“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown
Authenticity is one of the things I’ve been trying to put my finger on behind the purpose and pursuits in my life and writing alike. Allowing myself to be seen, whether I am deeply heartbroken and full of poetry, trying to get a point across or rambling and randomly musing, has been a challenge overall; having to move on without Patrick (I am never without him, you know what I mean…) has changed the task of simply showing up for my life every day into the most difficult steps I’ve had to take.
As I look back at Patrick’s 14 months (and four days), one of my only regrets is wishing I’d written something bigger, better or more during that time… but the worst is when I wish I’d written anything at all, the gaps of time I didn’t write because I didn’t feel _____ enough. I withheld permission from myself to be seen and those days counted because I didn’t feel I had anything worth sharing to contribute, because I was too tired and wrapped up in my own life to step out for a moment to reflect, because I compared myself to others and fell short of an impossible standard I held for myself… and I lost would-be memories and keeping track of my progress because of it.
I’ve also come to realize moreso than ever that I’m not ever going to fit a mold made by someone else, and likely neither will my posts. My life isn’t the same as anyone else’s, how could my writing be? Wishing to be someone else, somewhere else in time,-or wishing to be myself backwards or forwards in time- is a waste of it. I’m just me now, here now, and that’s what I’ve got to work with… so here I am, hot mess and all. Seinfeld found success as a “show about nothing” because it was relatable, and I suppose that’s really the crux of what I’m trying to do here… Writing helps me relate, authentically to other people and parents and helps me find ways to navigate and relate to myself, too.
People hear the word ‘progressive parent’ and have an idea of what that means –to them– and then apply expectations to me and my life because of their definition, experience and projections. People may think I have a political agenda, that I’m some sort of hippie-ass guru-wannabe who just posts rainbows and Rumi quotes about choosing love and gentle parenting, or see me as deeply, permanently wounded mother who posts pained poetry that few people understand- and none want to. To a degree, all and none of that is true, because I’m fucking human, dammit. None of us fit neatly into any box except that one. The vast majority of people and parents are not so easily compartmentalized- believe me, I’ve tried valiantly and we’re just too messy, the lot of us.
With that in mind, I tried to select a blog title that left room for growth & development, though I was choosing a permanent label that would be constantly subject to evaluation and translation. I landed on ‘Progressive‘ as a title because I means marked by constant improvement, moving forward, happening or developing gradually over a period of time, using or interested in new or modern ideas especially in politics and education… all of those things sound good to me. Though I identify with many of the general AP (attachment parent) practices I didn’t choose ‘attachment’ or ‘liberal’ or ‘crunchy’ or any other buzzwords because the only thing I know about parenting so far is that it changes, but my status as a parent never does- and hence, the name.
I never, ever feel like I’ve reached the final plateau or peak on my parenting path, (this sentence brought to you by the letter “P”!) ever- even when part of my journey as a parent meant finding the strength to keep walking down a road where I could only carry one of my children in my heart and never in my arms again. I’m not the same mother I was to Tobin 12 years ago that I was to Patrick during his time here, and I’m not the same mother or person I was before his death, either. The scenery has changed, my heart has changed, my privilege, my perception and my body have changed. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade and I only hope to keep learning more- I always want to know, to do, to be, better.
“I decided that the most subversive, revolutionary thing I could do was to show up for my life and not be ashamed.” – Anne Lamott
Showing up for a dimly lit fine dining in an atmosphere-controlled environment for a nice red or pint with a friend or lover- that’s easy to do, easy to share. (just check out Instagram, shoot!) It takes planning, discipline, grooming and effort all around to make that scene happen, which is why it’s impressive to show. There exist people like that, there exist blogs like that- calm, composed and collected, and I stand in awe of them both. I wish my blog posts (and life!) were able to be presented like four star meals; each part a carefully exacted creation full of flavor, balance, intrigue, talent and juicy goodness that makes the senses come alive… but that’s not me, that’s not where I am in life. I ain’t that fancy, yo.
Showing up here (and in most of my favorite blogs) tends to be more like making it with frizzy hair and even frizzier thoughts out to an end-of-the-month family potluck with something I put together with crap, is that all that’s left in the fridge? It’s okay, though, because I know most everyone else who shows up is doing the same and trying their best, too. I appreciate the skill and privilege of the ones who have what it takes to come with something more polished… Maybe someday, that will even be me, but right now I’m not on the Zagat-radar and I don’t need to be.
I’m more like a taco truck in a business parking lot: I bring what I have to the “regular” folks & it’s usually of a certain general flavor. You like it or you don’t and it’s no offense to me either way- but you don’t need to approach my space to complain about how it’s not to your like, either. Just don’t come- or make your own damn establishment to your liking and go there instead.
Sometimes what I write is to a specific point and carefully prepared, sometimes I write just to do it and it’s a random amalgam of hodgepodge from my life- and both are (finally) absolutely acceptable for me. Beyond that, if I can’t expect myself to be arrive at the same space all the time, how can I expect that from anyone else? It’s not to say to lower the bar on living or writing or not to aim for it at all- just that we all come from differing and ever-evolving life situations with different moods and intent to approach it and there has to be some room for that completely normal fluxation. Our environments, energies and desires are constantly changing and full of colors, sights, sounds, flavors and textures to take in and love and hate- and try again, just to make sure.
Choosing to show up in life and writing, for me, is about participating in the diversity and connection of it, not about displaying a singular composition I’ve mastered. My life and online presence require an integrative experience, born of many, many intersections both in how I relate not only to myself, but to others- and how they relate to others, even. We’re all connected, and we all bring something unique to the table- and no one gets say in what anyone else gets to bring- but we don’t have to eat it, either. Sure, there are foods and methods of preparation that are scientifically more healthful and are beneficial to know about- and some of us are in a place to be ready to learn about and employ those methods. Fabulous! Rock on with your bad selves! But the best of us need comfort food sometimes or aren’t in a situation where the best choices out there are available to us- which is why all are welcome here; and we can never know how sharing from our experience might help someone else or ourselves.
There is no end-all way to parent or write, just like there is no end-all way to be, and neither life or writing should wait to be tamed into something more glossy and put together before showing up and sharing at least a small part of it, especially with the people close to you.
True friends aren’t not here for the show, they’re here because they know what goes on in the background and they like you because of and in spite of it all. My friends don’t mind when my house is messy, that I can’t cook for crap, the tornado of clothing I haven’t washed/dried/put away yet, my post-hike-stench or my loud kids because they show up in my life with their own messes (more comfortably even, knowing I don’t hide mine) and we meet each other where we are.
We show up to be together for the sheer joy of connection, to know we are not alone, to remember that we matter, to remember ourselves and each other. Being authentic and showing up for me means being brave enough to engage in my own life and the lives of others without worrying if I’m “enough” or caring what others will think. It means making an active choice and practice of being present and active in my life, in my family and in my community, too. We all grow, we change, we learn, we work with what we’ve got and that’s life- and here, whatever the flavor of the day, I bring mine to the table.
If you haven’t, I highly recommend finding a few minutes to watch this TED talk on ‘The Power of Vulnerability’ by Brene Brown; so many insights on worthiness and connection, shame and the fear of disconnection and the ability to show up and make an imperfect, insightful difference.