Tag Archive | authenticity

Signs That You are Becoming an Authentic Person

I am always wary of books and such that offer promises of happiness, or whatever, in three, or five, or even seven easy steps.  Do you notice that easy steps usually come in odd numbers, but you never see nine, eleven, or thirteen easy steps?  After seven easy steps, you will see a jump to ten easy steps, because ten is a number that even those of us who hate numbers can like.  Odd numbers are good up to seven, it seems, and then we move into the realm of ten or twelve steps.

As an aside, odd numbers are also best for any kind of floral or table or candle arrangement.  You will have to trust me on this one.  If you want to give someone a balloon bouquet, pick three or five balloons, never four or six.  It just will not look as appealing, and that is your Suzy Homemaker decor tip for today.  Odd numbers win when it comes to most the most appealing decorative arrangements.

Have enough faith that you can be authentic and still be loved.

Back to the topic we go now.  I do believe that happiness is an intentional choice that you have to make every day, and that you will probably have to do a lot of work to make it an ingrained habit.  You may have to change the way you see things, and react to things.  You will have to turn those negative messages in your head into positive ones.  You will probably also have to change the way that you view yourself, treat yourself, and care for yourself.  You will have to learn to reframe life circumstances and interactions with other people.  You will have to let go of blame and grudge hold and the need to always be right.  You will have to be grateful as much as possible.  You will have to be forgiving.  You will have to get rid of old, worn out, ineffective, coping mechanisms and trade them in for new, healthy ones.  None of that stuff happens overnight.  It takes a lot of work, and willingness, and many more choices, and action, and actual change, over and over and over again.   It cannot be accomplished in three, five, or even seven easy steps.  It is an ongoing process.  Sorry for the bad news so early in the week!

The good news is that the really super cool thing about making the choice to be happy is that, along the way, you are apt to discover your authentic self, and unlock the door, and let the real you out of wherever you have been hiding yourself.  Again, you will not wake up one morning, look in the mirror and exclaim, “Oh, look!  It’s the authentic me and I look mah-vel-ous!”  It did not happen that way for me, anyway.  If it happened like that for you, I would love to hear from you because that must have been one great day, and I love to hear about people and great things happening to them.

Finding my authentic self took a lot of work, and years of peeling off layers, and digging through a lot of muck and garbage until I found the core of my personal pain.  Once I found that core– that pain– I brought it out from down in the depths of my soul and I carried it up into the light of day and then I released it.  That did not happen in one day, or even seven, or ten days.   It took a while, with rest stops along the way, and missteps, and back steps, and the Texas two-step.  Finally, I did it, though.  However, I suspect I am not fully there even now.  I do know, with completely honesty and clarity, that I am far more authentic today than I was a year or two ago, and do not even ask me to look back to three or five or seven years ago.  Gads!

If you have been sitting there reading this thinking that I am fixin’ to tell you how to become a more authentic person in three, five, or seven easy steps, I am not.  No-can-do, I am afraid.  After all, I barely know you.  We have only just met!  It would be highly presumptuous of me to think that I know the road anyone must follow to become authentic.  We are all unique.  Your road will be different from mine, and besides, I really do not recommend my route to anyone, even if I do not care for you a whole lot, because it was rough.   No, what I plan to do is give you some signs that you are becoming a more authentic person.  I do not know at this moment in there will be an even number of signs, or an odd number, so we will find out together!

1.  The first sign for me was that I truly was happier more of the time.  Because I was finally being true to myself, I was happy with the choices that I was making, and with the people who were in my life.  Good choices, good people, all good.

2.  I found that I had stopped caring what other people thought of me.  I am who I am and I worked hard to get to me, so as long as I know and feel that I am being true to myself, and am adhering to my beliefs, and enforcing my boundaries in a kind fashion, it is okay if you do not like me.  Frankly, most people do like me, and that is lovely, but I am all good with the few who do not.  I do not need to be liked by everyone anymore.

3.  I am far more honest.  Now, we all know that active alcoholics lie a lot.  It is the nature of the disease beast.  Also, as Dr. House points out, everyone lies.  However, there was a time in my life, even when sober, that I would lie because I was afraid people could not accept the truth, or that I would somehow be punished if I told the truth.  As I have become more authentic it would seem that I have also become more firm in maintaining my integrity, and I also put on my big girl panties, too.  I have no reason to lie now.  Sure, I may still be inclined to tell you that your butt does not look big in those jeans, but so few people ask me that question, it is a fairly moot point.  If I tell you that you look nice, I mean it.  I do not do false flattery anymore.  Also, if I “liked” your blog post, I did actually read it.  The flip side of this is that I have a far lower tolerance for dishonesty in others that I care about and trust.  I love myself too much to allow myself to be treated that way anymore.

4.  I no longer always need to be right.  As the adage goes, “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy”?  I would rather be happy so I do not need to be right all of the time anymore.  I also feel very little need to become defensive when someone points out that I may have behaved in a manner that might not have been particularly wonderful.  Instead of arguing, now I simply acknowledge the truth, and say, “You’re right.  I am sorry.”

5.  I take full ownership of my behavior, be it good, or bad.  I apologize.  If the problem is squarely mine, I admit it.  I still make mistakes, I still do dumb things, I am far more human than ever, but that is okay.  People really seem to like people who are human and know it and admit it and own it.  It is more than kind of cool to be fully responsible for myself.  I do not need to blame anyone, nor am I looking for a knight in shining armor around every corner.

6.  I feel lighter—oh-so-much-lighter!  I do not have to carry around various masks and disguises to change the way I present myself to the vast number of people in my life.  I have nothing that I feel that I need to hide.  I feel bold, and colorful, and vivid, and free!

7.  You now get to be whoever you are, too.  I have no need to change anyone anymore.  I hate to see people miserable and in pain and unhappy and if you ask for my help or advice, I will give it, and if you choose another path, that is cool.  It is also cool if you choose not to change.  If you want to be unhappy then I have no right to tell you to be otherwise.  I am not inside of your head.  I do not know your hurts or your motivations.  I will pray for you, though, and you cannot stop me from doing that.

Looky!  It is an odd number!  It is a good thing, too, because had it not been seven I would have had to proceed forward all of the way to ten and that might have been stretching it.  For me, were I prone to doing stuff like cost/benefit analysis types of things, which I am not, the benefits of doing whatever you have got to do to continue to move closer to your authentic self would far outweigh the cost.

I still have a way to go yet.  I can still be too nice sometimes, if there is such a thing, and there is.  I can still hold back the truth to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, even though I am fully aware that I can present the truth in such a way that little harm will be done.  Each day I take another step forward, and that is all any of us can do.  Give me a little more time and I just might have ten signs of authenticity.  You just never know!

The art of just being—Safe in your own skin

Several weeks ago I sprained my ankle.  I have a trick ankle–(I have always wanted to call some body part a trick whatever ;-)–but the only trick that this ankle does is to randomly give out from time to time.  This ankle has given out so many times in my life that I have lost count.  The last time it had happened was two and a half-year prior, and before that three of so years prior, only that time the trick had me tumbling down a flight of stairs and left me with a foot broken in two places.  Of course, the break took priority over the weak ankle, so I never mentioned it to a doctor, nor had I ever treated it properly when it is sprained.  This last time though, I quit what I was doing fairly soon after I had hit the ground, and instead of trying to carry on as I normally would have, I told my client I could not finish.  I went straight to the store and bought two bags of frozen peas, some ibuprofen, and an Ace bandage.

Once I was home, I wrapped the ankle, took some medication for the pain and inflammation, and I elevated my ankle and iced it every two hours and I did this for four whole days.  It was a bad sprain.  My son was with his father that week, so I could actually take care of my poor ankle the way I knew I should have been care for each and every time.   I learned a lot during that time I was laid up.  In the past, I had always hated being laid up.  I am a mover and a shaker.  I had a friend who once told me, many years ago, that even when I was sitting perfectly still, it was as if I was vibrating.  I chalked that up to being a high-strung, expressive, high energy person, and to some degree, I believe that is true.  But these days, I am not strung nearly as high as I used to be.  These days, I can just be.

I had no problem at all laying in bed with my foot up for hours while I read.  I greatly enjoyed laying on my couch just thinking while I iced my ankle.  I felt relaxed and I feel comfortable with just being and I felt more than comfortable with taking care of myself properly.  I felt at peace.  It was lovely.  Of course, I had a lot of time to think and I realized that even two years ago I might not have been able to give myself this  type care.  In fact, I am certain I would not have been able to, and three years ago, there would have been no way I could have held still for even twenty minutes to ice my ankle.  What had changed after a lifetime of moving and shaking?  I finally felt safe in my own skin, and I finally felt safe to be myself fully, and that has only happen in the last year or so.

I thought back to three years ago.  It was shortly after I had left my marriage and I felt happy and free, but I was not relaxed.  I loved where my son and I were living, and I was making life changing choices, but I was wound so tightly that, in retrospect, I am surprised I survived.  I kept having random panic attacks that just came out of nowhere, like the great heart attack that wasn’t a heart attack incident on Thanksgiving night of 2009.  My kids had been home, and we had enjoyed a splendid evening, and a wonderful meal.  With the exception of my little boy, they had gone off to their Dad’s, and I was downloading pictures when I began to have chest pains.  I finally called 911, and there was an ambulance ride, and my adult sons came back over to fetch their brother, and in the end it was all anxiety. As I told the ER doctor, “I think I really just need a good cry.”  After my EKG and lab tests were fine, he agreed, and sent us all home.

The stress of that time still floors me when I think about it.  I had left a hideous marriage with nothing but a child and  duffel bag of clothing.  I knew I was going to prison and I knew I had a horrible divorce to look forward to getting through.  On the outside, I looked fine, but on the inside I was terrified and stressed beyond what most people could handle.  One night I was knitting and I realized that I was sitting perched on the edge of the couch.  I then realized that I never sat back.  I could not relax enough to do more than perch anxiously on the edge of the couch.  When I laid my head on the pillow at night, I had to consciously relax my neck enough so that my head was actually on the pillow, not hovering over it.  Amazingly, I thought I was doing really well at the time, too.

Now I have survived the divorce from hell and all ended well.  I survived prison and while in prison, I got to the core of my pain from age 5 forward and I uncovered my authentic self and have learned to love, respect, appreciate, and care for her—for me.  I know now that the all of that high-strung, ever-moving, vibrating person was me working as hard as I could, with all the power that I had at my disposal, to contain a lifetime of unexpressed emotions and pain.  I certainly expressed emotions, but not the ones that needed to be expressed, and I certainly felt pain, but I drank to cover that up so I could go on for another day holding everything in and functioning to the best of my ability.

Those two years prior to going into prison were like transition in labor.  Things had kicked into high gear, and everything that I had been repressing was screaming to get out, but there was no safe place yet.  Prison was the safe place where there were two very safe people to guide me through the birth of myself and the pain that accompanied the birth.  Now I have no problem just being.  When I work, I work hard, and I move fast, but a lot of the free-floating, hard to contain, frenetic energy is gone.  I do not have to work anymore hold in pain, or sadness, or anger.  It is gone, for the most part, and anything new that crops up is dealt with promptly and easily.  I can and do take care of myself now.  I have no problem setting limits, and it is becoming easier for me to say “no” when I need to say it.  I feel safe because I know it is me who keeps me safe with proper boundaries, kindness, and self-love which is something I denied myself for a very long time.

When I had returned to work after my sprained ankle one of my clients said, “Well, you had a nice little break, didn’t you?”  The comment came from a woman who cannot care for herself to save her life, and the comment was intended to induce guilt.  In the past, I would have felt the need to defend myself, or to justify my actions.  This time I said nothing because I knew I did not need to justify caring for myself.  I just glanced at her, smiled, and kept working.  After a bit, she said, “You really needed to do that, though, didn’t you?  You needed to take care of yourself.”  I replied, “Yes, I did.”

I need to care for myself every day and I will continue to do it, even if some do not understand.  I am safe in my own skin.  I can just be now and that is a miracle.  The true beauty of it all, though, is the fact that now that I allow myself to be me, and I care for myself, everyone else gets to be whoever they are and that is okay.  The only person I have to live with 24/7 for the rest of my life is me.  I get top priority now and by ranking myself that way, everyone in my life benefits greatly.  What a blessed thing it is just being me–finally.  It was well worth the wait.

Taking time to acknowledge the past in order to truly celebrate the now.

The past week or two I have been a little out of sorts.  I could feel something within me that needed to be birthed, but I could not put my finger on it.  It has been a busy summer, full of lots of fun activities, and plenty of work, too.  I have been feeling tired, not in a physical way, but in an emotional way.  Because there has not been a lot of time to think, or write my way out of whatever it was, I felt stuck.  Last night, it finally dawned on me.  The last few years, or more honestly, the last decade has been a really tough one, and while I have made it through to the other side and into a comfortable way of living, and loving others, and myself, I realized I had done what I have always done.  I got through everything the Walt Disney way–“Keep moving forward.”  When I stopped to look at everything that I had been holding inside of me it became abundantly clear that I had every right to be fully exhausted.

From childhood, it has been my habit to keep moving forward, making my way from one trauma to the next, with varying degrees of success, without ever really taking the time to stop and acknowledge what I have been through.  I can stay it out loud, and know it intellectually, but all of that is done quickly, sweeping the dirt under the rug so that I do not have to see it anymore, or feel it.  I clean houses for a living and I never sweep dirt under the rug when I clean a house, but I am the master of sweeping my own feelings under the rug, and moving on as if whatever it was had never happened.  It has been a survival mechanism for me, but it has left me weary.

Certainly, there are benefits to going through life this way.  I have had to start over many times, and move beyond some pretty huge things that might waylay many people for a very long time.  I bounce back up from every knock that life gives me with the resilience of one of those blow up clowns weighted with sand at the base.  You can punch them and punch them and punch them and they just spring right back up, seemingly indestructible.  So, I bounce back up, I let go, I move forward, and I also pretend like nothing bad ever happened.  I never take the time to honor the battle I have fought, feel the pain I carried silently throughout, or acknowledge that I have every right to be tired, or hurt, or angry, or sad.

I know now that I will continue to be tired until I allow each trial to be fully seen, felt, and honored for what it was at the time for me, and what gifts and lessons I gained from each hurt, and difficult experience.  To continually deny all of the exceptionally hard experiences of the past decade is to deny a huge part of myself, because it has been those experiences that have brought me to the happiness and joy I have today.  Through those pains and knocks, I learned to love myself, and to love and rely on God in a much deeper way.

My little boy is helping me to learn how to do this honoring in order to truly and fully release and heal.  The child has a memory that is truly amazing, and so much of what he remembers are thing I would prefer under the rug.  He has been speaking frequently of our dog, Tanner, who we left when we left the “blue house,” the house of horrors, and my marriage to the sociopath.  Tanner was not a young dog, and I imagine Tanner is no longer alive.  I have no idea what my ex-husband did with him, but my son wants to talk about Tanner and about all of the other animals he loved on our farm.  It hurts me so much, and far too deeply to think about what may have happened to the animals we left behind, but do it I must now.

After I found half of our herd dead, and piled in heaps in a barn the winter before we got out, I shut down.  Twenty-five or more animals starved to death, all the while I was being told they were “fine.”  I will never really know what happened to those animals, and I thought I had shielded my son better, but he remembers so much, and now, three years later, he wants to talk about it.  He needs to talk about it because he has been carrying the horror of all of that around for three years in his little seven year old body.  At first, I was inclined to change the subject when my serious little boy brought awful memories up, but now I let him talk—we talk about it.

He is a much different child now than he was when we left three years ago.  He is far more relaxed, and he is extremely resilient.   He feels things very deeply, and now he needs to talk about those feelings, and as he finally does, there is less of what little anger he has had left every day.  He is letting go the right way, and I will not hinder that process anymore by not being brave enough to feel the hurt myself.  I will not teach him to sweep things under the carpet.  Together we are learning to bring the dirt out into the light so that we can sweep it away for good.  He is a brilliant teacher and a very kind and caring soul, wise way beyond his years.

So now I must stop, and look at it all, and give it all due space and honor and light—the dirt.  I have to feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I think of the awfulness of my drinking, and the arrests and jail time and the time away from my older children, now grown.  I have to feel the pain of the relapses, and the rehabs, and the halfway house.  I have to look at my marriage and the abuse we endure for far too long.  I have to honor the time I spent in prison, having to leave my little boy for six months, and the sadness that brought me, which I hid from.  I have to feel the weight of rebuilding a life from the ground up in the last year, single parenthood, and surviving the mother of all nasty, long, drawn out divorces and custody battles.

I have to feel that crushing pain and heaviness in my chest…the full weight and size of it–and I have to feel the hurt, and the anger, and the sadness.  It has been in there for years now, slowly pushing its way up to the surface.  Now that it is bursting out of me like hot lava flowing out of a long dormant volcano I can already feel the release of pressure.  I have no plans to wallow, but I have no choice but to let it flow.  The flow is all of the pus from wounds suffered but never treated properly.  I am finally really healing and so I am going to treat myself like someone who needs quite a lot of tenderness and care for a bit.  I want to make sure all of the dirt gets swept out for good this time.  If I need someone to talk to so I do not impede my own healing process, I know where to go.

As happy as I have been in recent years, it has not been complete and now I know why.  It is impossible to relax fully into joy and contentment and authenticity while you continue to deny a part of yourself.  I am on my way now to a higher level of all around health and happiness.  No more dirt under the rug for me.  Yesterday, I took my serious, yet wacky, son to the playground.  He sailed down one slide, landed on his feet at the bottom, threw open is arms and shouted, “I love life!”  Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear him say those words–to just feel unbridled joy?

I hugged him hard and kissed him.  Then I said, “You know what?  I love life, too, and I love you!”  It is all true.  I do love life and I know for a fact that were it not for all of that dirt that has scared me so, I would not know the happiness that I do now.  The dirt has served its purpose now.  I stand, with broom in hand, ready to sweep it out as it continues to unearth itself.  A clean start, and cleaner, lighter, fuller heart.  We are really healing this time and we are doing it together.  Yes, I love life!