Improv #16: Demotivation-in-laws

*Knock knock*

“Who’s there?”


“Demotivational who?”

*Slowly* “No, Demotivation-in-laws”

“Oh, Then, I guess I heard you correctly the first time. I was just kind of hoping I was wrong…”

“Surprise! We are here to support you!”

*Slams door in faces*

Things to know about rejection sensitivity in ADHD: 1) We’re sensitive to both real and perceived rejection. For instance, we’re sensitive to rejection even if it’s explicitly been established that the insults are a part of a comedy bit. 2) We’re also entirely capable – and probably most adept out of anyone – of triggering our own RSD spirals. Since I also have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I’m pretty sure I can claim I am adept enough at self-sabotage I could literally shoot myself in the foot with both arms tied behind my back (and maybe both feet, too, while we’re at it!)

Don’t believe me? I was once in a scene wherein the first actor entered the scene with arms outstretched to indicate he was a wall poster in an office building. Since effective scene painting is all about symmetry, I then had to keep my arms stretched out at my side when I also came out to play a poster. We were “demotivational posters,” so while other players acting as office workers read sweet affirmations about kittens hanging in there on our imaginary pages, we were secretly mocking them and sharing their darkest secrets. We’d whisper in their ears and make them think that their officemates were the ones insulting them. Finally, the humans in the scene got wise to us and started whispering insults back at us, making us turn against each other in our poster posse.  One of the insults whispered at my poster was that it smelled stale.

This was directed at the poster itself, but I was at that moment standing there with both my arms out at my side while in real life someone was technically sniffing me. On the one hand, individual improv scenes only last around 1-2 minutes per scene on average, so even though I wasn’t in the most comfortable position for a spoonie, I hadn’t really been hanging out there long enough to be sweating in a gross way yet. Or, you know, so I told myself. On the other hand, we were about halfway through the set. Rejection Sensitivity meant I still felt anxious for the rest of the set until I could dash off to a bathroom and sniff under my armpits. Just in case the last insult had been directed at me, not the poster I was portraying.

Things to know about my birthday: Nothing at all, preferably. It’s very demotivating all on its own, and I’m quite comfortable pretending it doesn’t exist. Frankly, I’d be ok with excising the entire month of May from the calendar, just to be thorough.

Things to know about my family of origin: They engage in enough real rejection that they make my own attempts at self-sabotage look like amateur hour. I’m not exactly grateful for my family’s utter indifference. I’m human and I sometimes wish that I had the kind of relationship with my remaining blood relatives wherein I’d be embarrassed to be receiving flowers after a performance and/or wonder if they were just telling me I did a good job because that’s what families are supposed to do, even though I actually sucked. I also occasionally wish I’d had the kind of family that had taught me certain social scripts like that I should remember when Mother’s Day is (today, for anyone who has parents – or in-laws – that they care to call before the day is up!) or that I should let someone else know if and when I get into a car accident in a foreign country.

But, that’s not the family I had, and, well, that’s a relief sometimes, like when I do want to perform in public. One of the few upsides to a family that doesn’t care that is that I have never had to worry about my RSD tendency to panic spiral whenever people I know are watching me at improv. My Partner doesn’t trigger that kind of spiral (*cough cough* anymore, at least most of the time), and nobody else has ever watched me. I am incredibly socially awkward around small groups, feel that way about my own teammates watching me, and can trigger my own RSD spirals about my performance (or just about anything else!) But, I am pretty much okay with big faceless audience masses who don’t know me personally – and never will – watching me. If Lavender sucks on stage but nobody ever actually knew her name, then it isn’t a permanent indication of her worth, or some such. The primary trigger of any of my current performance rejection spirals is thus me. And, I can (with a dash of “clinical strength” deodorant just in case I get sniffed on stage again) mostly manage my own demotivation.

Things to know about my in-laws: 1) They don’t know any of the things above about me.

They generally like me, and they have the kind of relationship with my Partner wherein we both call on days like Mother’s Day. He additionally calls once every couple of months and talks to them until the topic strays too close to religion, politics, or one of those other topics wherein no good can come from it given my Partner and his own family’s completely diverging views on just about everything. At that point, they demonstrate that they – unlike my family – have breaks and they hang up before anyone says anything it would be too difficult to recover from.

2) They show up for each other’s various holidays, birthdays and performances. This hasn’t been that terrifying, as they are residents of a state that is the same order of magnitude as far away from our current East Coast state as the 9th Circle of Hell. It’s not viable to show up for things that cost a roundtrip airfare, and both my Partner and I are quite comfortable being the remote family that visits on Thanksgiving but otherwise does our own thing. It does mean that they don’t know a ton about me, and that can be awkward, as when my Partner’s parents act surprised that I could be funny enough to perform at improv at all because that’s not the mask I usually wear with them.

3) They observe Mother’s Day. We thus observe it too by calling my Partner’s family. And – because my Partner only ever talks to them every few months – there is always a lot to relay during a Mother’s Day call that isn’t about religion or politics. One bit of information from today’s call was that his grandparents-in-law are planning a trip to the East Coast at the end of the month and would love to see me perform.

Their trip will, of course, take place around my birthday because life sucks the East Coast City we live in is a well-known tourist spot and seeing it over a long weekend saves on vacation time. I will, of course, have a show they could come see that weekend because life really sucks I’m an irony magnet and that birthday that I wish I could pretend doesn’t exist unfortunately not only can’t be excised from all memories, it falls very near to a federal holiday wherein many Americans get time off to eat burgers and drink beer “memorialize.”

My in-laws show up to things, literally. Which means I’m going to have to figure out between now and then what the appropriate social script for having “people” of mine in an in-person audience is. I can probably work out the script (though guidance would be appreciated from my online audience!), but I’m afraid that in doing so I’m also setting myself up to entirely whiff my show. I only really know how to wear one mask at a time, and my “be normal for the in-laws” mask does not readily gel with my “stop overthinking things and just follow what the scene needs” mask. It’s hard to be funny when you feel watched – which is why my in-laws were so surprised to learn I do improv last year in the first place. RSD pretty much guarantees I will mentally self-sabotage everything this show because people who know me in a context wherein I wear a different mask are watching. Ugh.

I guess I’ll be spending the next 2 weeks attempting to determine how statistically plausible it would be for me to suddenly come down with the flu in May motivate myself instead of self-demotivate. My Partner never says, “Break a Leg!” to avoid wishing me good luck before performances because “with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, there’s entirely too much of a chance you really will break a leg.” He just says good luck. But, as that old superstition may well be rooted in the very real psychology of performance anxiety, maybe I should ask him to tell me to “shoot myself in the foot” for the next two weeks. That way, I’ll have gotten my most statistically plausible disaster out of the way in practice before then and might do okay when the in-laws show up to “support me?”

Need a recap of anything I’m talking about in any post? Check out the Glossary of Terms.


6 thoughts on “Improv #16: Demotivation-in-laws

  1. Awesome writing. I, too, heard and felt every word. Truly awesome.

    So…. Shoot yourself in the foot, okay? 😁

    My birthday is also in May, only closer to the other end. Yeah, and I keep getting older than I want to be, too. Every damn May.

    How plausible is it to suddenly come down with the flu in May? Probably slightly more plausible than suddenly coming down with the flu in July. My dear hubby surprised me with plane tickets to go to my granddaughter’s wedding in July. I will be going by myself, we can’t afford two tickets. Hubby thought I really wanted to go. Yes — and No. You see, I HATE flying. But worse than that: there are going to be people at this wedding I thought I would never have to see again. Ooooh. The tickets are not refundable, except for serious emergencies. If not a July flu, maybe a heart attack? Hey, I’m old enough.

    Hmmm, maybe I can shoot myself in the foot…

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Do you have to see the in-laws before your performance?
    I’m asking because, maybe not seeing them until after might help. Perhaps your partner could keep them engaged with activities that don’t involve you or being at your home until showtime.

    Could you hang with a fellow performer until showtime?
    Could you get a cheap motel close to the venue and hang there until showtime?

    I’m thinking along the lines of how they’ve already been surprised that you’re funny (that must be a heckuva mask, because your sense of humour is a big part of your writing, for me), so they might’nt be too shocked if you or your partner offer up something like, “Lavender has a pre-performance ritual, so that she can get into the improv zone. She’s looking forward to seeing you after, though!”

    Or, “The group gets together to prepare beforehand, so she won’t be available until after the performance.”

    For the part where just knowing they’re in the audience watching you is nervous/awkward-making is concerned, are there things you do pre-performance to tend to your jitters that you can alter or augment to be more specific to your in-laws that might help? Would making it funny help? Would imagining the funny bit you could write if it all goes for shit after help?

    And what if it does all go for shit? Would it help you to imagine the worst case scenario and make a plan for how you could handle it should it happen?

    Personally, i like to get all the thoughts out of my brain and air them out with a trusted person. I like to plan a bit for potential outcomes that trouble me. Dats juss me doe. 😉

    I relate to the family stuff, and i’m sending positivity and internet skishes, if welcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually…that has potential. The stage lights are bright enough that for someone light sensitive, I can’t pick out individual audience members even when I’m sometimes *trying* to pick the volunteer who had their hand up “first.” I wouldn’t be able to see them except for meeting them earlier for dinner. I could end up with a “late work commitment” or something that makes me have to go straight from work to my call time. I could probably just make the call time a bit earlier than it really is 😉 I genuinely hadn’t thought of that, but I totally think it would help to not see them until after. Awesome suggestion!!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree with above suggestion of delaying seeing them until after the performance and then also please realize anything unkind that they might say is more a reflection of ‘them’ (and their lack of truly knowing the real you) than it is a reflection of YOU. (I know that is easier said than done. I also suffer from the rejection ‘stuff’. Sigh). I’d also prepare myself for two performances — meaning both the show and then the performance with ‘them’ where you put the mask back on.

    Sometimes after theater performances one has this ‘intimate zone’ that happens. I’ve had that happen myself, and let someone in to see the real me in a moment of cathartic release of tension, etc. that can happen, and then regretted it later. So be prepared ahead of time as to what you will and will not share with them after the show, if that makes sense.

    I have decided straight up avoidance is best when it comes to much of my family AND my husband’s family. I would cringe if they came to a public performance of mine–and be going through all the same feelings. I relish having a private blog (after years of publishing under my real name and knowing they ‘all read my stuff’ and had private thoughts about it (God forbid they ever had a conversation with me about it, ugh).

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s