As a child, my anxiety began to manifest in various ways. I’d feel anxious that my parents wouldn’t make the house payment for instance. Not a regular occurrence for a regular boy. My irregular solution was to offer some change from my savings account, a la piggy bank. Not quite sure if that put a dent in anything or not… My parents were so disorganized that it gave me fits. So as a solution, I would sneak into the kitchen during the wee hours of the morning, take everything off our marvelously cluttered kitchen table, and reassemble it into neat, organized areas. Later, a young woman named Marie Kondo would steal all of my ideas.
I am so familiar with the phrase, “pins and needles” that I can differentiate between an Clevis pin and a dowel pin. Is that an embroidery needle? Quilting needle? Did I google “different kinds of pins and needles” just for this bad joke? You betcha. But I’m on pins and needles about this essay. I need it to be good because it’s an extension of me, a representative. It is quite possibly the first impression of myself to you, the reader (or listener). Honestly, I need you to like me. It will make me happy. I’m aiming to defy most psychology experts and work for external gratification. So here we go.
Hello? You still there? Whatever you need, I’ll get it done in this piece. But also, damn, taking the time to write this thing little diddy has given me mild anxiety. I have a solid amount going on in my life right now. Not too much, just to be clear. But it’s for sure enough. I’m scared I’m going to make a mess of it, too. My fears vary from subject to subject: that I’ll let someone down, forget to show up somewhere, not file paperwork, forget my lines on stage, etc. etc. etc. I’m afraid I’m going to get in trouble with some big somebody. An all knowing albatross. Maybe god. Am I talking about god? Am I afraid of disappointing god? Is that where this fear is rooted? Good god.
Well, I suppose I have god to thank for this guilt too. Perhaps not directly. It’s not like he created religion, but it’s not like he’s helping either. Have you read the old testament? Anyway, guilt is a major emotion of mine, besides feeling anxious of course. But the two go hand in hand, don’t they? By the way, is feeling anxious an emotion? Or a state of being? I don’t know.
My guilt is like a pilot light ready to amplify my other negative emotions. (this suddenly feels like this could turn into a vagina monologues kind of thing. “My guilt is like a cocker spaniel.” I will file that idea away for later…) My earliest sample of guilt was mixed with a heaping garnish of shame, coming from my catholic grandmother. As a child if I ever did something wrong and apologize to her she’d say, “if you were sorry you wouldn’t have done it.” So, ya know, that explains a lot about me which obviously I don’t like to admit. But my therapist has been trying to convince me that I should lighten up on myself. Not everything’s your fault. You can blame some shit on your family! Just don’t go overboard.
Usually he’ll say, “if you understand your past you can understand your present better, preventing further backsliding. It’s all just data.”
“What about the future?” I ask.
“For that you could go down the road to the tarot reader. But she’s not much cheaper.”
I’m anxious about my career like, I’d say, around 100% of the time. I admire the go-getters, the ones not waiting for things to happen. But I imagine those go-getters aren’t easily distracted. They have laser focus on their goals. I however am like a human sized raccoon getting distracted by shiny objects. I often walk into rooms and go, “wait… why did I come here?” You might call this ADD.
You’d be right.
You’d think I’d remember that I have ADD.
You’d be wrong.
One afternoon, while filling out some paperwork for an acting intensive. I came across a question asking me if I had any conditions they ought to know about. Chronic pain, anxious distress, learning disabilities. Ya know, stuff you should remember.
I paused. I looked at my partner and said, without explaining anything, “I mean, I kind of have ADD, I think?”
She rolled with it, “but you weren’t diagnosed were you?”
I paused again. “Yeah. I took a test…”
“Really?” She replied.
Again, I paused. “Yeah. I took medicine too.”
The look on her face went from puzzled to relief. “Oh my god, this makes so much sense.”
So I had forgotten that I had ADD. Which I’ve heard is fairly common. Who knew?
What I really shouldn’t do is procrastinate. I need to make a to-do list, cross it all off, and feel the internal satisfaction of slaying my responsibilities in the face.
…except when it comes to re-financing my student loans. No, that for sure scares me. How’s about my wisdom teeth that should come out or I’ll definitely have a problem? No thanks! Okay okay, what something small like Marie Kondoing my bookshelf?. No! I will never forgive her.
I’d rather turn into an ostrich and, ya know, ignore things.
Even meditation gives me anxiety. The thought alone gives me hives. As of writing this, however, I have meditated 75 days in a row, but Jesus if I just don’t go, “shit, I gotta do that again today?”
Maybe it’s obligation then? Obligation gives me anxiety! Yes, that’s it! I’m on pins and needles when I know that I’ve gotta do something. Maybe that’s just my natural state though. I should get used to it so I can get some shit done around here. There’s so much to do. Which reminds me… I have a couple boxes full of memories I lugged from back home. Year books, old love letters, photographs. Shit…
About the artist...
Cory Hardin is a graduate of Western Kentucky University and the School at Steppenwolf. As an actor he has worked with Lifeline Theatre, The Gift Theatre, Steep Theatre, Theater Wit, and Chicago Dramatists. He has written and performed solo pieces for No Stakes Theatre’s “Wingspan Series”, MOZAWA, and participated in The New Colony’s new play development workshop The Writer’s Room. He’s a Co-Founder and the Artistic Director of The Passage Theatre and is represented by Actors Talent Group. IG: @coryhardin
Want to see more of Cory’s work?
Check out his work from past issues:
Tug from Issue IX: Breathe