I was there again…
Sitting by the East River, a warm July breeze on my face, whipping myself up into an anxious frenzy about what I thought someone else was thinking about me. Again. What the hell?
I’ve gotten quite good over the years at this very thing, constantly running through in my mind a conversation someone is either having, with themselves or with someone else, about me. And it is always negative, and it usually is about what I’m either doing wrong or not doing.
“What’s Dan actually doing?”
“Why did Dan do it this way? What was he thinking?”
“Do I/we really need to keep working with Dan?”
They all really are the same internal Dan voice asking the question: “Am I good enough?”
It’s a script I’ve seen before. It’s one of my favorites, I think.
What’s funny to think about, as I sit here now and relive many of these anxious moments, is not ONCE has the other person / people even been in the same ballpark with their thoughts. In the moments I’ve had the courage to share these anxious thoughts with them, they can barely keep their surprise from their face. It’s like we were living in two different worlds. (It’s worth noting, that there is such great relief in just expressing these fears to the other person, even before they assure you those are just your thoughts and not theirs).
But what popped into my mind on this warm July evening, while soaking up the alternating East River smells of ocean and rot, was very different. I was thinking of my daughter, Emmeline, who by then was barely 3 weeks old.
“Is this the example you want to set for her? Is this what you want to teach her?”
It was a new voice within me, one that felt stronger and more secure than I am used to. It was a voice I had no choice but to listen to. Maybe it was my first real chance to realize that I had an opportunity to not just be a dad, but to actually BE a Dad. This meant being an example, a teacher, a person living with a new approach guided by the life lessons and work of 32 years. Not a person who succumbed to their unproductive internal scripts again and again.
Almost like the flip of a switch, I felt the internal dialog of doubt quiet. It knew it was now falling on deaf ears. I still spoke to the other person, expressing these anxieties, but not in pursuit of their assurance but in pursuit of growth. Growth in a friendship and a partnership, but also growth within.
I know I can’t save my beautiful daughter from her own unproductive scripts, her own monsters in her head, that’s just part of the human experience, but I can sure as hell save her from mine. I’m her Dad.