Thursday, April 9, 2015

An Exercise for Authenticity

When I was younger, not sure what to wrap myself around and grow, I listened to the cacophony of different voices inside and couldn't figure out how to reconcile them all. They all seemed so different from each other, these different parts of me. I couldn't hold this tension, this feeling that inside me were many different people. I couldn't see how to bring them all together. And so, I flattened parts of me into one. 

Some of this was also because I conformed and gave in to the loud voices outside. But some of it was just to quickly arrive at a solution, to figure out what exactly I was supposed to be. The stress of not knowing, not having that clarity felt terrifying. 

In the past few months, some changes have been afoot. I have started dancing again, something that defines my essence more than anything else. I have been getting in touch with my real feelings beyond the haze of being nice, and started gaining a felt sense of how I used to feel before getting other people's approval became such a driver. 

The word "Authenticity" has been dancing in my consciousness, coming up from the depths of my own self and vibrating in the stories I am finding around me. Dipping through the lovely Julia Cameron's book The Vein of Gold, I chanced upon a little exercise that speaks to me right now. 

It might speak to you as well, if you are feeling some cracks. You are noticing the difference between the official version of who you are and who you really are. Maybe you are feeling fragile too, and just a little crazy. You are changing your moves and that feels uncomfortable and unsafe. 

I hope we both safely land on the shore on the other side. Maybe this exercise can be part of your raft. It goes like this. Number a piece of paper from one to twenty. Then fill out the sentence, "On the one hand, I'd love to ....."; on the other hand, I'd love to ....." twenty times.  

This feels like freedom, a declaration of my different loves, and an invitation to stretch what all encompasses me. Too often, I have said, "I'm not the kind of person to..." "I'm not the kind of person" puts a label on me, puts me into a small box, makes my options limited.  

I'm not the kind of person is also a way of making an excuse, of keeping myself stagnant. I am not the kind of person who questions other people. I'm not the kind of person who changes her definition of giving. I am not the kind of person who says No. I am not the kind of person who can confront and challenge when someone confronts and challenges me. 

But maybe I am. Maybe I can be. On the one hand, I'd love to please everyone. On the other hand, I'd love to say No without feeling guilty. On the one hand, I'd love to give to others. On the other hand, I'd love to claim all my time for myself and give to myself for a change. On the one hand, I'd love to fit in and be harmonious. On the other, I'd love to stand out and reveal who I am. 

On a lighter note, on the one hand, I'd love to experiment with the way I dress. On the other hand, I'd love to hone in on my own style. On the one hand, I'd love to wear high heels. On the other hand, I would love to dress down. 

It's freeing to feel a possibility of different ways of being co-existing. I love heels. I love comfort. I love to please people. But too much pleasing has been killing me. I also love to please myself. This feels like lying beneath a very large expansive fabric, feeling that I can expand the ways in which I respond, that I don't need to stay within some arbitrary lines I drew for myself. 

Here's what my beloved Julia says about the exercise and what it can do. "Do you feel the stretching of your consciousness as you embrace apparent opposites? Can you see that you can encompass more emotional range than you may have realized?" Can you see that? Can you? I have some sense of it. I hope to see it more, to see that I can be nice and good and strong and fierce and militant and peaceful. 

All these different things can live inside me and be accessible to me, and I can be more expansive and less boxed in. I can be a little bigger than I have been till now.  

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