To be true to yourself requires solitude and courage first.
“I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am;
I am who I think you think I am.”
~ Charles Cooley
I looked at him across the patio table and marveled at how grown up he was. How tall he was—not just in stature—but also in character. I was on fire with motherly pride and love.
“Well, of course, you are welcome to stay with me while you figure things out and decide upon your next move,” I said.
His face brightened and then a deep awareness fell like a curtain.
Hearing Your Own Heart
“Thank you so much. I love being with you, but I’m afraid you’ll turn my neck,” he said.
I howled laughing. “What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure,” he said, searching his enormous feet for answers.
I sat up straight and leaned toward him. “What you just said feels very profound. That it’s incredibly important we both understand what you mean. Let’s try to unpack it.”
We chatted for a while, kicking around theories and ideas. And then we landed right on it.
What my son meant was that he needed to be alone in order to hear, see, think, and feel for himself who HE believes he is. He needed to dissolve any and all expectations from me…the world…everyone…in order to keep his focus where it should be—upon listening to the voice emerging from inside him. The voice of his True Self.
“I’d say you are well on your way, Honey. Stay with it. Keep going. And don’t ever lose your uncanny ability to stay in alignment with what your heart is asking from you.”
I have replayed this conversation over and over in my mind as I continue to intuit there is more for me to understand and learn from it. Every time I hear my son’s words land, I feel a jolt from head to stomach, urging me to dig deeper.
What Your True Self Is up Against
I was up to my elbows in suds recently, washing a giant soup pot, when I heard my own voice inside my head say:
ART AGAINST ARTIFICE.
My mind became a movie reel, flashing images of notes from research I have been doing for the last several years. Martha Beck. Lynda Barry. David Whyte. Charlie Kaufman. Ram Dass. Note cards, journal pages, sticky notes, articles highlighted in orange ink, and waterproof sheets scribbled upon in the shower appeared in my mind’s eye. One by one—in rapid-fire like a maniacal series of flash cards.
I leaned into the soup pot, propped my forearms on the edge of the sink, and lowered my head and closed my eyes. I realize now, I was trying to listen like I’ve never listened before.
Halfway into the kitchen sink, I began connecting my conversation with my son to everything I have been reading, learning, and writing about for years: the essence of the Creative Rebel’s Voyage™.
My book’s elusive through line made itself visible and waved to me to come closer. I shook the suds from my hands and wrists and dashed to my laptop to write.
David Whyte’s poetry reflects what he refers to as the conversational nature of reality—the notion that there is an ongoing meeting between the edges of who you are and the periphery of others’ expectations. At that frontier, we seek to know what is us versus what is everyone else’s influence upon us. As we listen in quiet solitude solely to our own knowing and truth, the push from others (whether overt or covert) begins to dissolve.
This focus of our attention and energy in solitude is key to surfacing our true selves. You need solitude to be true to yourself.
In the film, Adaptation, the pivotal scene takes place when Charlie and his twin brother, Donald, have a revealing conversation while hiding in a swamp. Charlie shares a memory with his brother of a time in high school when a girl Donald loved had mocked him. Donald’s response transformed and freed his brother in an instant.
Take a moment and watch the short clip here.
“You are what you love, not what loves you. ” ― Adaptation, written by Charlie Kaufman
How to Be True to Yourself
Notice the burden lift off Charlie as he realized that other people’s expectations and opinions of him were none of his business?
It’s there that we all find freedom. It’s there that you discover how to be true to yourself.
Freedom from crippling judgment we and others place upon ourselves. There we find freedom to open WAY UP because no harm can come to us when we do. We can show it ALL…BE it all, GIVE it all.
This is the moment our sails fill with wind on our Creative Rebel’s Voyage™…far from shore…revealing, finding, discovering all along the way.
It is here that we truly begin our journey of becoming…and remembering our true selves. And as we share what we are learning about ourselves through our art/work/expression in all forms, we not only learn more about what is us and what is periphery, but we also help others find their way.
As we find our courage, we help others find their courage.
We find our art through the courage to make bad art, through the willingness to not know what we are doing. Through honesty. In this tolerance of being fully seated in uncertainty, more of who we truly are can take shape against outside pressure and provide inspiration to others seeking the same:
“Say who you are. Really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years….[I]f you are honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognize him or herself in you.” ~ Charlie Kaufman
We are not the elaborate artifices we construct. Those are simply built in response to what we’ve been taught and told. We lay the bricks comprising the wall as our fortress against exposure, scrutiny, and judgment. But we wield that wall against ourselves, too. Behind those bricks, others don’t truly know us, and, painfully, we don’t truly know us either.
And in that place of subterfuge and false constructs of self, we are lonely as we feel no one truly sees and hears us. We are ever fearful of being found out. (The irony being that being found out is our key to freedom and creative fire. Our precious, unique voice and way of seeing and being in the world.)
This is the periphery that we must atomize and dissolve. This is where you begin to be true to yourself. First, we must acknowledge its presence…its hold on us. And then we can begin to listen. Scratch, scratch, scratch. What feels like truth? What feels like freedom? What feels like shackles on our limbs and heart?
What can we pull up from the mud on the spinning wheel into a shape that feels like home and our essential self? That gloppy, muddy, shapeless mess is as beautiful and breath taking as the final, fired vessel.
It is us as Art against Artifice.