When Fear Hurts

This post has a very good chance of blowing up in my face.  Right now, I am not sure I really care.

I just bolted from ComedySportz practice (about 30 minutes ago, actually).  It took a little time for me to unwind my emotions.

And it wasn’t about Zach.

Nope.  It was about my fears — and how they’re seen by others.

It seems to be a recurring thing, actually — “why aren’t you on stage?”  “when are you going to play?”   And even at practice, where the leaders know I’m not a performer and are generally OK with me doing other stuff while warm-up and trust exercises are done, “why aren’t you doing (this thing) with us?”

A couple of weeks before whatever it was that killed him, Zach told me that performers don’t get non-performers.  They think it’s a choice.  That anyone can flip a switch internally and do what they do.

They don’t understand how terrifying that concept is to a non-performer.

And I found out again tonight that he’s right.

After a good session sharing memories of Zach, we broke into what I thought was a voluntary “play if you want” session.  That lasted for a few minutes, then became — with little warning — one of those exercises that scare the living hell out of me.  I won’t go into details.

As I’m prone to do when these exercises happen, I stepped outside the theatre to catch my breath.  One of my closer friends was out there, so we talked — and even managed to do a lite version of the exercise that was going on (at about 30% of the speed it was going on inside).  But there was pressure coming from inside – “come in and play”, “come back in here”.  My friend went back in to do more of the exercises.  I hung back, then poked my head in the door.  They were doing large-scale warm-up games.  And I freaked the hell out.

I was in there for less than 5 minutes when I felt myself tensing up — that familiar feeling when I have to face my fears.  And given that if I went back inside, I was terrified of being forced to participate… I took off.

It physically HURTS when I’m that afraid.  My chest and shoulders knot up.  My mind races.  I can’t face people.  So I run.

So this is aimed right at my friends at CSz.

For the love of whatever deity you hold dear, please respect my boundaries.  Respect ME.

There are things that I am damn good at.  I have a good voice for announcing.  I can run a sound and light board.  I can keep track of the structure and format of any show you throw at me, given a little time to get it into my head.

And there are things that scare me.

Please.  If you give a damn about me at all…

Let me be good at what I’m good at, and stop asking me to be good at what I’m not.

Because if this pressure keeps up, I’ll have to find a way to make it stop.

And the only way to stop it is to leave the one thing that I love doing right now.

I don’t want to do that.

But I can’t be this afraid, this hurt, and this emotionally drained.  I can’t do this to myself.  And I can’t let anyone else do it to me, either.

48 hours before I’m supposed to step on the CSz stage for the first time, to host an improv jam session, my brain’s still at warp speed flight mode.  And yes, I can host.  That is one of my skills — it’s because I’m being myself.  No characters, no singing, no dancing, no mime, no gibberish, no vulnerability, no cracking through a lifetime of “being me”.

I don’t know how to be “not-me”.  I don’t know how to let my facade down enough to play the silly/funny warm-up games and trust exercises.

I don’t know how to fail.  And that’s the first rule of improv – you have to be able to fail and fail gracefully.  I’m scared of failure.  I can’t face it.

And thus, my simple request.  Let me be me.  I’ll let you be you.  And if we can’t make that work… well, I pay a lot of money for a cable TV subscription, I can make myself stay home and use it if I have to.

I knew this was the biggest risk of coming back.

Ironically, I was afraid that my fears would bring me down.

Looks like they might.

Time will tell.


Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, slightly less occasional improv player/ref/tech, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

5 thoughts on “When Fear Hurts”

  1. I thank you for sharing what is obviously something very painful. I ache for you, and I hope you’re able to remain with CSz and have it remain the happy place it was for you a few months ago. If you choose to perform, great. If your role is Mr. Voice, then I think that’s enough. They’d be shortsighted to push you away when you are more than willing to do what suits your comfort level.

    You’re in my thoughts and I hope Friday goes smoothly.

  2. Rob,

    Maybe you should just speak up Rob. It is silly say you would leave the troupe over not feeling confident about doing warm -ups. I also know that no one in that room would ever force you to participate. I know every person in that room appreciates what you do for CSZ. I can’t imagine anyone pressuring you to join in if you are that uncomfortable. Speak up. Announce it before practice to everyone that you aren’t comfortable or post it on the page. I

  3. “There are things that I am damn good at. I have a good voice for announcing. I can run a sound and light board. I can keep track of the structure and format of any show you throw at me, given a little time to get it into my head.”

    Well there you have it. You are most comfortable..IN your head. You do what you do (and you’re damn good at it) while being IN your head. As a performer, we’re taught how NOT to be in our head. Perform long enough, and it’s easy to forget that performing is not for everyone. Teach that concept long enough, and you will truly believe that you can teach it to ANYONE.
    ~But as with anything, there are exceptions to the rules~
    You’re the exception. And we need to respect that.
    Keep doing what makes you YOU. You shine being you. You’re happy being you. As a performer, I am happiest NOT being me…and I sure as hell would freeze up and that painful fear you speak of would overtake me, reducing me to tears..if I were pressured to climb up into that voice booth and be “me”.

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