As an only child often left to my own imaginings I read every book I laid my hands on, and no book was off-limits, including Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer. During the age of I’m OK, You’re OK, a cultural shift occurred. People stopped viewing life as something that happens to you and began exerting control over thoughts, feelings, and habits in a quest for happiness, or at least contentment. Just as Wayne’s childhood wasn’t the white-picket-fence variety, neither was mine, but he introduced a hugely attractive idea for a child who often felt powerless. I could change my world with my thoughts and self-love. There were many lessons yet to learn, most relating to personal responsibility, but the premise that I had a portion of control led me eventually to healing. In this way, Wayne Dyer made a positive difference in my life, a fine epitaph for any man.
Being “authentic” sounds positive in the arena of accepting oneself and living true to one’s values, and easy in the context of “just be yourself”, but what is the reality of being authentic, without tailoring speech to manipulate how others may feel? While some may say that doing so is only polite, at what degree of political correctness is the essence of the truth lost in trying to avoid disapproval or gain acceptance? And when we lose the truth as we know it, once it is watered down with diplomacy so everyone still feels good, what is the price to self? Although these habits are common, they are not authentic behaviors, but influenced by our need for people to accept us or at least not disapprove of us. The deeper the need for acceptance, the less authentic we tend to be.
So, what is the benefit of being authentic if people may get offended or disapprove of me? Why take the risk of exposing myself as I truly am?
Four payoffs of authentic living that make it worth it for me are:
- I am not involved in real-life experiences that require I pretend. That is what my inner writing life is for. I no longer betray the little girl who didn’t fit in by wearing a mask. Instead I parade her in front of everyone as an act of self-acceptance. I am not afraid to be vulnerable because everyone is vulnerable and feels like a hot mess at times.
- By accepting myself I give others unspoken permission to be real, which makes people more interesting and relationships more fulfilling.
- The more authentic we act, the more self-esteem we acquire by not subordinating ourselves to the opinions of others. Self-esteem begets more self-esteem until we are truly comfortable in our own skin.
- Being compassionate and kind begins with acceptance of self. We can then move on to accept others as they are rather than who we want them to be, saving ourselves a heap of disappointment. I find if I am not authentic, I judge others just as harshly as myself.
“Most people believe that vulnerability is weakness. But really, vulnerability is courage. Are we willing to show up and be seen?” – Brene Brown
Pain is a nag in the 5th decade and unless I receive a whole body transplant, it is likely a forever friend, crashing parties and obnoxiously showing up when I have planned fun. Although I accept this reality, I do not have to live gritting my teeth and snapping at anyone who comes close. There are pills and shots and booze and marijuana, all sorts of justified remedies when pain is “killing me”, yet none of those promote productivity or participation, both of which are necessary to keep me out of the abyss. Managing chronic pain is individual, as unique as you are, but Doctors do not have time to figure out your equation. That is up to you.
The D.E.A. brought the War on Drugs to chronic pain patients, physicians, and pharmacists in 2014 with its Diversion Control Program governing opioid medication prescriptions. They also reclassified previously non-scheduled pain killers, such as Tramadol, based on reports of abuse. In Illinois lawmakers approved a pilot program for pharmacies to voluntarily put combination locking devices on opioid prescriptions . I can well imagine my stiffly swollen fingers trying to manage a tiny combination lock on a pill bottle, but it does not faze me because I own a hammer.
In 5th decade mature style, pills sit beside right thinking and guided meditations in my pain control toolbox. I cannot think or say my pain is “killing me” when I have witnessed trauma in a busy Emergency Department. I’m good compared to dying and being dramatic is tiresome and without benefit. That is not to say I do not whine, just that I do so only to my Mom or in my journal and by being honest with myself the pain does not overwhelm me.
Guided meditations, whether for wellness, pain relief, or relaxation and comfort put me in touch with my body and help me release tension which amps up pain and makes me unlikable. This practice makes me responsible for contributing to a solution and keeps me from feeling totally out of control. If you suffer from pain, (and who doesn’t?), try changing the conversation in your head to one of support and take at least 10 minutes a day for meditative practice. It will change your experience, I promise.
The older I get the more ritualistic I become, finding meaning in simple and mundane moments. Perhaps it is poetry and an abundance of unscheduled time which makes me feel sentimental about this closet purge or maybe it is that this year’s give-aways belong in a bygone era. While I do not subscribe to those stupid lists of what women over 40 should never wear, I admit those short shorts no longer bring me joy. I have been asking myself what brings me joy for months and have now graduated to the Konmari concept of purging past items that no longer serve a purpose. I kept the torn acid-washed blue jeans of my early twenties because those concerts were wildly fun with a friend who is not here any longer. I got rid of them because as much as I loved her, I need space in my mind and heart for new friendships. Besides, those memories are like smooth stones that I take out of a pocket and worry between the fingers in my mind at my leisure, always there, whether I still physically possess the ripped jeans or the Salvation Army trench coat I bought when I was 16. They are a part of me.
The older items I’ve carted from place to place are tougher to let go of than those I chose in this decade because I am a thrower by nature and a mindful buyer most of the time. Moving on is my habit now, motivated in part by over a dozen apartment moves and a fear of wearing outdated styles too young or too tight for my burgeoning … personality. Change is inevitable, and thank God for that, because I am aiming for a much higher evolution than where I currently stand.
Not only did the articles I purge this year no longer serve my purposes, but they might bring joy to someone who would wear them. Rather than the dark corner of my closet, the red satin pants were made for a good time and are surely promoting happiness. The 1950’s black dress with a full skirt will adorn someone’s hips and she will feel pretty and put-together, garnering compliments from admirers. The smart blue blouse with white cuffs will impress during an interview and give the wearer just the edge they need to land a new opportunity. And each person that chooses these items will pay much less than I did, adding exponentially to the joy quotient.
A goal of utilizing the Konmari method is that you are left only with items you love, so I hung on to a black rock-n-roll sparkly tank with a zipper down the back because it pairs nicely with leather pants that I have yet to find. Just the thought of it brings me joy.
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” – Paul Coelho