It's what you answer to

It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to. - W.C. Fields

If self-doubt is a shortness of breath I’ll cop to a respiratory problem.

As the bilious Mr. Fields pointed out, it’s not what people think of you that matters but what you think of yourself, and far too often I’ll let the offhand comment bother me for ages.

One of the ways that I’ve found to avoid the doubt is to change the subject. The sight of Betelgeuse on a truly clear night, the molecular calm of Ryoanji and the denouement of anthems from Beethoven and some from OneRepublic - these connect me to a wider world. When I lose myself the doubt mysteriously disappears. It's for that reason, too, that I dive into popular physics books from Brian Greene and Leonard Mlodinow, who let me know that the world is infinitely more complex and grand and open-ended than anything I might think anyway.

Thank goodness. There is room for improvement.

I've come to understand that the danger of introspective judgements is that such thinking tends to break contact with the world and repeat and loop like a dream. The problem with self-doubt is not that it's unreasonable. The problem is that it's perfectly reasonable. It has no point.

On a recent night the older of two sons crept back down the stairs despite his dad's admonishments to stay put. It was after all, bedtime. Knowing that he was just outside the bedroom room, I was all set to say “back to sleep!” when he peered around the bedroom door and before I could form the words spoke first: "Daddy, I just wanted to say I love you." And I was reminded that the most extravagant, unbelievable, precious things never originate in us, but in a collaboration. They originate between us and the people we love and who love us in return. It just takes a risky curiosity.

I've learned that what I answer to is a choice.