Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How real is too real??

How real is too real?  That's a question I've been dealing with at some level for my whole life.

I was born sensitive and learned early on that others around me weren't comfortable with my sensitivity.  I learned to contain my sadness and worry and anxiety.  I learned to self-soothe as a three year old.  My dad's highest compliment to me was that I was two going on twenty-one, i.e. I was mature beyond my years.  I took that to mean that I could/should take care of myself and others and not be an immature child.  I took the message to heart and was always "good" and "well-behaved". 

But not anymore.  Don't get me wrong - I'm a "good person", but I no longer feel any compunction to "be good" so I don't upset others.  If I'm having feelings, I express them - appropriately, but I let them out. 

For example,  one day when Chris and I were fairly newly-married, I was having some feelings about who-knows-what - I was crying good and loud.  He tried to shush me.  As a knee-jerk reaction, based on my life's training up to that point, I pulled myself together and tried to stop crying, tried to "be good", didn't want to upset him.  Then my more conscious awakened self came to the fore and asked him why I should be quiet?  He said it was morning and time for the kids to start waking up, and he was afraid they would be upset if they heard me cry.  That did it!  I told him in no uncertain terms that the children had heard me cry before and would hear me cry again and could handle hearing me cry and I wasn't going to stop crying if I needed to cry. If he couldn't handle it, he could leave, but I needed to cry and I was going to cry.  I cried.  Good and loud and long.  Chris, fabulous caring man that he is, stayed with me as I cried.  I cried myself out and got on with my day. The kids did hear me cry and asked me at breakfast what was wrong.  I told them I had needed to cry and a bit about what it was about (I have no idea now what I was so upset about).  They nodded, smiled when I told them what I'd told Chris about them having heard me cry before, then went on eating their cereal. 

I want my kids to be able to be with emotions!  Theirs and others.  It's so healthy!

These days I seem to be working with this topic a lot.  I've been doing a lot of deep emotional work - I think that's the cause of these damn headaches I've been having.  It comes out in my writing.  I keep wanting it to come out in my painting, but I feel so verklemmt about that.  Ever since I started painting, I've been trying to pull together the two dichotomous sides of myself:  the rational, perfectionistic side and the emotional side which wants to yell and scream from the mountaintops (and whom I'm afraid is a bit nuts, if truth be told).  I want my pictures to be photorealistically perfect, AND I want to throw paint at the canvas with abandon.  Sometimes I do throw paint at the canvas and let my feelings out there.  The process is glorious, and I love it while I'm in it.  I have lots of insights and breakthroughs and am completely absorbed in what I'm doing.  The product, however, is nothing I am willing to show others.  Its power is in the process.  The product just isn't aesthetically pleasing or something I think others could understand/would like.

I know I'm afraid people won't like what I've done when I really let loose.  That's true for my writing when it's process writing too.  I'm taking a writing class from Valley Haggard right now.  The process we use is basically free writing for 10 minutes then we read what we've written out loud.  Last Thursday I let the words flow without pause.  I wrote about my headache and how I really felt in that moment.  It was the first time I'd actually allowed myself to feel and be in the pain.  I was afraid to let others hear how I really felt.

But magic happened.  As I read the piece, I could feel the other students become absolutely still.  They were riveted by my words.  I read slowly and let myself stay in the feelings they evoked.  I allowed myself to be present to my own experience and to honor it. 

When I finished I felt empowered.  Fear rushed in to gobble up some of that, but I tried to stay in the power of saying my truth.

I am choosing to walk through my days staying in the power of my truth, uncomfortable and prickly though it may be.  Perhaps it is also beautiful and compelling for others - and for me.  Perhaps my insides are not the ugliest thing on the planet.  Perhaps they deserve to live and breathe and have their breathing.  It's a revolutionary concept, but in my core, I believe it's true.  Now all(!) I have to do is trust that and allow myself my authenticity, fully and completely, trusting that I and others can handle who I really am.

Am I alone in this, or do you know this feeling also?  Do you fear sharing your full self?  How do you work with it?


  1. You have clearly and eloquently spoken the words of my heart and soul. You have articulated my experience so clearly that I feel emotionally naked and validated in that nakedness. Thank you!!
    Susan Buniva

  2. You are women, hear you roar!
    Bravo, authentic is the way we all should live.
    I am so proud of you for feeling and being the authentic you.

  3. Thank you both, Susan and Karen, for your kind support. Like Kermit the Frog said, "It's not easy being green/me." But it sure is easier with friends like you both.