In my early twenties, I began to officiate weddings and right before the ceremony was about to begin, I would be stricken with terrible stomach cramps. The kind that, when in public, you have to grind your back teeth in order to get through.
One particular day I remember being in the bathroom just when the processional music began. (Note: It is not good to be the rabbi on the toilet when the processional music begins.) Somehow, I got myself together and glided in as seamlessly as a butterfly and cool as a cucumber. Nobody knew that I barely made it to the front of the room.
“Let us all stand for the receiving of the bride,” I announced with just the right mix of authority and warmth in my voice.
Later, people said to me, “You are so calm. You bring such peace.”
“Yeah, thanks. Bathroom?”
Shortly thereafter I called myself in for a serious talk:
Look, you have to find a way to manage your anxiety or find another occupation. You can’t put yourself through this for the rest of your working life. And, eventually, it’s gonna blow.
I decided to seek professional help. The therapist had a great silk scarf, sexy shoes and sat just right in her swivel chair.
“Simply put,” she said, after I told her my tale of gastrointestinal woe, “you are an anxious person. Some people are born anxious.” She tilted her head ever so slightly. “Have you thought about medication?”
Now, I am in no way opposed to medication; however, I do take serious offense at being told that I was born an anxious person.
After that day, I made a decision: I was going to be a rabbi and I was not going to suffer debilitating anxiety. I was going to grow out of it. The problem was not that I was born anxious, the problem was that I didn’t trust myself.
Slowly, slowly, I began to trust myself. The scene repeated many times:
1. Processional lines up
2. Brides come out
3. Rabbi goes to bathroom
4. Music begins
5. Rabbi hears music and almost panics in bathroom
6. Rabbi comes out of bathroom
7. Ceremony begins
8. Ceremony is terrific!
9. Groom breaks the glass
10. Bride and groom kiss
11. Rabbi feels like she dodged another bullet
It took several years of “fake it till you make it” until one day I forgot to go to the bathroom. It didn’t even occur to me to go; it was as if the bathroom didn’t exist. I was absolutely secure in my being. I had learned to trust myself by walking the walk and talking the talk over and over again.
“Healing might not be so much about getting better as it is about letting go of everything that is not you – all the expectations – all the beliefs – and becoming who you are.”
~Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen.
We can be so quick to let people in positions of authority label us. Don’t let anyone do that to you. It’s poisonous apple talk. And, please, don’t limit yourself. If you are struggling with confidence, be patient with yourself and keep going. Sometimes it simply takes practice. One day you’ll realize that what once gripped you so tightly and caused you so much suffering has, quite simply, slipped away. One day you’ll realize that you are feeling quite extraordinary about just being you.
Questions to Consider:
*How have you grown in the past decade or two?
*Are there things that you used to be afraid of that no longer scare you?
*Are there things that you used to worry about that no longer preoccupy you?
*What do you currently experience that you would like to grow out of?