Who you gonna be, if you can’t be yourself?

I am writing as I am coming out of a very tiring season of life… one that I have undoubtedly grown in, yet one that has drained me of my usual inspiration and emotional stability. My defenses are down because I don’t have any energy to nurse them. My perfectionism is loving my present state and is seeping in like oil from a marine rig spill. It seeps it and it is thick, impeding my soul from inspiration and joviality.

So perfectionism becomes my norm and not an exception. I am not strong enough to resist societal and personal pressures of perfection from my surroundings. Why am I writing this? Because I think you probably, deep down, can identify. We live in a world of scarcity, which greets us in the morning, telling us we didn’t sleep enough last night, then accompanies us through the day. Not enough. We don’t have enough money. We aren’t put together enough today. We aren’t fitting the cultural gender norms enough (for females: nice, thin, & modest; for males: emotional control, primacy of work, violence, and pursuit of status) . We aren’t thin enough. We aren’t smart enough. We aren’t working hard enough. This line of thinking quickly turns into… ok, well, I should do this more, I should work out more, I should be working at a better paying job because most of my peers my age have surpassed my station, I should be a “better Christian”, I should run to the store because this shirt is so 10 years ago, I should be more interested in this popular hobby, I should have made first team, I should appear to be more invincible, I should act like I care who Justin Beiber is dating, I should be having children right now, I should be prettier so I won’t get bullied, I should be shorter, I should be taller, I should be married by now, I should have the latest iPhone to keep up with the times, I should, I should, I should.

Where am I getting these ideas? Oh my friend… from many, many conversations carefully dancing around the topic of scarcity, without every calling it out for what it is. I’m not going to be silent or sugar coat today. I don’t have the energy to do either. Just enough energy to write my truth.

These “shoulds” take over and honestly, we listen to them, we conform, and we become a shell of who we really are deep down… we become a shadow of who we want to be. And let’s not fool ourselves… the shell looks ok on the outside, but hideous in the inside. It sucks our energy out of us to be someone or something we are not.

Who are you going to be if you can’t be yourself?

Dr. Brene Brown, a vulnerability and shame researcher writes in her latest book, Daring Greatly: “We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.”

I frankly don’t have the energy to compare myself to someone else any longer. I am my best when I love who I am. I am able to help and love and change things when I am at my best. I will not become a shadow. This is me. Accept me or move along.

As I pen this post, I am reminded of some chillingly appropriate lyrics from: “Pick Yer Nose,” by Ani Difranco, a folk music lyrical genius.

How come I can pick my ears
But not my nose
Who made up that rule anyway
How can you say that’s the way it is
That’s just the way it goes
Why don’t you decide for yourself
What you can do
And what you can say

I think shy is boring
I think depressed is too
I think pretty is nice
But I’d rather see something new
All these plastic people
Got their plastic surgery
But we got a big big beautiful
We got it for free
Who you gonna be
If you can’t be yourself
You can’t get it from t.v.
You can’t force it on
Anybody else

‘Cause I’m not going to pretend
That I don’t pick my nose
That’s just the way it is, my friends
That’s just the way it goes
This is who I am
What I do
And what I say
If you like it, let it be
If you don’t, please do the same

I fight with love
I laugh with rage
You gotta live light enough to see the humor
And long enough to see some change

So today, I will celebrate myself for who I am. I will honor all of the parts of me. My gifts, my talents, my body, my smile, my knowledge repertoire, my spirit, my spirituality, my laugh, my passions.

I freely admit I am imperfect, I don’t know everything there is to know about biology, I do not have a huge bank account, I may not have the wittiest response, I do not have the strongest arms or fastest mile run, and I will probably screw up something in the next hour if given the opportunity.

But I can promise you that I will be kind to you, that I will hug you, and I will respect you for who you are. I can promise you I will fight for equality with my hands and my faith. I can promise you when I say I will pray for you that I will. I can promise you that when you speak to me, I will be present and attentive. I can promise you that I will give you dignity. This is me; I am Kate.

So see me. See right through me. And let me be.

I always welcome comments. Even on personal posts like this. Tell me your story… tell me how you pick your nose.

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James Taylor, Cranberry Sauce, & the Bengay

Many folks are slowing their lives down this week to remember a few things that they find beautiful and for which they are thankful. It seems like we all need a break. The dust has settled and we are exhausted from a hurricane and a long, emotional presidential election. We need a day where we recall some happiness even if it isn’t quite as vivid today as it might have been in the past.

I was sitting next to a classmate this week and we were discussing Thanksgiving food schedules and family endeavors. After going through a family situation that had left him estranged, he decided that Thanksgiving didn’t do much for him. Rather than bringing him joyful reunions, this time of year was a painful reminder of what he once had. Thankfully, he had plans to spend the holiday with friends who didn’t seem to get the memo that holidays must be spent with blood kin.

The conversation forced me to think about what Thanksgiving really means. It can’t solely mean time spent with relatives because lots of folks, like this friend, don’t have the opportunity to feast with family. It can’t solely mean eating great food because lots of folks don’t have that either and you know, some of us, may actually be allergic to turkey! It can’t solely mean celebrating traditions because new ones are made each year.

No, I suspect the meaning of Thanksgiving cannot be so easily defined. Perhaps at its most basic element, it means just what it says. Thanks giving. Gratitude. A time to reflect on the folks who make our lives beautiful. The ones who stir our souls and make us giddy inside. Many times these folks aren’t blood relatives, but they are, in every way, our family… because family are the folks that surround and love us at our best and at our worst. And celebrating those people today… well… that’s Thanksgiving to me.

As I was cooking a squash casserole yesterday, James Taylor’s classic, “You’ve Got a Friend” came on, the lyrics seemed pretty appropriate:

You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am,
I’ll come running to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call,
and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, you’ve got a friend.

So as I celebrate this Thanksgiving with some Bengay on my hip and cranberry sauce between my teeth, I’m a grateful girl for the folks that consistently show me what love and grace look like. Some are related by blood, but most have somehow worked their way past my walls and into my heart.

So a very happy day to you as you read this. May the day live up to everything you define Thanksgiving as. And most of all, may you have a friend today.

Into 2010…

Wow…its been a while since I’ve written… and I have 10 other things that I should be doing. When does life ever slow down? I’m resolved to say that it probably won’t anytime soon, but I am, at the same time, probably addicted to the busyness. I wonder if I would know what to do with myself if given a week of nothingness (I realize this isn’t a word, but that’s okay with me).

Enough complaining…I just thought I would pen what I was thinking tonight. Sometimes, at random times, I am lonely….I am surrounded by people all day, but sometimes don’t get the chance to really connect with anyone because of busyness. I love all people and often try to find an avenue to connect with anybody I meet, but there are just some people that you really connect with… its just like something clicks when you first meet. These people turn into your best friends or maybe more, in some cases. Or maybe you don’t get a chance to know each other, but you know that you’d be best friends if you were given the opportunity. Anyway… I may be crazy… but today I didn’t really get a chance to see any of those people and maybe that’s why I’m a bit lonely.

And my second thought and perhaps one of more significance…is really just me writing down that I want to fix my eyes on Christ. There is so much in my life that is unsteady, not constant, faltering… I often lack direction and have to beg Christ to be my Vision. I sometimes feel like I should have more things in order…I should have a wedding ring on my finger, I should have a better direction for my future career, I should have the courage to tell someone of my love for them, I should have my summer planned out, I should have, I should have, I should have. I think I begin feeling this way when I take my vision away from Christ.

It’s easy to start looking around and seeing all the things the world gives and wanting them.. security, a certain relationship, a doctoral degree, pride, prestige. I want to look up to Christ. There’s a verse that literally brings me to tears every time I read it or even think about it. It is Jesus speaking in the Gospel according to John. He said… “I have come that they may have LIFE and have it to the full.” The word life there is a Greek word, but the Hebrew equivalent is used in the book of Ezekiel, where the Ezekiel stands in a valley of dry bones. The LORD asks him: “Can this dry bones come alive?” The word for “life and alive” is congruent. YES. Christ IS the life. I will look at Christ to be my Vision.