Tuesday, February 14, 2006

278. Doubt

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.


Regina said...

It's funny, though, aa, but I think the more meaning something has for us, the more a criticism about that something, even couched in loving terms, can affect us. If what you do at the bimah wasn't so important to you, then the criticsm wouldn't be either...

alto artist said...

Very true... (I'm a little calmer now, after a good night's sleep.)

Barefoot Jewess said...

We all have areas where we feel vulnerable- areas informed by our past. Self-talk is good, but exploring that area and facing it might help as well.

I know what you mean about hearing something "constructive" from people you think the world of; it *is* hard not to place them on a pedestal, as well.

I do think that this really is about how worthy you feel (and this is not about humility, which does not involve feeling low). What helps me is realising that lke all others, G-d did give me gifts and He places me in situations where I can use them. I find that concentrating on the fact that my talent is a gift from G-d levels the playing field. It is just is. And so, you are.

Sometimes, I think, we have difficulty in acknowledging and accepting that indeed, we do have gifts. And then, seeing that they come from G-d. I find it places everything in a whole new perspective.

alto artist said...

Barefoot J., I thank you for your wisdom... I have done a lot of thinking about this issue, and my brain understands why my heart reacts...but it still reacts. You are right: I need to keep remembering those gifts, and be grateful above all.

alto artist said...

Oh, you're certainly not alone! Thanks for visiting (and for giving me a link on your blog).