Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Nerves, and Bravery

Jeez, I'm a bit of a wreck.

Tomorrow, I'll be flying to Chicago, IL, alone, to meet up with a group of people, internet friends all, with whom I am quite close but most of whom I've never actually met face-to-face. On Saturday, we will all caravan our way out to Savanna, IL in order to attend "The Celebration of a Very Special Life," a remembrance/memorial gathering that Alan is throwing at their home, Havencrest Castle, in remembrance of Adrianne. Saturday would have been her 56th (I think) birthday. Over 180 people will be attending -- far more than have attended any of their previous parties. It should be a remarkable and unique affair. And to top it off, I am one of a very small and select group of close friends who have been invited by Alan to a private breakfast the following morning, after which he is going to give us a tour of the castle and of Princess' extensive private collections of clothing, china, wigs, artwork, and lord only knows what else. This is, quite simply, a tremendous honor.

I am truly terrified.

As I know I've mentioned here previously, I am something of a introvert by nature, although not obviously by practice. Most folks would never for one second describe me as introverted, or shy, or insecure, or any of those things. For example, Just this weekend I was talking with a friend about this and she just laughed and said "Oh, come on -- you're the life of the party!" And yeah, I know I can be, but the point is that's not really me, there. That's me being nervous and camouflaging my nervousness with boisterousness and bravado. When I'm really nervous I tend to be a veritable whirlwind of jokes, snarky comments, pop-culture references, witty barbs, the occasional sly insult followed by a genuine apology if offense is taken, etc.

Talk talk talk talk talk.

It's an exhausting exercise in social self-defense, really. Mostly I'd prefer to just be relaxing with a close friend or two in the corner, quietly talking amongst ourselves and observing the rest of the goings-on from a distance: that's my real comfort zone. I'm an intimate guy. Small groups work best for me, particularly small groups of people I know well.

And, well, none of those things will likely be much in evidence this coming weekend.

I mean, I am very definitely looking forward to meeting up with these friends with whom I shared so much as part of Princess' "inner circle" of friends. These are some fascinating people, intelligent and funny and expressive and terribly, terribly articulate to a one. But the social pressures inherent in this sort of stuff really puts my insecurity into overdrive. I'm already catching myself worrying about whether people will actually like me, whether I'll be clever enough or funny enough or interesting enough or ... enough. For anyone. This weekend is going to wear me out.

I'm actually incredibly proud of myself, though, for attending. Initially Christine and I were going to attend together. However, as the event got closer and I began planning I realized that logistically it would be a nightmare. The kids would have to stay with my mom, who just spent Labor Day weekend watching my brother's kids. She's in great shape, but back-to-back 3 day weekends watching 6 and 8 year olds will wear anyone out, regardless of age. This seemed very unfair to her. Besides, Christine had never met nor even corresponded with the people that would be in attendance, which would really leave her in the awkward position of Odd Man Out. To say nothing of the money it would cost -- not a huge amount, but Christine also just got back from a weekend wedding in Denver. And as we're not even remotely wealthy money is always a factor. So, about 6 weeks ago we agreed that I'd just go solo.

Then I found out that Master Nunan had finally scheduled the Lone Star Invitational to occur on the 9th as well. After my experience at Master Reilly's Texas Classic back in May I was really looking forward to my next opportunity to compete. I'd spent the past 4 months anticipating this tournament, and then discovered that it was falling on the one day that I'd already made tentative plans to be out of state for the rest of the year.

So, at this point I hadn't actually purchased plane tickets or made hotel reservations yet. And there's that damn voice in my head again, picking away at my resolve. "You know you really want to compete. And if you attend the party you're going to be in Chicago all alone. And you've never met most of these people. And you know... well, you know you're just not going to measure up. It's going to be a disaster. Just apologize. And skip it."

It was so tempting to just ... not go. To just stay in Texas, send my regrets, and go compete in the tournament. But, I truly, truly adored Adrianne. I really couldn't live with myself if I gave in to that impulse, the same impulse that kept me from ever hopping a plane to attend one of her galas and meet her face to face while she was alive. The least I could do to recognize our friendship, honor the wonderful conversations and correspondence we'd shared for the past 12 years or so, and express my sympathies and pay my respects to her dear husband, was to attend this party in her honor. Doing otherwise would be cowardice, pure and simple.

And I don't want to be a coward. So much of the benefit and long term goals I've glimpsed in my Tang Soo Do training would be undermined by choosing such a selfish and easy choice. But I'm trying to be brave. I'm trying to be build my self-confidence. I'm trying to be a better man.

So, I'm going.

I take some comfort in the fact that nearly everyone else that will be attending has expressed similar misgivings and worries and concerns. Every one of us, carefully and calculatedly working to lower the expectations of the others so that, when we actually meet in person, we will hopefully be greeted with something other than a nervous handshake and the desperate attempt to avoid eye contact. And as usual, intellectually, I'm certain that we're all going to get along great. That very, very good times will be had by us all and that we will share a truly unique experience in making this trek which we'll treasure.

I know these things, in my head. I just can't trust them, in my heart. Yet. Maybe one day, but for now I will just jump in and try to be brave. Maybe I'll be scared and insecure, talking way too much, or too long, or too loud.

But at least I won't staring at the ceiling at 3:00AM Saturday night, saying "Godammit, you coward...."

Mood: Twitchy
Now Playing: OK Go, "Oh No"

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