This is a long, wordy one. You’ve been warned.
I’ve changed my life, yet again, this year. Sometimes I feel like Madonna – how many times have I recreated myself? But most of the time I feel like a spaz, running around chasing different leads because I’m not sure the one I’m on is the “right one”. That damn, elusive, right one has been just out of my grasp for as long as I can remember; for as far back as when I was signed up for ballet, gymnastics, violin and soccer at the same time and worked so hard to be the best at every one. But every day (this must have been when I was 9) I beat myself up at the end of whatever practice I was in – I wasn’t good enough, or I wasn’t trying hard enough or maybe this wasn’t my talent and I needed to pool my efforts on something else. That feeling, that analytical, constant judgement and evaluation became the theme of MY WHOLE LIFE. I’ve fought it, reasoned with it, listened to it, written pros and con lists, meditated, prayed about it. Until yesterday when I discarded it. Yesterday I found a mantra to change my life. No, not to change it, but to focus it, to let the noise drop away. There is no more weighing and measuring, there’s no more “if I can’t do this, I’m not good enough at that so I need to reassess”. Oh no, no reassessing, no assessing. My mantra – “I walk in the direction I want to go. It is the right direction because I’m going there. Whatever comes in and out was meant to come or go. I am right. I am enough, I am this” Does that sound arrogant to you?
Recently I’ve had some auditions. As you know Dan and I are preparing for the next move. It has felt like we’ve been waiting forever to GET SOMETHING, ANYTHING. and the true torture has been that the thing I keep playing over and over in my head is “he could/has gotten anything he’s every wanted. Every audition, every avenue he’s tried he’s succeeded. You on the other keep getting rejected, you know this because you’ve fought feeling awful about it for years. Every cruise ship audition you’ve failed to make it past a cut (there’s been many), every broadway tour audition that you made it past several cuts, but not the final one (3 to be exact), every class where you fell out of turns, every job you didn’t get – you asked yourself ‘maybe I’m not good enough? maybe I should have worked harder, different or just realized I wasn’t good enough and changed careers’ but always you kept trying – even with the knowledge of your lack, you kept beating your head against the wall. But now you’re holding Dan back too with your failure.” and it was really painful. I’ve tried to be open with Dan about it, but who wants to hear that self-flagellation? and I’ve felt trapped. I can’t take back my past and I can’t (though I’ve tried) force myself through sheer will to be better (whatever that means). I keep thinking, I’ve worked so hard, I work so hard – but for what? does hard work not pay off? WHAT DOES PAY OFF, I’ll do it, I’ll do anything?
Well I’ll tell you what, not seeing everything that happens to you as a judgement on your worth in any way shape or form is a start. Instead of thinking “I didn’t make that audition, it must mean I’m not good enough” thinking “I didn’t make that audition so I’m not doing THAT JOB”. Why does it have to mean anything about my value as a performer or a dancer. I AM a performer, I AM a dancer and I have the resume to prove it. I may not have exactly what I thought I wanted on that resume, but I’m starting to think its because I have, for years, torn myself down instead of before presenting myself as a performer instead of believing in my talent, in my person, in me. I have made everything I ever attempted so freaking important that every loss means absolute failure. I have looked outside of myself for everyone to be my judge and jury – an unfair and inaccurate burden I have put on the world around me. I know that I work hard, that I am kind and smart and creative, that I have a soul filled with color and light. I know that I have something to offer even if I’m not sure exactly what. And so I can “go confidently in the direction of my dreams” as Thoreau proclaimed. Why has it taken me 30 years to do so? In fact, Thoreau’s advice after that is exactly what I’ve come to believe to be true “Live the life you’ve imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.”
What changed? Two things. I realized that while some jobs might seem on the surface to give me the ability to let out my breath and say “if I made that audition I must be a good dancer. now I can relax”, that I would never ever feel like that. No matter what job/show I’ve ever gotten I’ve said to myself “yes but” and filled it in with some of the following: its not a great job, I only got it from a friend, I was sleeping with the right person, it was a fluke… History shows that I would make an excuse for why that job still didn’t prove I was good enough at anything.
Second – Dan. You see, my work has been a massive ball of mind numbing insecurity, but relationships, well, I’ve walked more confidently in that direction. From an early age I had set up definitions of love and decided what I would look for, what I wanted and what I would not settle for. And I don’t know why that was different but I moved forward. ANd I left people that weren’t right for me even when it was hard and I moved past people who left me without thinking I didn’t deserve to be loved. I want and deserve to be loved. And I am. Every relationship that didn’t workout simply wasn’t the best I could have and I wasn’t the best partner that person could have. I could see so clearly in a few of my relationships that parting was best even though neither one of us was “bad” or “less” or any of the things I equate to myself when I don’t make auditions or nail my turns in class (true story). Even though I couldn’t see what the future held I walked confidently towards love without judging the life behind or on either side of me. My relationship with Dan is better then I could have imagined any relationship could be and I am so very thankful. But I don’t look at those it didn’t work out with and think they are any less special or less deserving – if they want a relationship, they can have the best one there is too. But the best for them wasn’t with me.
Is that not the same for work?
I walked into an audition the other day and my usual nerves were suddenly, unexplicably replaced with a sense of calm. A thought ran through my head “this isn’t the place I want to be.” I did my best and felt pretty good about it but I got cut immediately. For the first time in my life I thought “thank goodness, I feel like that’s not the place for me” and walked out and continued on my day, on my prep for the next job. And it occurred to me that it could be like that everytime. Not all shows I audition for are going to give ME what I want. Sometimes it’s not the best for me and then, what good would it do me? Why have I always let the audition be my judgement. There are plenty of people I deem amazing who don’t get through the auditions either. In fact people I think are far superior performers get cut all the time. It’s just time for me to walk confidently in the direction of MY dreams and to let the judging thoughts fall away. There is no judgement when there is no absolute. And I’ve been around long enough to know, there is no absolute.
So there you have it, I walk towards what I want and I just keep going because I am who I am and I want what I want regardless of what happens in individual situations – all that analyzing and judging, while first taking up unnecessary energy was also completely inaccurate.
Have you found something similar to be true in your life? Or something totally opposite?