I write for Hevria every two weeks. Yet something happened the last time I was meant to post.
Normally, an idea kinda hits me. A childhood memory, something I’ve been grappling with, a topic I want to explore. Two weeks ago, when it was my turn up to bat on this roster of incredible individuals, I just couldn’t make it happen- as hard as I tried.
So instead of a blog post on that day, I posted this on my Facebook wall:
Every other Tuesday, I lay my guts on the line and try to move those around me with some words on a screen. Sometimes, the ideas flow. Other times, it takes more work. Every time, I experience a catharsis of deeply felt feelings, thoughts and perceptions that I pray people connect to.
This past week was tough. I had an idea, something I’ve wanted to express for a while, but I just couldn’t make the words work. I sat for hours last night- too preachy, too heavy, too stilted, too everything and not enough that magical thing that makes the piece work.
So I askedElad for a break. Of course, I used the most self-deprecating words I could possibly muster in one text. I already felt like a total loser for asking. And on some level, I hoped he would punish my chutzpah and deny my request.
But he didn’t. He understood what I truly needed: Compassion. Space. And forgiveness.
And in that moment I realized (again) how utterly hard it is for me to be vulnerable. To admit struggle. To receive…. and to forgive myself.
Following this little expression of vulnerability, I received so many heartfelt messages of support. Somehow, I struck a nerve. Somehow, I was not alone in my struggle for self-forgiveness. Somehow, others feel the intense need to be perfect, too.
I expected to bounce back from that setback in one piece. A little bump on the road, a quick detour, but soon enough, I assumed, I’d get back on track.
I thought forgiving myself would be as easy as one well-crafted status update.
The truth is, I’m a wreck. I’ve started about 6 different pieces and they all suck. Nothing is right. It’s over.
I feel this weight on me, this intense fear that my hitting streak is over. Every sentence I write feels like I’m reading aloud from the script of my little life and hundreds are listening, critiquing every word. And what I’m telling myself in my head, what that little voice is saying, is this: You thought you could. But you can’t.
When I was 6, my mother sent me to ballet classes at the local JCC. For Yom HaAtzmaut, we would perform before a packed audience of friends and family. One day during practice, my ballet teacher singled me out in front of the class: “Elham, you’re the only one who I think is ready in our class to have a solo performance at the recital.” I was a bit embarrassed– but instantly proud.
There was no established routine for my solo. I was meant to cull my own act from all we had learnt together in our weekly classes. I peered at the older, more advanced girls dancing, the way they ran to the middle of the performance space and then pirouetted into the air, how they balanced on their tippy toes, how they held their heads up high. I took mental notes.
The day of the performance came. In my blue leotard (oh, how I drove my poor mother crazy to find one for the performance), my hair in a high bun and a face full of glittery makeup, I prepared for my debut solo.
And I danced. By my-six-year-old-self. In front of hundreds. But in truth, I had no routine. I was not really prepared. I only mimicked what I observed others doing, somehow hoping to create my own poetry from someone else’s lyrics.
And you could say it worked. My teacher was proud. My mother and grandmother were beaming. But on some level, I felt like an imposter– like a little Houdini, I pulled a fast one on everyone around me.
If I were to tell you that almost all my life’s journeys could fit into this one little arc, would you believe me?
That somehow, I am always winging it, that throughout everything I’ve ‘achieved’, success feels like a stolen commodity, that as hard as I work I am constantly looking for an easy way out, that it always feels like it’s never enough?
I am forever that little girl who stole a routine.
Am I being too hard on myself?
While I can say the words that suggest a sense of self-enlightenment and acceptance- ‘the process is the part that counts’, ‘I deserve happiness’, ‘nothing is perfect but I’m trying my best’- they mostly feel like pseudo -isms and empty words.
I’m tired of faking it, tired of all the heaviness inside. My shoulders ache– I don’t want weak words to soothe the pain.
And I imagine I’m not the only one who’s carrying this burdensome load of self-doubt and unrealistic expectations.
If I were to peer into your eyes, what would I see?
A regretful daughter who feels she never showed her mother enough appreciation? A son who wishes he loved his father more? A victim of abuse whose secret of pain is buried deep inside? A lover who feels he can never satisfy his partner as hard as he tries? A mother who wishes she was less critical of her children? A father who wants to be more present? A child who just really wants a hug?
A soul who wishes it could live more freely?
All this is hard. As much as I wish I could be soft with myself and understanding and even compassionate, I am so impatient and unforgiving. And like that little girl pirouetting through the air, sometimes- almost all the time- I don’t know where I’ll land.