Friday, March 22, 2013

Choosing to be Authentically Me

“I read your blog. I loved it. It felt so real; so authentic. You talk about the things that all of us experience and yet no one really says out loud. It’s wonderful.”

My new friend Jemma and I were sitting at a restaurant on Boca Brava Island, on Panama’s Pacific coast. We were eating yucca fries and drinking fresh tropical juices. As it always does, it made me incredibly happy to hear that someone had read my blog and enjoyed it; even more so that it sounded authentic, because that has recently been an important part of what I write here: that it presents me: the truly, deeply, unequivocally human Morgan.

I thanked her, and I told her something that I have felt hesitant to share, and yet have been telling people anyway, as if my mouth has attached itself to my heart instead of my head.

“I’ve been writing my book as fiction, but the truth is it’s going to be based on my life, whether I present it as fiction or not. It’s starting to feel important to me that I write and present it exactly as it is: my life and experiences, as I have understood them.”

Of course, she said. Not as simply as that, but that is what I heard, and what surfaced in my mind as I explained to her. Of course it has to be a memoir. Of course the only way I can even pretend to live authentically is to present my story authentically. Of course.

As I step further onto the path I have sought for myself, the easier it seems to be to consider this possibility. The more space and time I have to think about what I want and need, the more it becomes clear that my need is to tell my story: all parts of it, the joys and sorrows; the large and small everyday miracles; the pain, anger and betrayal; the realizations that came along with each of these emotions, and the eventual ability to let them go.

This realization could not have come without my final decision to stop worrying about what people think, because that is the only thing that has stopped me from writing this book already: how others will react to what I have to say, about myself, and about them as part of my story.

I am less worried about what others would say about me, because it is my story. I can take responsibility and appreciate that not everyone is going to agree with what I say; what I have learned; what I need for myself to feel fulfilled and joyous in my existence. I have learned that the hard way, and I am not letting go of the lesson.

What worries me more is something I have only imagined I have any control over: how others will interpret what I have to say about them as part of my story.

I have often wondered at the courage that Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) and now Cheryl Strayed (Wild) exhibited by writing such raw accounts of their lives in their books. To me, it seems that they were able to discuss their relationships and interactions in a way that made it clear that they valued and honored the people in their lives, even when the lessons they learned from them were hard ones; even when heartbreak was the result. I’m not sure how those actual people feel about what was written about them, and yet I find myself compelled to try for the same idea: to present the things I have learned from people without laying blame at their feet.

This is important for two reasons. One – and most important – because I don’t blame anyone for what has happened to me anymore. That would make me a victim, and I am tired of giving away my happiness and power to others by making them the reason for my actions. Two, I have realized that every single person in my life has been put there to teach me something. Often it was not the lesson I wanted to learn, and rarely was it the way I wanted to learn it, but all in all I have come to the point where I realize that I can take what I have given and use it to make my life what I want it to be, or I can hold the pieces up as excuses for why I’m not somewhere else. I feel more empowered by the first option: it allows me to take responsibility for myself and own who and where I am today.

I have to let go, invisible audience. I could write the most loving, amazing account of someone and they could be insulted; I could rip the same person apart and find that they thrive on the attention. I can’t control that. All I can really control is myself. I can only hope that my humanness will come across in my writing in a way that will show I am not out to hurt anyone; that being included in my story at all means that you have made a deep and lasting impact on me that I found worthy of sharing. I have to remember that it is my story, after all, and I have a right to tell it.

I have decided to write authentically, in first person, telling my life as my own, and I have to trust that if I do it from the heart, from a place of love instead of a place of revenge or victimization, the people that it is supposed to touch will be touched. As much as I wish I could keep anyone else from reading it, anyone who would not understand, there is only one way to do so: to not write it at all.

In my search for authenticity, there is no room for that kind of silence.

Love and authentic kisses