Monday, September 28, 2009

The Long and Winding Road to Authenticity

We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot
I recently came across a book on my shelf called The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life. It surprised me when I came across it because I had completely forgotten buying it. It got put in the collection pile on the bottom shelf of my night stand and never resurfaced until a recent clean up. It was as though when I bought it, I wasn't quite ready to tackle some of those questions, but a little voice in my head told me to buy it anyway for some future date. Lately, I have been considering that very concept, asking myself if I do indeed live my life authentically and where I might be able to tweak it a bit. We all play roles in our life that can feel natural, or in the case of some, not so natural. I think we all want to present ourselves to the world as decent, kind and caring citizens and most days I think I do. But what of some of our other roles? The role of mother has presented it challenges along the way. Setting a good example for everything, everyday, in every category can be a stretch on the best of days. How many times have I stopped myself from using the "F" word or flipping the bird to some rude driver or held back a criticism in the name of being a shining example for my daughter? Now that she is a bit older, I do let the occasional profanity fly but it always seems like it is outside the "role" I have created - the one I decided from the onset I wanted to present to her. But have I been authentic? Is that woman who I really am? I have a friend whose mother has a mouth like a truck driver and whenever I have met her, it amazes me how she lets it rip in front of her daughter, in front of me and in front of anyone who happens to be within earshot. This is not some trail-trash broad either. In fact, she is quite wealthy, self-assured and funny as hell. I admire her. I come away from an encounter with her thinking - wow! - she really doesn't give a fuck what anyone says about her and that she is authentic. Of course, it goes beyond potty-mouth and the brazen courage to spew whenever you feel like it. And frankly, it would be inauthentic for me to let the fucks fly whenever and to whomever all the time. I do think some boundaries are necessary in certain social situations and certainly in work situations, but I suppose one could reach a stage in life where none of that matters either. I don't think it would be respectful to speak that way all the time and I do choose my moments. So what is authentic for one person is not necessarily authentic for another. The book is divided into chapters or areas of your life to examine. Family. Friendships. Intimate Relationships. Work. Money. Creativity and finally Spiritual Life. There's a lot to cover. The questions are long and require quite a bit of thought and honesty. It could take me months to answer them all. I have a bad habit of flipping to the end of a book to read the final paragraph and in this case the final question. The last question in the book is What would I want to be written in my obituary or said about me in a eulogy? Maybe after I answer the gazillion other questions leading up to that one, I will have the answer to that one or a least a clearer idea of what I would want it to be. I do know I will want at least part of it to read that she lived life to the fullest and didn't waste time living in fear of the opinions of others. I think I'm getting there, one blog at a time.

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