I felt bad after my very cynical ‘live authentic’ post and guilty that perhaps I’d oversimplified things. It’s easy to do that in a blog post. You’re sort of shooting for this mixture of insouciance and humor and poignancy and you frequently let one element outweigh the others and miss the mark.
I thought about it a lot today and came to the conclusion that for me, living authentic isn’t about trying to make my life look or seem easy or beautiful, it’s about trying to isolate and identify the beauty and happiness lurking inside my everyday life and feel gratitude. There’s a tail-wagging-the-dog difference and to me, that difference is the actual element of authenticity. When you’re able to look at your life holistically, the good and the bad, and yet value and appreciate the quicksilver moments of elegance and happiness and loveliness, you are living authentically. At the age of nearly-41, I feel like I’ve only recently discovered this and will likely spend the rest of my life working on it. But it’s good work to do.
I have all the moments that I described in my last post and no, they aren’t the moments that get photographed. I don’t shoot selfies of my overfed tummy or unshaven legs or circles under my eyes when I’ve gotten insufficient sleep. I shoot selfies when I feel beautiful. I don’t take pictures of the endless dead seedling trays I’ve baked or over or under-watered, I take pictures of my beautiful flowers and herbs when they are at their peak and I am proud of them. I don’t take pictures of endless streams of traffic instead of walks in the woods and I don’t brag about the runs that are failures of fatigue and laziness and bathroom issues or shin splints, I feel exuberant about the ones where I feel like I could run and run and run and never get tired. And the ‘living authentic’ part is realizing that all of those elements exist all the time and ebb and flow and they all make up your day or your week and you choose what to be happy and proud of, and what you want to project to the world. I think this is the silver linings playbook, to capture a thought from one of my favorite reads of 2013.
Today I went to work and I had too much to do and I felt that bitterness of not being able to putter around and do exactly what I wanted to do in the comfort and solitude of my own home. And yet I had the kind of day where the relationships I’ve forged with the people I work with made me change my mind. I helped people, I accomplished things and they gave back in return. I had a CAD engineer excitedly consult with me about setting up a possible webcam for Mommy duck. I had my small cadre of teammates set up an outing for next week so I can take them to my favorite botanical gardens to see an 80-year old agave cactus bloom, something I never thought anyone around me would be remotely interested in. I had people in my office all day for one reason or another, laughing and talking and asking questions and making plans and working on strategy and developing ideas together. I had a beautiful lunchtime run in the sunshine and came back with a sunburned nose. I had dinner with my daughter and we lay in the hammock while we ate our ice cream and my shorts were too tight, and we watched the pine branches overhead, very green against the blue sky. Mommy duck went away and came home and the fish swam in his tank while the cats stared, hypnotized. I took the trash out and saw a pale moon shadow in the sky, waiting for the gloaming. All of these things happened and then I felt sad for my harsh and negative commentary about what is in actuality a very nice and sweet pair of words. For the time being, I’ve found a nice place in the world and I am lucky to share even the most tedious bits of my existence with good people and the gratitude that I feel and project is now for me the most authentic way to live.