Friday, July 17, 2009

Journey to Authentic

It can be hard to be a woman in the world today. Even considering how far things have come, it seems there are constant pressures from every side to do it RIGHT, do it RIGHT, do it RIGHT and NOW. “right” is often a matter of where you are standing and who might be saying you are “wrong.”

There are a thousand ways to interpret how we “should” be and they depend largely upon where you look for your resources. It can be difficult to find the right direction when you look within to find a path. Perhaps nothing is more difficult than being true to yourself, authentic, confident in your choices and above all, confident that somebody else making a different choice that is also “right” does not in any way diminish you following the path God has laid out for you. I find that children are much better at it than adults. Perhaps because they are more genuinely in touch with who they ARE and not who they SHOULD BE.

In my life, I have been subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of information about how to be a woman – Vogue magazine, the feminist movement, college professors, popular (and unpopular) friends, the man du jour (before I got married) my parents, books, habits, rules, music, videos, cigarette ads, movies, the internet. In context it seems like its ALL “right.” None of them are bad sources of inforamtion, really, depending upon what you are looking for. Yet…for me at least…most of them are NOT right. There is simply no way to be all of the things that the world might tell you to be.

To complicate matters in my own life, I was, once upon a time, trying to be a rock star. Talk about an open door for unsolicited advice! This is an arena where people who know NOTHING about you feel completely comfortable telling you what you should do to make it big. Have any doubts? How many of you watch American Idol and have something to say about the performances? How many of you have actually stood on a stage and performed in front of cameras and a huge audience? See…we all do it and we all think maybe we know how to make something better. I’ve been watching “so you think you can dance” and make comment after comment about their dancing. I’m CERTAIN that I could not even attempt the things those amazing men and women do…yet, there I am in my arm-chair dancer stance, passing judgement and making comments…

Perhaps the most obscure unsolicited advice I ever received was to wear tight pants with thick vertical stripes so I could look thinner. At the time I weighed in at a hefty 130 pounds, but felt devastated that all my hard work to sound great and look hot was summed up into a single phrase that I could now interpret as “dress like a circus clown so you can look like heroin addict.”

Odd, no?

Navigating the maze of rights and wrongs in the world is something I suppose I have been marginally successful with. I neither dressed in vertical stripes nor became a rock star. I was closer to the latter when I finally realized that the rock star dream was to remain unfulfilled. I can suppose that means I was closer to “success” than “failure.” At any rate I was certainly truer to the me I felt inside than to the me that everyone around me wanted to create.

Authenticity, tho, has probably been harder for me since becoming a Christian than it ever was before. There is a concerted effort in the Christian community to press women into molds. I think this is because when women come to Christianity, they want to know how to “do” it. They want to learn how to act, whom to admire, where to look for the way its “done.” And Christianity has certainly defined roles for men and women…and these roles are decidedly NOT what the world might dictate.

Yet…in the process of discovery, I think we miss one very important thing. We are, before all other things, children of God, created with unique personalities, gifts, insights and drives to do unique work with other unique individuals. It simply requires authenticity. It simply cannot be fully accomplished by a bunch of people all running around trying to somebody they are not.

It’s a tough thing to comprehend, I guess, when the message of Christianity is that obedience to one God is the primary focus. Still…the obedience is to the very one that created us as we are – unique – and so WHY oh WHY would He want to dictate that we be just the same as the woman down the pew from us? He would not. He REVELS in our imperfection. He REVELS in our uniqueness. He REVELS when we are who he created us to be.

Ok…that’s a wow moment. Did you see it? He REVELS when you are just who you are. I started to really ponder this whole concept long ago. I get little glimpses of who I really am sometimes and its sort of fun and sort of startling and sort of frustrating all at the same time. Its ultimately absolutely exciting.

To reach that person, I have to stop myself from buying another how to book, looking for another person to admire, seeking instructions on this thing called MY life. I have to quiet myself. Identify myself. Look into my own heart….notice the cracks, the broken places, the vibrantly alive parts, the places with spiderwebs I’ve not been in ages. I have to touch my own heart, listen carefully for what it tells me…and then do what it directs me to do.

Being genuinely in touch with my own heart is unbelievable…I start to really believe in things that I question all the time…I’m smart, I’m a good mama, I’m a good wife, I’m an artist and a poet, I’m not a type-A process driven control freak. THAT is a person I LEARNED to be from OTHER people. Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE order…its EASIER than chaos…but to be so in control and so regimented is NOT who I am. I am comfortable within process, but I am NOT energized by constant droning of a life trudged out following the steps of another. My growing dissatisfaction with where I am now in my life has made it abundantly clear that working, earning a living, fitting in bath time and story time at the end of the day and creativity on weekends is no longer ENOUGH of me to make life the exhilarating journey that God intended.

When I get truly authentic, I realize that change is on my horizon again…and this time I’m not as willing to just do what is required of me by my husband, children, boss, etc…this time I’m not as content to settle for what MUST be done. This time I’m ready for somebody besides me to bet he responsible one, so I can get on with being AUTHENTIC to who God has made me to be.

Whew…now that is something to chew on…

Peace, ya’ll!


MaryC said...

Oh, you are so right on. What moron told you to wear vertical stripes? They should be tortured.
Great reading.

**** April **** said...

Well, I can honestly say taht I've seen some REALLLLLLY heavy people wearing HORIZONTAL stripes and I can just tell you that is a no no...but wearing vertical stripes... lol... naah... just makes you look... stripey! :)

I think you and I are on a similar parallel lately. I am a collector and reader of "self-help" help me be the best mom, counselor to my children, wife, cook, organizer and then I realized that my life was passing me by because I was trying to be all the things that these "resources" were telling me to be -- isn't that just about freakin' ridiculous?

I've started sending them all to new homes of neurotic women across the country on Paperback swap. :) IN return, I'm getting some good fiction!