Growth · Health and Wellness · Mental health · Perspective · Relationships

And Just Where Is My “Authentic Self”?

She said “All my life I’ve been pleasin’ everyone but me,
Waking up in someone else’s dream”

– Faith Hill

When I was 12, I got on stage with my friend Julie to sing in the end of year talent show. We chose “Someone Else’s Dream” by Faith Hill. I’m pretty sure we never talked about it, but I think we both already felt the pressure to live up to the expectations others had for us. I think we felt some freedom in singing those words on stage. The tiniest little rebellion of the heart, just acknowledging there was some tension in who people thought we were and wanted us to be and who we really thought we were and wanted to be.

//

All your life

people will tell you what they think you should be

but what I want for you most

is just to be free.

-Rebecca Chasteen

At 22, I gave birth to my daughter and in her room there was a framed poem title “Be Free” that I wrote for her during pregnancy. Those are the last few lines of the poem. I knew I was still trying to figure out my way into really realizing myself, my dreams, and my freedom. I wanted my commitment to her from the start to be to support her in navigating her way, even if I was still finding my own. I didn’t want her to waste her life performing or conforming. I didn’t want to waste my life that way either.

//

Now at 32, I feel more lost than ever when it comes to freedom, when it comes to authentic self. My daughter is 10 and I’ve found myself cringing at her choice of clothing, wistful for days of ruffly rompers and tiny little sundresses. I’ve told her to calm down, quiet down, sit down, chill out more times than I can count. I’ve silently lamented various details that don’t actually mean anything to me simply because I know someone somewhere is thinking something poorly about me or her because of some give-a-damn that neither of us actually have. I have forgotten my deepest hope for her time and time again. I have forgotten it for myself as well.

My body is bearing the brunt of it all – the stress, the pressure, the pushing it down, the putting it last, the disregard, the nagging fear and frustration. I see other women talk about being their authentic selves, but theirs always seems to come out in bright whites and pastels and mine are…not.

//

They say that the people who love you will love you as you are – be that as it may, when you come out to your friends and family as a person different than they think you to be, or want you to be, it can get sticky. When you don’t laugh at the same jokes you used to, when you insist upon extra time or space or room or money for yourself, when you refuse something you used to take, or begin doing something you never used to do, it’s hard on the people closest to you. When you dress differently or worship differently or choose different foods or music or books, when you want to go different places or spend your money differently, when you break old habits or start new ones, it changes things.

Time and life work on everyone, everyone changes to some degree over time, but this is not about that. This is about the deeper truth of who you’ve always been. This is about being honest with yourself and others about the person that you are: what you like, what you need, what you want, what you hope for, what you think. It’s about not putting on a show or a front to please, pacify, impress, or satisfy others. It’s about not just keeping the peace by going along with something that you don’t agree with. It’s also not about becoming a wrecking ball, swinging destruction through your whole life to start from scratch. Unless that’s what your life has come to. I don’t know, I don’t know at all. I just know my body is bearing too much that doesn’t belong to it, that it doesn’t want. I just know that I have to start dropping baggage. I’m starting here.

//

cross posted here

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You’re not being honest with me

my body screams

from the muscles in my neck

from the rounding of my shoulders

from the excess softness of my stomach

 

you’re hiding

you’re lying

you aren’t supposed to fake it

with me

my body cries

in exhaustion

in frustration.

 

My head pulses, too heavy to keep above my body

I lay down

done with this day

done already with tomorrow,

with the endless stretch of life before me that isn’t bad at all,

no really, it’s got so much good

and aren’t I blessed (as the hashtag says)

I think everything is going well here,

I think I’m falling in line,

I’m pretty sure…

it’s not as easy as it was before – getting it right

and I can’t feel a thing beyond mild irritation, but who’s to blame for that?

 

I’ve squelched my strangeness, my wildness, my wandering, and my wondering

because they all seemed to give me away

so now I’m looking forward only to my

appropriate vices

the things mothers like me are allowed to have

food, drink, netflix,

nothing extreme

just a quiet numbing.

 

And my cup is empty, but they tell me it should be

if I’m doing this right

shouldn’t my family be my life?

 

Why should I have anything for myself

if I have yet to satisfy everyone else?

 

Apparently we earn our keep

by way of denying our own needs

only entitled people chase their dreams.

 

How dare anyone not align, right?

 

I keep trying to find a nice way to say

“fuck this shit”

so the church people won’t hate it

 

but

 

my body keeps revolting against me

keeps begging me to

tell the truth

keeps begging me to

cut the crap

 

to hold up my end of the bargain

some bargain I made with it

some time years ago

 

when I was seduced (reduced?) by the power I could wield,

the safety I would feel

playing along

just nodding and smiling at the right times

with my pretty face, with my normal clothes.

 

An alias

to keep the rest of me covered, secret, sacred.

There was some freedom

in keeping so many things unseen

unless someone’s intimacy proved itself trustworthy enough to reveal

just enough, never too much.

 

There was this quiet code of silence my body agreed to

to play along

as long as

I didn’t lie

inside

 

as long as I came back

and stripped it all down,

flushed it all out

as long as I sat and combed over the surfaces, to pull out the truths

to release

the words I wanted no one to hear,

the things I needed to help myself heal.

 

As long as I kept my self

tuned towards the light

I could play a role all day, all night.

As long as I came

and worked through it

alone

as long as I left the voices, the noises

where they belong.

 

One day, (I don’t know which one)

my cover took me under

I slipped too far into some version of some person I didn’t mean to be

and my body

hates what I’ve brought with me.

 

My body screams

for relief.

 

I’m trying to say back to it:

I hear you,

I hear you.

 

It’s demanding retribution

it’s demanding rest

it’s demanding pleasure and movement and gentleness

it’s demanding release from it’s silence.

 

It wants the sun and the moon on it’s skin

it wants the pulsing waters and the rushing winds

it wants to let everything out and everything in.

It’s done playing nice

playing for an audience

playing down it’s truth, it’s power.

It’s tired of me using it to tell only the safest stories.

 

I’m always looking for a middle ground

it’s telling me now

is the time to rise above

protective diplomacy

it’s not willing to settle for anything less than free.

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