I have a theory that the twenty-plus years I’ve spent doing theatre have somehow warped my natural anxiety response to looming major life events. Lawrence Olivier once contended that the amount of adrenaline coursing through the veins of an average actor performing say, Hamlet, on a given night was enough to kill a normal man. I have no idea if this is true; it certainly sounds dubious. As a playwright who has a side specialty in writing plays that deal with science and technology, I can never underestimate the capacity of artists, even venerable ones, to get the science of nearly everything wrong. Still, there’s some sort of Picasso-like truth in this, I think. When faced regularly with situations that tend to make you feel like crapping your pants, you’re going to make an adjustment—psychologically, physiologically—however.
My involuntary adjustment to countless openings of original plays I’ve poured my all into has been a shortening of the advanced dread period, down from a month, to a week, to the day before, to the day of, till now, when I open a play, the terror only starts to gut me a few hours or so before curtain. Somehow my body and my brain have decided that diminishing the time I’m exposed to the anxiety is healthier. Who am I to question them?
So when the attractive mom of two, who occupies the cube across from, asked me the other day if I was starting to get excited about my baby coming, I explained how, no, it hadn’t really hit me yet.
And it still hasn’t hit me yet. Heather’s lost her mucus plug. Yesterday morning she had a bout of contractions that lasted about an hour. And still, it hasn’t hit me-- at least not on any visceral level-- that another life is coming into the world very, very soon: one that I will be responsible for until the day I die, and possibly, if you ask the Mormons, beyond. (Or maybe it’s the other way around. I must confess I never really understood what has always seemed to me to be the comic book version of Christianity, or perhaps more fairly, the graphic novel.)
So here comes this life. Healthy? We hope, and have no reason to doubt. Male? Female? We don’t know. One more detail to raise the stakes on my anxiety when it finally punches in. Of course, I’m leaning in my hopes for a girl, but only because I already have a son and he’s so special it’s hard to imagine having another one.
Of course, it’s all pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it? And that’s the best part of living life: you could never dream this stuff up.
More to come . . .