What is an authentic life? I see it so much, “I want to live an authentic life.” and honestly, it just seems so ephemeral a statement. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to do it. It just means I’m never sure that I am. Because I’m not sure what it is.
According to my Webster’s 9th new collegiate dictionary, which is the closest to me right this second, authentic is defined as ‘authoritative, worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to fact or reality, trustworthy, not imaginary or imitation’..it comes from the Greek authentikos which means ‘master, perpetrator’ which may be akin to the Greek anyein; ‘to accomplish’ or the Sanskrit sanoti; ‘he gains’.
(Just to be fair, my concise oxford dictionary went with reliable, trustworthy, of undisputed origin, genuine..I want to live a life of undisputed origin sounds somehow less poetic to my ears, like a paternity test is involved somehow…but I digress)
To live an accomplished life, filled with gains, that is as close to true as can be in a subjective reality.
I like that the first definition is authoritative. It suggests, whether one believes in destiny or not, that I am an intrinsic part of writing this existence. I’m the leading authority on the Mr. Toad’s wild ride of my own life. I’m the captain of this sailboat with the circus striped sails (seriously, how come there aren’t more sails that are stripey and awesome?) with the oompah band that plays nightly on the poop deck. If that’s the case, then I can’t help but be living an authentic life. Answerable to no one but the voices in the quiet corners of my heart and mind. Who give me hell when I decide to spend the first hour of my day off in my pyjamas reading mystery novels or surfing the internet. I try to argue, those pictures of cats aren’t going to look at themselves!! But then they bring up that quote, (I think it’s Henry Rollins, it typically accompanies his picture) “No such thing as free time, spare time, down time..only lifetime.” So I’m supposed to be spurred on by that to jump up and live my authentic life filled with gains and accomplishments.
It’s really okay that I want to spend an hour laying in bed reading, or write silly songs on the ukulele trying to rhyme as many words with moon as I can. I do not share the push. I’m really struggling to be okay with that but it is okay.
We’re only given a certain amount of time. We have no idea how long that is. Am I going to spend it living a life that I think is expected of me? I should want to strive and achieve and push and demand of myself and be super fit and uber strong and a human to the nth degree a human can be?
There are so many people who are good at getting up early, being parents, leaders, drivers, filmmakers, chefs, organizers, rock stars, mountain climbers. There are many gains to be had, many accomplishments to author. My story is my own.
I’m struggling with the notion that people from the outside, seeing the life you’re living because of personal interaction, social media fame or other exposure, have envy because they believe your life to be more authentic than the one they live. I’m really harping on the external validation lately, but it’s part of the ‘I don’t need you to tell me I’m good (or bad) to feel that way about myself” trip. I need you to find those truths and joys that give you the giddy and live them. If we share those truths and those joys, holy wow! this is going to be so fun for however long we spend together sharing like this. We might be the best of friends and grow apart, Friendships are no different than romantic bondings. You grow together, you grow apart. You might find common ground again in the future, but if you don’t, it’s really okay. IT’S REALLY OKAY. I don’t have to be friends with everyone I’ve ever been friends with. Things change. The truths we shared, the joy we connected on will always be there. We are stronger, better, more evolved because of every interaction we have, ideally. From a smile with a stranger to the late night wine drinking laughter until the sun came up tears in my fucking eyes stomach hurting stop making me laugh because I’m living a goddamn john cougar mellancamp song over here, it hurts so good. Just because we don’t maintain the relationship at exactly the same frequency as before doesn’t make it any less important to the narrative we’re living.
When I think about what I want to do with my writing, what I want to accomplish with this blog, with these words that sometimes fall, sometimes spew, sometimes need to be wrenched from me, I have moments when I think about the shiny dream.
The bestseller list, the sailboat with the stripey sails and personal oompah band, the house with the fruit tree garden, rope swings and perfect no wetsuit needed surf break right out front. The book signings, the sea of faces all wanting to tell me that I have said the thing they thought only the voice in the secret corners of their hearts and minds knew, finding myself a contemporary of Patricia Highsmith, Roald Dahl, Neil Gaiman, Arthur Conan Doyle..it really does give me a thrill.
So if that version is what I think I want, where is the work? Why would I give myself permission to lie in bed and read or play ukulele? Why do I spend more time writing here about my feelings than creating? It could be argued this action is an intrinsic part of the process.
How will I become the person I’ve always wanted to be if I can’t understand I’m already her?
I may have blown my own mind a little bit with that one. The craziest part? It’s not that profound! But it’s a level of self-acceptance that makes me terribly uncomfortable. When did that happen? When did insecurity become a thing? Were people insecure way back when? Was someone churning out some butter and thinking, ‘old widow magoo churns her butter way better than me. I’ll never make a better butter batter than her, that old bitch.’ Or ‘franklin always makes anubis statues so much more jackal-y than mine. I wish I was as good at carving obelisks of obsidian as he was.’
What I just wrote there is so silly because this incessant habit of comparing myself to others is exactly that, regardless of how true it feels when I do it. It feels authentic in the moment, but it has no basis in reality. What a weird dichotomy to live with. The things I think are created by my brain, which argues, “you don’t think that’s true? It’s your word against mine and since I’m your brain, technically they’re both your words..why would I lie to you?” Fuck you brain, you silly twit.
I feel as though I’m on the verge of going around in circles on this one so that obviously means it’s time to go for a walk. An idea which Gala agrees is brilliant. I have my moments. Would I feel better about myself if my moments of brilliance were all gathered together in one fell swoop? I don’t think so. If something is brilliant all the time, that suggests a faster burn out. I’m in it for the long haul.
The long, beautiful, clumsy, absurd, compassionate, coherent, artful, weird, swears too much, tree climbing, supermoon beachfire, intangible, sexyfine, tasty, piano songs, familiar, lustful, hilarious, picnic in a field of gilly flowers, ukulele musical, laughing until dawn, delicious, sunshine while it’s raining, love flavoured, fanciful, epic makeout sessions, strange, standing up and falling down, factual, tea drinking, fictional, yummy, singing, dancing, hurts so good, sensualists’ rock opera dream of an authentic haul.
All of the yes.