When I first started doing yo-yo shows in high school people would often ask, "Do you get nervous?" I would answer with an honest and definite "No" and I truly believed that was the case. People who have stage fright get antsy at the mere thought of people looking at them. "What if I screw up? What if I forget my lines? What if my breath smells?" When I answered "no" it was because I experienced no such anxiety. I still don't. And yet...
Kevin and I started doing yo-yo programs in 10th grade. At the time there was no need to be nervous before a program because we were "the studs," as we liked to call ourselves. In high school I was delightfully surprised by the positive response my peers brought to the yo-yo so I had confidence that our programs would be enjoyed as well. From every indication they were. And yet I consistantly got ill the week of any performance. At the time I didn't even notice. We only had shows about once a month and whenever it happened I could never place the source of my anxiety, I would just get generally uneasy. I doubt I would have ever seen the correlation if my mother had not pointed it out. As I watched myself over time I saw the truth of her observation. If I had a show coming Wednesday I would have signifigant bowel discomfort Monday and Tuesday.
As I took note of this strange coincidence I tried to locate the source. Was I afraid of messing up? I didn't think so. After all, I was the best yo-yoer I had ever seen. (I didn't have this bubble burst for at least two more years). Was I afraid of being in front of people? Considering that I often went out of my way to be in front of people even without yo-in-hand I quickly disregarded the thought. But what could it be?
I recall these feelings now because, well, I still get nervous. After Roland joined the Yomen we streamlined and simplified our program to make it as good as possible with almost no preparation or setup at all. We increased our shows from once a month to a little over once a week. Our shows were no longer a novel experience for me. If there had been any subconscious fear of messing up or forgetting what I was doing this development took that possibility off the table. So why? I have now been doing these programs for almost 15 years. What is there to be anxious about?
I brought this up to my friend and neighbor Tarver during one of our regular "smoke chats". (If he stays true to form he will never get to this part of the blog, having a rather rigorous personal blog-word-limit, so I can say anything about him I want.) Well this fool decided that it might be because I am a perfectionist. I told him he was wrong because I often deliberately leave small mistakes in things (mistakes no one else will notice) to prove to myself that I am not a perfectionist. His look told me, "you just incriminated yourself." Upon further reflection I decided that if I had more discipline I would be a true perfectionist. I then decided I needed to be more disciplined. Even still, concerning our topic at hand, the show is already "perfect," meaning, I am satisfied with its current state and am routinely happy with its results. Is it truly this longing for a better "perfect" that is causing me such grief? My internal jury is still out on this one.
So what is it? In the midst of my aguish I search my heart for a clue, but none is forthcoming. Sometimes, the day of a program, the weight is unbearable. As soon as it is over, as soon as it starts, I am light as a feather. Why? Is this an ungodly worry or a healthy fear before I address people in the name of the Holy One? Are those questions even relevant? Half my life I have had this unanswered question before me. In some ways it is very small thing, but the mystery is profound. It begs the question, how well does any man know himself. Even after a half-life of searching my soul, a mystery remains. How great is the mystery that is man, and how much greater is he who can pierce and divide the thought and intentions of the heart?