By Dana Gornall
Sitting on the carpet covered concrete steps of an enclosed porch to my house, this word is rolling around in my head.
Coffee in hand, I sit and think with my dog at my right, nudging under my elbow with his nose for a bit of attention and panting with a hot breath. A dull thud of a headache is still reverberating in my skull, leftover from a restless night, I sip at my cup and stare out the screened-in windows.
I’ve found myself in this pause lately—this unthinking thinking state. It seems so much anymore I feel bombarded with messages, directly and indirectly.
Be this. Be that.
Eat this. Don’t eat that.
Like this page. Read that book.
Don’t drink coffee. Wait, coffee is good for you.
Take up running. Don’t take up running.
Be more organized. Relax, and go with the flow.
Be better. Don’t try so hard.
Taking another sip from my now, room temperature coffee, I’m lost in these scattered thoughts of the meaning of authenticity.
Looking back, I have always been aiming toward something I wasn’t—either because I didn’t want to be who I was or because I thought something else was better.
As a young girl I was fascinated by superheroes—especially the female ones. Wonder Woman was my idyllic heroine. Strong, smart and beautiful, yet kind and compassionate too, I wanted to be her so much that it physically hurt.
I collected everything Wonder Woman for awhile—her comic books, the doll, the costume, the record (yes, there was a record) and anything remotely related including Wonder Girl. I dreamed about growing up and really becoming her, or at least anything that was close to her.
This pattern played out again and again with other people I wanted to be. I thought Laura Ingalls Wilder was amazing and fantasized about living on a prairie. Harriet the Spy was incredibly cool, and for a few solid few days I carried around a notebook recording everything I saw happening around the neighborhood (it became boring really quickly since I grew up on a dead end street with nothing going on).
Regardless of who it was or how I stumbled on the next favorite heroine (whether fictitious or real) being someone else—someone better—was all that mattered. It was fairly easy to change my identity. Short auburn hair could become long and blonde, glasses could give way to contact lenses, words and thoughts could be stifled so as not to stick out or be different. With a few small changes, I could be almost anyone, or so it might seem.
This may appear an odd thing to admit to most—this quest to be something I was not—but aren’t we all (or at least many of us) trying to connect with an identity?
Having the perfect home, the perfect clothes, the perfect Facebook profile seems to secure a stake at garnering a more idyllic life. If we read the right books or post the right pictures and statuses, we can shape this body of flesh and mind into what we want to be, right?
I can tell you all of my hopes and dreams and fears. I can write about all of my secrets. I can tell the world I worry that no matter how hard I try I will never be enough or that I have spent most of my life paving a path toward what I thought I wanted only to find that when I got there it wasn’t what I expected (or wanted).
But that wouldn’t really help, now would it?
Time after time and day after day it seems the things I held to be true are breaking open to show utter and complete falsehood.
Ideas and statements once written deeply in stone are nothing anymore. I can fill this post up with metaphor and pretty wishes, rainbows and unicorns, happiness and joy, but will that be reality? I can talk about being in dark places and spaces and babble on about feeling like I am in a deep hole, but will that change anything?
Where do the lines begin and end?
My coffee cup is empty now. The remnants slide back and forth along the bottom of the cup as I tip it this way and that and yet I am still unsettled with my thoughts.
What does it mean to be authentic?
Time after time this theme plays out in mythology and literature—this finding out the truth of ourselves. We have Persephone and Hades, Alice in Wonderland, and Dorothy Gale finding that the great and powerful Oz in nothing more than a small, old man hiding behind a half-drawn curtain.
So in my yearning to strip back all of the superficiality, the parading about of opinions and ideas, the deceptive falsehood of the things that are portrayed out there but hold no basis in reality, I find myself at a crossroads.
Where do I go from here? How do I start pulling off all of the pinnings of people and things and let the light shine out from underneath—all of it, both good and bad. How do I even begin to start?
Standing up, empty coffee cup in hand I walk in the kitchen and look around.
For now, I guess it just starts with doing the dishes.
“Home is a place we all must find, child. Its not a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we are always home anywhere.” ~ Glinda the Good Witch, Wizard of Oz
Editor: Ty H Phillips