A few days ago, I had posted a picture on my Facebook page of a girl dancing in front of an almost life-sized painting of a woman dancing. I can’t seem to post the picture, so I will post the link with the hope you can see it.
I loved the photo, because the young girl was dancing with wild abandon as she viewed the woman dancing with wild abandon in the painting. It reminded me of my authentic self.
What is an authentic self? It’s the person we were before life got complicated. It’s the person we were before we compromised ourselves throughout life in our careers, our marriages, our parenting, our status in the community. It’s the person we were before we became cynical, ambivalent, disengaged. It’s the person we were before we gave up on our dreams and settled for what was before us.
I first learned of the idea of authentic self back in the 90s, as I read the book, Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It was at that time that I determined to start moving toward my authentic self once again. Fifteen years later, I have not yet arrived, but I am much closer to that self.
I have learned, as I journey toward my authentic self, that the people around you are not always pleased to see those changes in you. This is quite funny to me, as I can’t help but think, isn’t this what attracted them to me in the first place?
Probably the first person who I disappointed was my mother. In searching for my spirited authentic self, I was reminded that the Catholic faith had never been enough for me. Even as a little girl, I knew there was more to God than what we were taught in the Catholic schools and at church. I tried to follow that faith, I really did. And when I was in 7th grade, a group of us girls took a trip to Mankato to spend the weekend at the Girls Catholic High School, Good Council. And when I left there, I thought, maybe I should become a nun. I contemplated that for awhile, but then realized that I liked boys too much to go that route. And so I half-heartedly followed that faith until my kids were born. At that time, I fel the need to offer them a faith-based experience, and so we spent their first few years attending Mass. However, they probably don’t even remember those days, because by the time they were 4-5 years old, I knew I could no longer be a member of the Catholic church. There were too many issues of the church I did not agree with. And so I drifted in search of another church, but soon realized it was not a church I was needing. To this day, my mother struggles with my faith which has no borders, which cannot be labeled. From time to time, she has to ask me if I believe in God. And even when I tell her, I believe in ALL faiths, she is skeptical.
The next person I disappointed was my husband. When working back toward my authentic self, I needed to make some changes in my life. I actually sought counsel for this, as I was really struggling to “fill a hole” (that’s how I described it to the therapist those many years ago) in my Soul. I learned that hole was my authentic self. As she counselled me, she told me, there will be times on this journey, when you will disappoint the people you love. But we have to be true to ourselves before anything else. I have had to keep this in mind, especially when I knew it was time to change careers, something that to this day, makes my husband very nervous and unhappy.
I know I have disappointed my boys. For years, I put them first in my life, before any other person, including myself. But as they went through high school, experiencing their first round of independence, I was also preparing myself for their becoming independent from me. For each step of their independence, I was letting go of my control. It was the hardest thing I have had to do. And when they made their messes in life, unlike some of their friends’ parents, I have not been inclined to try and fix it, instead, laying that responsibility on them. I have counselled them on what to do, but I have let them make their own decisions. My younger son moved out of the house when he was 18 and still in high school. He said he couldn’t live by our rules. In other words, it was all my fault, since I was the one who enforced the rules. I know he is still upset with me over this, but he actually made his own choice. And he will never know how hard that was for me. Today, it still brings tears to my eyes and pulls at my heart, But I know it was the right thing to do for him, for us, and for our relationship at the time. It forced him to take some responsibilities in his life. It actually made him the independent man he is today, and I very much admire who he is.
Finally, there are no doubt a few friends who have been disappointed with me. As the saying goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver and the others gold.” I have such great groups of friends in my life. In the past couple years, I have reconnected with my oldest friend. She knows my authentic self, so I never surprise her. (Though I think it surprises her at how much I am like my younger self, without the aid of alcoholic beverages. lol) But since I no longer drink, some friends I know felt abandoned by me at first. In fact, my own brother still thinks he will get me to have a drink with him, though it has been over 11 years since I quit drinking. But most friends who are around me realize that, whether I drink or not, I am still that fun friend who enjoys being out with the gang. And by fun, I mostly mean “crazy.” Haha!
Looking back at that picture I posted on Facebook, I see myself in that little girl, dancing as if no one is watching her. I received the ultimate compliment from my dad’s sister, when I posted the picture on Facebook. She said, “Jill this looks like you dancing with the TV when you were that age. Your Dad and I would watch you and chuckle on the side.” Yes, dancing with wild abandon. I still do that!