It's Not a Performance

I remember when my kids were little and I would hyper-evaluate the day, every day. How did it go? How did I do? As if each day was a test of some kind and I was searching for my grade.

Little by little, I learned. I learned that there was no scorecard, no one but me paying that much attention to my every move. Most people were too busy, surely, wondering about their own performances in life.

And that's just it. It's not a performance.

It's like the rabbi reminds the congregation at the start of the Torah service, every time there is a bar or bat mitzvah: We are not here as performer and audience, but as a community. At best, we witness and support and celebrate each other.

I see now that this is an old behavior I fall back to when I'm stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. "How did I do?" And it's helpful to change the focus, to shift it away from one that's critical and instead consider what went well today, where I showed up and walked my talk, and where I slumped into feeling small.

In any given day, there are bound to be moments when tension arises or things feel uncertain. The key, for me, is remembering this essential, unalterable truth: These moments never last forever. Ever. They are not indelible evidence of how "well" I'm doing at life, not are they ruinous. They might feel hard at the time, and that's oh so real. But they do change.

As a dear friend reminded me on the phone, there is always an oasis of inner peace for me to return to, and return I do. It isn't always automatic or easy to find my way back, but time after time, this place waits for me, spacious, calm, loving, a deep pool of being.

Tonight, I had such a sweet moment.

I had just knocked on Aviva's door to tell her dinner was ready, and that Pearl would be home from the gym soon. As I closed her door, I heard her pick her guitar back up and start singing, and as I walked back through the small living room that separates her room from the kitchen, I caught sight of Mani sitting with Chupie at her feet, getting nighttime pets.

It was so brief, I could've missed it entirely. But I caught it. This moment of such sweet fullness -- my girl and her music, dinner waiting on the table, my wife and dog sharing the quiet or early evening, my son on his way home.

I have been telling myself "everything is going to be ok" for a very long time now.

So far, that has always been true. What "ok" means and looks like changes wildly and I have very little control over that. But the ability to meet life, not as a test but as a wild ride, one that's wild for every single one of us, is what it all comes back to. And making room to just be, amidst all the doing.

Writing this feels a little like going back to my roots, which is how I know it's really true. My initial reaction to stress can be kind of extreme and alarmist, and I am practicing, once again, trusting myself, trusting life, staying close to what matters most, and remembering that fear is like an attack dog: Once it gets a good grip, it will try to hold on to the death. Shaking it off takes effort, but eventually that old dog gets tired and lies down.

Even fear needs to rest.

If you find yourself measuring your days, gauging and ranking your actions, take a moment to remember this:

No one is judging you as harshly as you are judging yourself.

Then make a phone date (or better yet, a coffee date) with a good friend, who will remind you of what a beautiful being you are. Needing these reminders does not make us weak; it makes us alive.