Welcome to a brand new year here at 52 Mondays! Another great big round of gratitude for all of you who have been on this journey with me during these three wonderful years, as well as to the many new friends and followers who have joined in along the way. I feel truly blessed to have such a supportive readership. As a writer, it’s a wish fulfilled.
So it’s a BIRTHDAY PARTY today! I love a good party and I really love a good piece of birthday cake. I am also very fond of blowing out those candles and making a wish so I am totally down with birthdays!
Wishes are truly magical things. I’ve been teaching art camp this summer and, last week, our big project was making Wish Flags—colorful, optimistic flags inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags which are made to be adorned with prayers that take flight on the wind and spread into the world where they touch the lives of others and spread their goodness. My students were between the ages of six and ten and, at that age, it’s initially difficult to move beyond wishes for money, beloved objects and, of course, those promising one hundred additional wishes. Of course, when I pressed them to think about the world outside of them selves, they did quite well, obediently rattling off altruistic things like “peace, kindness, being a good friend and taking care of the environment.” They get it. The kids are all right.
Over the weekend I returned to a place where I made my own wish a little over a year ago. Jeff and I visited my friends, Don and Johanna Cadoret—artist and teacher extraordinaire—who live near the waterfront in Tiverton, RI. On a chilly, blustery beach last April, Don relayed to me the lore of the striped rock which is said to have the power to grant a wish when found and tossed back into the ocean. On that chilly, blustery day in April I did, indeed, find a striped rock, make a wish and toss it into the ocean. I will admit it was a wish that was rather selfish and lacking in altruism but, damn, if it didn’t come true, thank you very much.
Before we packed up and left Rhode Island yesterday, I took a quiet morning run in Don and Johanna’s quaint, little neighborhood. I looked at the inlets full of boats and birds and I meditated on this birthday Monday of mine. I was thinking about what I would wish for as I blew out the candles today. Many things came into my mind, and I was grateful that most of them fit into the category of “More of the Same,” including things like health, love and happiness for me and the people in my life. It’s hard to argue with those kinds of wishes but I’m feeling like the up and coming theme of my life in this moment is spirit and, with this is mind, it occurred to me that the thing that I wish for most of all, the thing that takes an infinite amount of self-awareness and has an endless learning curve but is the thing that will put us in touch with the pulse of our own spirits is, very simply, the wish to live an authentic life.
What exactly is the authentic life? I pondered this question as I ran and what I came up with first is what I believe it is not. To me, the antithesis of authenticity boils down to two things: ego and fear.
When I think about the moments in which I am not my true self, my most authentic self, I realize that I am, instead, being driven by either my ego or fear. My ego likes to show up and play boss when I feel like I’m not getting what I deserve, when I feel unnecessarily competitive with others and when I suspect I’m not being heard or understood. Fear rears her head when I’m too afraid of having my heart broken by opening it, when I allow myself to be overwhelmed by the world outside of myself and when I am not believing in my own brilliance. But, when I am most my true and authentic self, I am not trying to impress or perform, I’m not doing something to fake someone out, and I am not making choices or changing my behavior because of fear. These are the moments when I can live and love in a truly authentic way. This feels true to me regardless of the circumstances—work, family or relationships.
I think it’s hard work being authentic. It’s simpler to fall back on our egos and our fears and, in some ways, there might be people in our lives who’d prefer we do just that because it makes them feel more comfortable, too. In many ways, inauthenticity is easier to predict and react to—others can react with their own egos and their own fears. But what if we could take on the challenge because authenticity could be a way to truly hit our own true stride, to be with our right people, to find our real place? What kinds of beautiful wishes would be coming true in our lives then?
Thank you for three amazing years, everyone. I hope that you will join me in one more.
TRY THIS WEEK: Imagine what it would it feel like to live your authentic life and what that might look like.