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Am I Authentic? Are You?

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wow, you guys. It's been pretty difficult for me to figure out how to follow that last blog I posted. Partly because it was one of the most honest blogs I've ever written and I felt a bit exposed and wasn't really sure how to recover from that. Truthfully, I expected a flood of judgment and lectures. While I did receive a little bit of that (comes with the territory in a public forum), I have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness in your hearts. I really can't begin to reply to everyone that has so deeply touched me with their loving words. Please know that I read every single comment and think deeply about them.

The impetus for this blog is the other kind of response I've been receiving. Allow me to step away from the divorce talk for a moment and use a different metaphor.

My friend, Andie Redwine, is a screenwriter and she made a film recently called "Paradise Recovered" (stream it free on Netflix!!!! It's SO good!) The film deals with religious abuse - it's the story of a girl very much entrenched in a religious cult, who through a series of events, finds herself alone with nowhere to go. Her boss (a philosophy student at the university and agnostic) takes her in and cares for her. (Like the story of the Good Samaritan) Throughout the film, we see Esther experiencing new things and embracing herself and her right to enjoy all the things that used to be "forbidden". Of course, she flounders...don't we all when we get sudden freedom? I won't ruin the end for you. Haha.

The reason I bring this up is this: after the film was released and it started making the film festival circuit rounds and began to win awards, there came so many letters and e-mails and comments from real life spiritual abuse survivors in recovery. This pleases Andie greatly, as most of the proceeds from this movie will go to Wellspring Recovery Center, a place that specializes in helping spiritually abused people become free. So, a "fictional" movie is changing REAL lives.

I feel my experience since I posted that blog has been similar. I am shocked and saddened by the sheer volume of responses I've received from so many of you that are currently at some stage of life that is similar to mine. The overwhelming idea that just keeps hitting me is: look at all of us hiding, pretending, wishing things were different. Everything looks beautiful on the outside. But inside things are so much more complex. There are so many sad people. If you guys knew how many there were...it is heartbreaking.

I don't have the answers to my own issues and I'll tell you I'm completely broken myself right now. But there is a very helpful exercise that my therapist is having me do...and I don't see how it couldn't benefit EVERYONE (whether your life is just the way you want it or you're in a more difficult place). So, thought I'd toss it out there...just in case it helps someone else.

The past couple weeks, we've been discussing the fact that it seems the reason I've been so unhappy for so long is because I've been living a life that isn't authentic to me. Other ways to say it: living a lie, pretending to be happy, propagating a facade (if you're a vocab nerd). You get it, right?

Yesterday, she pushed it further and asked me the hardest question I've had to answer in a long time...

When you imagine living a life that is wholly authentic to you and who you truly are as a person, what kinds of practical things do you see yourself doing in that life? In other words, think about what is TRUE to you.

I couldn't think of one thing. NOTHING! What the heck? How is it possible that I don't even know myself? It was really eye opening. After quite a bit of silence, I thought of one: hold each of my kids each day.

As we talked more, I began to think of more and, since yesterday afternoon, I have not stopped adding to the list.

Here's a sampling, to get your mind rolling:

If I were to live a life that is completely authentic to who I am inside, I would be doing these things:

Take care of myself in ways I haven't before: nails, waxing, haircuts, etc.

Get rid of my TV

Teach my kids the joy of reading

Read more about my business

Sit in silence and feel God's love and shut out all other voices

Spend time listening to music and connecting with it

Use my workouts as a way to build and express my inner strength, rather than as a way to run away from my problems and myself

Tell my kids each day that they are loved completely...no matter what happens

Take my kids outside and spend time exercising WITH them

Be present when I'm helping my kids with their homework - it's not just a pain in the butt task, it's valuable precious bonding time

I suppose that's enough for now. Once you get started, it gets easier. In identifying these things and actually doing them, I will apparently create a "safe place" inside myself that is my center of strength. Because it's fully ME. The idea that I can carry around a "safe place" instead of it having to be somewhere to travel to (whether physically or mentally) is kind of revolutionary for me.

I mean, when you think about it...it's everything we are being taught here on SparkPeople - find strength within yourself. Own your beauty and your strength. Dig deep and make it happen. Make your life what you want it to be with hard work and dedication. Some of that hard work has nothing to do with muscles or cardio capacity. Some of it is purely emotional. This is the side of my life that I've let go for so long...I've somehow lost myself (if I ever knew myself in the first place).

You don't have to be going through hell in your life for this to apply. All of us could use a reminder of who we are at the core...and what we need to do to remain true to that every single day.

So...when I say this...you understand that it holds so much more meaning than a trivial sign-off:

Take care of yourself today. You're worth it. And you're beautiful.

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    1780 days ago
  • MSCOPE10
    Great blog! You are so right about taking care of ourselves. I think so many of us are focused on taking care of those around us that we sometimes "let ourselves go". Not realizing that what the ones we are taking care of want the most is for us to be happy, healthy and to be here with them for as long as possible. Thanks for sharing! emoticon
    1795 days ago
    wOw! Powerful blog. Thank you.
    1796 days ago
    Oh, Leah, this is such an amazing blog! Thank you! I should be getting to my chores but I'm so glad I sat here and read your blog and all the comments; it's a blessing to me to know that I am not alone.

    I've been overweight for so many years, essentially all my adult life, even increasing by twenty pounds after I got laid off from my last job. I have great intentions but do not ever follow through and push toward success. I keep giving up.

    A Weight Watchers leader once said at a meeting "How do I get myself back?" and I began to cry. I wrote those words down that day and have been trying to figure out how to do just that, get myself back, "come home to myself". Your exercise about "my authentic self" is just perfect for my journey and I thank you so very much. I'm looking forward to beginning it!

    Keep Sparkling, Leah! emoticon Continued good luck on your own journey!
    1806 days ago
    Wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing. I don't have TV, in the sense that I don't have cable. I mainly read as a outlet to relax and sometimes watch movies either through my dvd player or netflix.
    1806 days ago
    Gorgeous...absolutely gorgeous.
    1807 days ago
    God bless you Leah!
    1808 days ago
    Fabulous blog! Thanks for sharing. Definitely will start on my list and start making it my true direction. Best wishes on your journey. emoticon
    1809 days ago
    I just love what you wrote. It is universal for all people in any stage of life. WONDERFUL
    1810 days ago
  • JRM54100
    This blog brought tears to my eyes.

    You have no idea how much I needed to read those words and feel like someone was speaking them to me.

    That someone else could possibly feel the same way I do right now.

    Thank you so much.


    1811 days ago
    Healthy life journeys are definitely about making better choices in the face of the difficult stuff of life. Keep on your journey - you are so worth it.
    1811 days ago
  • ELSCO55
    1811 days ago
    Thanks for this post! Making an "authentic living" list is a smart move, and your blog forced me to think of all of the things that are important to me and that I've been ignoring.
    1811 days ago
    Keep learning the lesson
    My promise to you is that you get there with work and application of what you believe about you!
    Peace and blessings
    1811 days ago
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    1812 days ago
    I so needed to read this. I have been in a "holding pattern" for far too long. Just going through the motions instead of dealing with myself and who I really, truly am. Thank you...be blessed!
    1812 days ago
    Thank you so much for that. You are such a good writer. I have a clear image in my head of who I want to be and every day I think about doing those things, but something always stops me. It's not about exercising or eating right, most of the things that would make me better, especially at home, are things I'm already doing at work. I'm there. I help so many people and do it with a good and loving heart. I listen, am patient, use my instincts, I'm always on the move. I love it. I love who I am at work. Then I come home and sit, or nap. I'm exhausted. I want to be the way I am at work, at home. This is going to help me. I think about this every day. How I can bring that spirit of loving helpfulness home with me. I'm going to sit down and make a list of who I want to be at home. Yesterday I overextended myself at work. It was a crazy day and I let myself be pulled in all directions. I stopped and said no a couple of times. When I got home, I thought about how it's good to be helpful at work, but that I have to respect myself first, and put myself and my own job first, and not let this happen again. So much to think about! Thanks for your post!!!
    1812 days ago
    Beautiful blog. Profound insights. Wonderfully written.
    Very touching.
    At a similar point in my life, I was so overwhelmed.
    My code of action had to be simplified.
    It became:
    Tell the truth
    Speak from the heart
    Take things one step at a time. The light will shine on the next step.

    That got me through the rough spot and eventually into a much better life.
    In retrospect, I guess it did help me get in touch with my authentic self.
    Retirement has now given me the opportunity to pursue more what I hold dear to what I consider my mission, my essence. It is harder to do this when you are younger and there are so many demands on you and so little time.

    It is good to remember as we go through our everyday life, that we are seeing the facade and that some people may really be needing a cup of kindness. They are hurting inside. Are we all afraid of being vulnerable? Spark does help you to realize how people really think and feel.

    1812 days ago
    A great thought provoking blog! Thanks for sharing.
    1812 days ago
    Great blog! emoticon
    1812 days ago
    While you may feel broken and are obviously dealing with a lot, look at what you're doing for this community. Thank you for your strength. Thank you for your talent with words and writing.
    1812 days ago
    So moving. Thank you for writing this.
    1812 days ago
    I was just thinking about what a counsellor once said, " some of the most evil people hide in churches." I really think it is true.

    1812 days ago
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    Good for you. You deserve peace & happines.
    1812 days ago
  • SMILEY3826
    that is a lot to think about. thanks for sharing what you are going through. have a wonderful day.
    1812 days ago
    Great Blog and WOW! That's really all I can say. You gave me a lot to think about. Most of us live to take care of others and leave ourselves behind so we can all relate on some level.
    1812 days ago
    Thank you for sharing your experiences. You are quite inspiring! Good luck in your future endeavors. emoticon
    1812 days ago
    1812 days ago
    Wow, this is a perfect exercise I think we all could benefit from. Thanks for sharing!!
    1813 days ago
    Thanks for sharing.
    1813 days ago
    I wish you the very best on your journey.
    1813 days ago
  • BANDMOM2012
    It is frightenly easy to lose yourself in marriage and parenting. While I whole-heartedly believe that parenting is the most important role I have, it isn't everything I am. So good to see that you are discovering these things in your life. Blessings :)
    1813 days ago
    I sometimes think that we all, but perhaps women in particular, throw ourselves into so many different roles (partner, parent, career person, good friend, good neighbour and so on) and try so hard to do our best in each one that we run out of time and energy to look after ourselves and remember who we are and what we like.

    It is almost as if there is something a bit shameful or self-centred about spending time looking after ourselves. But the reality is, if we don't look after ourselves, love ourselves and be the best we can be, how can we give our best to others?

    Many years ago I went through a devastating break up and it took about 3 years but I learnt to really enjoy my time being single. In many ways it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.

    Good wishes on your learning curve. There is always some pain with a birth or re-birth of any kind - but the end results............... emoticon
    1813 days ago
    Thought provoking
    1813 days ago
  • AJB121299
    Wow. Amazing blog
    1813 days ago
    Wow. That hit something inside of me... I'll be thinking about this for a while I'm sure. It brought up some things that hovering on the edges of my life for some time now - I think this is my kick in the pants to do something about it.

    Thank you for sharing.

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    1813 days ago
    Wow! You have me awe-struck. Love your focus and simplicity. I needed this PEP TALK so, so very much. Yes! I intend to get back on track and will succeed....hope you don't mind but I will be stalking your blogs for more insight and encouragement.
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    1813 days ago
    Great blog, thanks!
    1813 days ago
  • CICELY360
    good blog
    1813 days ago
    Thanks for sharing.
    1813 days ago
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    1813 days ago
    1813 days ago
  • LYNNA1968
    fantastic blog! Learning ourselves takes a lifetime, we are always evolving. Are you the same person you were in 1st grade, high school or college? I'm not. I have a basic idea but who knows!? Enjoy your journey and smile! There is only one you!
    1813 days ago
    1813 days ago
    emoticon I love this idea! Keep thinking of things that you want to be doing while living authentically, and spend time working towards these!

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    1813 days ago
    1813 days ago
  • JAMER123
    Wonderful Blog!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts & steps.
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    1813 days ago
    You have a beautiful heart!!!!!

    You are on the right path. Enjoy the journey & God Bless You!!!
    1813 days ago
  • PEGGIE0203
    Great blog! I appreciate your honest sentiments.

    Now I want to go watch that movie! :)
    1813 days ago
  • 4KWALK
    You must feel free just by expressing yourself so honestly. It is freedom to be able to speak so honestly to yourself and to others.
    Thank you for putting into words what many of us cannot.
    1813 days ago
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