak up), he made me strong and self-sufficient by never being around, but, because he was deeply entrenched in social activism, I got a little taste of that and was also well-read from a young age (read Marx for Beginners in the 3rd grade). Plus, because of him my first favorite bands were The Velvet Underground and Herman’s Hermits.
*** At this point Tim woke up and we walked to get coffee, pastries, and a couple of supplemental items for dinner later in the evening. By the time we got home it was 11 in the morning and time for breakfast and an episode of 48 hours. My hands were getting clammy thinking about class and I was a nervous wreck pacing around for 30 minutes before I finally left at 1:30. I wanted so desperately to drink and told Tim I totally would were he not around.
MAAAAAN. and even leaving an hour early, I was ten minutes late which also stressed me the fuck out. I had to take 2 buses and walk a few blocks and on the way I was approached by a group of dudes who asked if I could use my card for them on a automated parking meter in exchange for cash. I said sure, and then took off running because I had just made myself even later.
I walked into the tiny dimly lit room (it’s not the called the Sardine Bar for no reason) and took a seat right by the door and ignored the niceties and introductions while trying to stop sweating so much. I really don’t remember much about how I was feeling…just nervous, I guess. But as an icebreaker of sorts the facilitator asked for volunteers to come up and talk about why were there. I really did not want to so I knew I probably should – and I did. I went up on the tiny stage and took the mic from him. He asked me what my SUDS (Subjective Units of Distress Scale) level was and I told him I wasn’t sure, but that my legs were shaky, my palms were sweating, and my chest was tight. He smiled and said ‘Good!’ then began to clap and everyone joined in. It was awful.
I talked a bit about my past and said this improv class, for me, was a part of my ongoing therapy and I chose it because the part of me I’ve suppressed for years is now dying to come out and I can’t deny myself anymore – I didn’t look up from the floor once. And then I started to cry. The facilitator gave me hug and then came more applause. I took my seat and the girl next to me patted my back and said I was brave. That made me feel nice, and although I was embarrassed, I’m glad I cried because now I’ve cried and it’s out there.
The actual improv class began at 6:00 p.m and went on through 8:30 (it was a long day). By the end of the night I was feeling good and exhausted, but couldn’t wait to tell Tim all about it! And despite being sober, nervous, and myself, I still met three tight chicks. I cannot wait until next Sunday. Forreal.
*I miss you guys so much.