Outsourcing Anxiety

I’m a terrible procrastinator. Which means that I’m a really good one. Anyone who knows me, knows that I put things off. Especially writing projects.

Since January, I’ve been meaning to write the next draft of my play Out to the Folks, do a quick update and polish of The Lost Years because we’re thinking of remounting it (which also means finding venues, etc.), and create and rehearse a clown piece for the Hamilton Fringe. As of the Ides of March, I hadn’t done any concrete work on any of those things.

Usually, when I put things off, I begin to get nervous as the deadlines loom. Or I’ll have anxiety dreams about the work I need to do.

But I haven’t been feeling anxious at all. And the other day, I realized why.

Deb, my wife, is experiencing the panic I should be feeling. She lies in bed worrying that I won’t get my plays written or my show ready. Since she’s doing all the worrying, there’s no need for me to do any of it.

She even had an anxiety dream about my clown show. In her dream, I’m unable to perform so I tell her what to do. She puts on my clown skin (costume) and clown nose. She isn’t quite sure what to do, but she’s game to go on and try, when suddenly she starts to panic. What will Helen Donnelly (my Clown teacher) say? Deb hasn’t taken any classes in Clown and she’s afraid that Helen will appear out of nowhere to stop Deb from performing. Anxiety and panic ensue.

On one hand, it’s great. With my anxiety outsourced to Deb, I’m free to continue procrastinating.

On the other hand, one of the purposes of anxiety for the procrastinator is that eventually it gets more painful not to do something than to just do it.

Also, poor Deb has no direct control over alleviating this particular anxiety. She can’t write my plays. She can write her own plays, of course; but she can’t do my work or do my performances for me.

So, yesterday I started work on the next draft of Out to the Folks. And when that is done, I’ll get to work on the other projects.

In the end, it was panic and anxiety that got me working on my projects. Only it was Deb’s anxiety and panic for me. Confusing, but effective.


© 2018 Peter Gruner

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