Authenticity

For some time now, I have been sharing my thoughts, my experiences, and my music on one form of social media or another.  Although it might appear to be some sort of an ego trip on my part, it wasn’t the original reason for all this personal transparency.  The real reason was to fight my dragon…the dragon named I Worry Too Much What People Think About Me, What I Say, What I Do.  Trust me on this one, if you really want to face that dragon go ahead and write a song and then sing it and then share it.

I wasn’t naturally born with this dragon. He was a gift from many including my formal education, a Hell-bent form of Christianity combined with the acceptable forms of punishment for wayward children of my day, and the social anxieties of those who loved me most. And yes, I have been kind enough to pass my own anxieties onto my children – who now get to deal with that.

As a child I loved music and I loved creating stories and I enjoyed making others laugh. Like most developing comedians, I would occasionally violate acceptable norms and I soon came to believe that made me a bad person. “You crossed the line!” Without any musical training, I eventually feared the opinions of the “experts” and I abandoned music. Creating compelling stories required an authenticity that I wasn’t willing to become vulnerable enough to do.  Slowly, I drifted away and for the most part my culture supported the movement away from my-self.  Many others also joined me abandoning their-self.

Justification for carrying the dragon around was easily supported by the demands of ‘making it’ as a young adult. Supporting a young family, carving out a place in the world, thinking quickly to meet unexpected challenges, developing a persona of strength, self and capabilities, appearing self-reliant, this and much more can take up every moment of your time and leave nothing for self-awareness.

Thank God for death. Without it, I never would have been motivated to really examine my life. As I got older, I began to realize that time was not on my side. I could either continue to carry the dragon with the long name until my final breath or I could lay him down (I use the male pronoun on purpose) and try to rediscover what I left behind.

I am currently reading a book from the 1950’s by Paul Tillich . It is called the Courage to Be. It ain’t a simple read, but worth the effort. Saturday morning, I ran across a line in the book that hit me hard, simultaneously, in my heart and my head, as Tillich examined the historical concept of courage …“in their place appear the bearers of enlightened reason and technically organized and directed masses.”  Indeed, in nearly every aspect of my life I have been technically organized and directed in a mass. There was no room for authenticity. This is not easy to accept about one-self.  Only the brave ones tried, and many did not make it.

Of course, the dragon is never very far behind and often I feel quite comfortable with him. However, I have found encouragement and inspiration from the very places that I chose to practice sharing the outcomes of my authenticity.  From listening to others’ songs, reading others’ stories, and looking at others’ photos and paintings, I am inspired by their courage to be.  Sometimes I will watch my family sit around the table as they make original earrings from leather and copper and wood and I can see that they are sharing something deeply true about their-self. It inspires me to be.

So to all of you who read what I write or listen to what I sing – Heartfelt gratitude. To all of you who have the courage to be, I admire you deeply. And, to the beautiful women who occasionally gather around the table making earrings, or whatever they feel like at the moment, You are an inspiration.

(As I wrote this blog, I realized that I have written two songs about dragons.)