Getting real

Must Be This Real to Ride.

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The writing bug gripped me from a young age and has held me for as long as I can remember. From teenage noshing on cheesy romance novels to short-lived, misguided and inept attempts of poetry; and even self-aggrandizing dreams of changing the world through my righteous opinions. The drive for the pen was strong. Politics, relationships, racial controversy, and even theology swirled through my mind as potential avenues of creative expression. The last strikes me as uproariously ridiculous in retrospect, but is tempered with an exhale of relief that I never waded into that baptismal pool.

Life, if we’re paying attention, clears a path for us. We learn, grow older, and hopefully, eventually, learn who we really are. We also learn what we are not, our strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. These lessons are often only learned with the passing of time. Acknowledging the reality of our warts and weaknesses, challenges and triumphs along the hills and valleys of our life opens us up to the real.

Real is sorely lacking in this current culture because authenticity doesn’t always make us feel good. Reality often hurts our feelings, and hurt feelings –whether our own or those around us- are something we avoid at all costs. The cost of this concession however, is high, and it’s a price I am no longer willing to pay. Real is worth the painful truth. It’s priceless.

The beauty of life lived in the real is that it is both painful and joy-filled. We celebrate and mourn. We laugh and we cry. We sometimes get it just right, then our egos are checked after we bungle it. (Insert well-worn clichés about journeys and destinations here, because here they actually apply). If even half of us who used those clichés believed them, the world would be filled with more content people.

Instead, we live in a sphere which discourages inclinations to acknowledge one’s weakness or frailty. One where failure to make it to the top of the mountain is accompanied by shame, producing an entire generation of perpetual mountain climbers, posting cropped images of their fake arrival at the pinnacle on social media rather than blooming where they’re planted.  Blooming means having to hang up the harness and accept camping near the middle of the mountain. Or worse, admitting that we have to settle at its base.

What is a ridiculous way to approach life! But sadly, small dreams coming true are discounted count these days. There’s nothing people seem to fear today more than being ordinary, a face in the crowd, just another average Jane. So we’re surrounded by caricatures masquerading as real. Sometimes the caricatures are us. People convincing themselves and others that the caricature of awesomeness is something other than a fun house mirror image.

Not all the fake images are of perfection, however. Some prefer caricatures of misery. To be extraordinarily miserable is at least to be in some way extraordinary, so many embrace that. To win this contest, the weak show themselves spectacularly weak, broadcasting their struggles for the world to see; the Oppression Olympics as it were. This earns verbal accolades of bravery providing the sympathy which fuels another day and a crutch to get over the rough patches in life. It draws the attention and assistance of the strong.

Most everyone is playing the game while secretly and quietly hungering for something real. Real love, real friends, real life. It’s hard to find because –despite all the poetic waxing about authenticity- reality isn’t sexy. Reality doesn’t keep the propaganda machine going,

If we embraced reality en masse, we’d handicap the consumer juggernaut which keeps us spending ever more to prop up who we wish we were rather than who we really are.

I’m a cog in the machine as well. I won’t pretend otherwise. Nevertheless, my taste for reality has grown into a ravenous hunger, and I’m undertaking this journey in the hope that I’m not alone. What that looks like is what I hope to work out here, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it unfolds.

If you happen to stumble upon me as I grope around in this murky, foggy atmosphere, welcome. Whether this turns out to be a dud or one wild ride, I welcome all fellow travelers.

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