We’re so busy these days, more often than not it seems, too buried beneath the often insignificant details of our lives to fully live them, or as Gregg Levoy observes, “to make them literally come true.”
What would it mean to make your life come true? According to the dictionary, ‘true’ is defined as “real, genuine, authentic.” From this perspective, how true is your life? Is it guided by what you believe to be meaningful and ethical? What fills your hours? Your days? Do they contain what truly matters most to you? What percentage of your time does what you say and do genuinely reflect who you are and what you love? How real, genuine, and authentic does your life feel?
In an article entitled, To Be Seen, Tim Kutzmark lamented, “Look around—we are a people of masks and disguises. We are a people who have been taught to transform ourselves into what others need us to be… We’ve come to believe that most people don’t want to see or hear what we feel, what we need, who we are. We’ve learned that most people don’t want to see the messiness and confusion that each of us carries inside. We’ve learned that only parts of ourselves are publicly presentable. Other parts must be hidden away. For acceptability, approval or promotion, we conceal the rough edges, the broken places…”
In one of my favorite children’s stories, The Velveteen Rabbit, the little toy rabbit who longs to be real asks his companion, the skin horse, how he might become real. The wise old skin horse replies , ‘It doesn’t happen all at once… You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
While I’m reasonably certain that I was absolutely real as a child, returning to that elusive and imperfect state is proving to be a long and frequently demanding journey. The outer world’s claims on my time, energy, and psyche all too often distract and sometimes overwhelm me, while the inner voice that calls me towards greater authenticity issues its own demands. It has repeatedly insisted that I piece together those places inside of myself that have been broken or discarded in order to be whole again. It urges me to reveal my weaknesses and vulnerabilities rather than to hide them away in shame. It insists that my behavior not contradict my values, orders that less of my time be wasted on things that don’t matter much, mercilessly rejects all attempts on my part to deceive either myself or others, and unrelentingly calls on me to listen to my love and not my fear.
Along the way to becoming real, like the velveteen rabbit, I’ve suffered significant scars, and am no longer the beauty that I once was when I was untried, unmasked, and brand new. And yet, as I continue to work on living consistently smack dab in the middle of my truth, I find new opportunities and new doors being opened up. I encounter teachers every where (when I am open to them) that encourage me to do my very best to make as much as I possibly can of the sweet life that is left to me come true.