I heard a simple rabbinic story yesterday that stopped me in my tracks:
“Before his death, Rabbi Zusya said, ‘In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?'”
The room was silent when the instructor finished reading the story, so quiet you could have heard a pin drop had we a bowl full of pins to drop in the first place. But the message was clear: be who you are, not who you think you’re supposed to be.
You need not be Moses if God already made you Rabbi Zusya. I need not be Anne Lamott if God already made me Cara Meredith. And you, my dear, need not be Bobby, Susie, Angela, Toni or Matthew if God made you Shannon.
But if you’re anything like me, sometimes I need to hear the reminder over and over again.
As a writer, I read with intention: I not only absorb the words and the stories and the heart of an author’s work, but I look at how they do what they do. How did they manage to make me laugh and cry in the same sentence? How is it that the narrative arc sometimes left me feeling itchy for more? Why did they start to lose me in this one section?
I suppose it comes with the territory, but sometimes having a critical eye can also make me want to critically insert myself into their space. It can make me want to be like them and tell stories like them and write like them instead of writing like me.
Of course, it can also make me think that I need to pump up my platform like them and get 462,000 followers like them, and then when I don’t and when I can’t, I can end feel discouraged. It’s like I’m doing something wrong and being something wrong, when really it’s not about me doing what they do, just as it’s not about me being who they are.Instead, it’s about me being me and you being you and all of us collectively being our most real and authentic selves, for this is how we change the world.
And maybe it all starts with remembering who we are instead of who we’re not.
So, who am I, you ask? I’m a wife and a mother, a writer and a speaker. I call myself an extrovert but sometimes I wonder if I’m parenthood has made me an introvert with extroverted tendencies. I’m an ENFP on Myers-Briggs and a Seven on the Enneagram, but even that I question in times of transition and change. I love a cozy fire and laugh-out-loud novels. I love hug-tickle-wrestling on the floor with my sons and holding hands with my husband, because it sometimes feels most intimate of all. I make a mean guacamole and I pop my popcorn in olive oil on the stove. I like cooking but I’m not so much a fan of baking. I drink coffee in the morning and tea at night. And if we sit down to a meal together, you can be guaranteed we’ll talk about race or justice, because I always want to talk about race and justice.
I could go on, because y’all know I could always go on, but for now, let’s just rest in this: you be you and you do you, because ain’t nobody else ever going to be you.
And that you is downright perfect.
So, who are you? What makes you YOU, Rabbi Zusya? Do tell!