Be Real

“To be authentic, we must cultivate the courage to be imperfect – and vulnerable….there is no better way to invite more grace, gratitude, and joy into our lives than by mindfully practicing authenticity. [Let’s] let go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embrace who we really are.” Brene Brown

“I’m discovering that life isn’t something I’m supposed to master, but an adventure I’m meant to experience.” Sue Fliess

(Both quoted in O Magazine, Aug 2014)

I might be the real-est person you know. I’m not sure I know how to pretend to be something other than what I am. Just being me is hard enough; I can’t also try to be you. Or who you think I should be, for that matter.

When my husband was newly ordained, I confided in a friend that I didn’t know how to be a pastor’s wife (I love my husband, but I never aspired to marry a pastor). She gave me tender wisdom: “Don’t try to be a pastor’s wife. Be you, married to a man who also happens to be a pastor.” We’ve journeyed 20+ years into marriage, including 8 years of pastoral ministry, and I remind myself often that I only have to be myself.

Yesterday someone gave me the high compliment that some writing I’d done spoke to her in its authenticity, its vulnerability. Seriously, little else she could have said would have meant more to me.

Life is a gift. Communication is also a gift, one I hope to use to encourage and inspire others. And so I must be real.

Imperfect and vulnerable… Well, so…

  • I’d like to be thinner. Also, I am a big wuss.
  • I cannot dance, no way, no how, completely lacking the “rhythm” gene.
  • I’m afraid of heights, and I wish I were more adventurous.
  • Inexplicably people have told me that I appear to have a few things “together,” but mostly I feel completely disorganized.
  • I can hyper-focus – on the book I’m reading, the experience I’m pondering, my current existential “crisis,” even the food or drink I’m ingesting…
  • I really wish I could be more graceful, but one of my favorite things is to be grace-full, to extend grace.
  • I definitely don’t feel “good enough.”

Here’s the thing: if you and I compare ourselves to an ideal, or even to each other, if we strive to “master” life, or an image of ourselves living in such a way that we appear to have mastered it, then we are not living the adventure in the moment.

And isn’t life an adventure?

I have a husband and two boys, mostly rough-and-tumble outdoorsy types; in contrast, I am a solitary bookish type. Together we have ten pets (yes, count ’em, 10!): five furries (three cats and two dogs) and five reptiles (three geckos, a tortoise, and -gasp!- a boa). That we have a boa in our home deserves another post, but to the adventure at hand…

Yesterday all three guys were out. I was enjoying quiet time on the back deck when one of our cats snatched up a wriggling something and ran with it into the house. I guess I thought it was a lizard (I can deal with lizards), so I was shocked when she deposited a baby gopher snake under our dining table. I might have shrieked, just a little.

Rule #1 before Boa was allowed in our house: there had to be a safety latch on his cage (in fact, two). One of my admittedly-small-and-yet-worst fears is that I will encounter a snake in the house when the guys can’t deal with it.

I guess it didn’t occur to me that the “easy” solution would be to allow Cat to eat Snake. But a) gross! and b) what if she just wanted to play with it and it escaped into the base boards?

Stomping my foot to keep Cat away, I summoned my inner Sultana of Snake. Well, okay, I tried to breathe deeply and remember how Teen would pick up a snake. Huh… he’d probably grab it right behind the head. Sure, it was just a baby, only about eight inches, but, um, no. So I quickly gripped its tail between finger and thumb and ran. As we reached the deck, Snaky-Baby began to arch its body so that head was too close to fingers holding tail, so I dropped it. I also (during? after?) managed to close the screen door so Cat didn’t pursue us.

Flopping into a chair at safe distance, I watched Snake. Snake safe from Cat; Me safe from Snake (not that I ever felt that Snake really posed any serious threat, but still…). In whole new ways I felt like I’d become my son’s mother. I took a picture of Snake and texted the guys.

gopher snake

You know what? Teen wasn’t all that impressed.

Slight sting. Apparently, “encouragement” is a virtue we need to, well, encourage in him.

And yet, I am proud of myself. I’m not a Wild West snake wrangler. I’m not a perfect manifestation of Adventure Mom. But I rose to this occasion, to this adventure. And I am myself, imperfect, vulnerable, learning to embrace the moment and become more each day.

What adventures are you facing? Where do you feel vulnerable? And can you decide to share your beautiful, authentic, imperfect self with others? We have different strengths and weaknesses, emphasized by the different adventures we face. Yet as we become willing to share our selves with one another, imperfect and vulnerable and US!, we grow stronger together. And we might share a good laugh with one another as well.

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