Interrupting myself for a moment of self-doubt, a part of the larger story I wish I knew how to transcend and banish.
Today I received constructive criticism from a person I respect a great deal about something I did when leading services, a technical issue small in itself but affecting the bigger picture. It was couched in praise and suggestions for improvement, delivered with tact, good humor, and gratitude, and in no way implied that I didn't belong up at the bima.
But all I could hear, at the moment this criticism was offered, was: You're being judged by rabbis and professional musicians. Our standards are high. You need to improve. And my unspoken response: what if I don't, or can't? Will I lose the gift of this privilege?
I realize now that I should be honored by the very occasion of this conversation; I've been deemed capable of fixing the problem, and will have an opportunity to do so. But I'm terrified of forfeiting the trust of those who allow me to pray and make music at their sides. I know not to put them on a pedestal; they're as normal and flawed as the rest of us. But I really have never before met this sort of people. Although I've figured out how to act like myself in their presence, in truth I always feel like I've been dropped in the middle of a science fiction story about highly evolved beings who come to visit, teach us to be good and wise, and then move on to some other planet. Precious and fragile, utterly foreign, and completely right. I keep expecting to wake up, in sadness, from a selfish dream about feeling whole.
I know all of this has much less to do with the truth of the situation than with my own personal mishegas. I'll re-read this post and wonder how I could have been silly enough to imagine I didn't deserve such joy. And the cycle of doubt will repeat a few weeks later; I'm a slow learner.