From the moment the thump, thump, thump of the background music started, I could feel a stirring in my stomach. As the beat grew stronger, the energy followed, moving up my spine and landing in my chest. I was watching a documentary on Netflix about Jennifer Lopez who, at fifty, was getting ready for what she considered the culmination of her career thus far – the Super Bowl Halftime Show.
“My whole life I’ve been battling, battling to be heard, to be seen, to be taken seriously,” she says as she enters the stadium. “And now I have this incredible opportunity to show the world who I am.”
I let out a big sigh and settled in for the show.
As I watched the documentary unfold, I thought about the power and influence of the ego. The ego – our personality – is like a magic cloak worn daily, sewn in place from the very beginning of our lives. It’s formed by the hands of parents and teachers, religious leaders and bosses, and authority figures of all kinds, and it’s augmented by us over time. When this costume is firmly in place it fuels our desire, our longing for relevance and “enoughness,” and its pockets are filled with tricks and tools to get the job done.
The ego isn’t bad – we need it to function in the world – but at some point, when we’re battered and weary and ready for peace, we learn to see it for what it is – a false self that always leaves us wanting and striving for more.
Halftime is a documentary that’s inspiring, moving at times, and well done, and when it was over, I thought about how that old cloak snuck up on me from the start. “Write more books,” it cooed as it slipped itself onto my arms. “Give more speeches and amass more followers.”
The ego is a sneaky siren who waits in the wings, quietly humming a familiar song designed to lure us back to a life on the wheel of constant pursuit.
At this point, I’m more interested in the soul than the cloak. I’m doing my best to be present, to notice when the ego is attempting to hijack my attention (and intention), and to find the simple beauty in everyday moments. I also want to be fully in attendance when life is hard because there’s beauty to be found in hard things, too.
I’ll be honest with you, this way of approaching life isn’t sexy, exciting, or very popular. It lacks the cachet of fame and visibility. And sometimes it’s lonely. Really lonely. But in the end, it has allowed me to feel free, to live more authentically, and to appreciate so very much about my life – something my ego never delivered.