What does it mean to be truly authentic?  Authenticity is one of my key values, and I’ll tell you why.  I grew up in a family that hid from the truth, to the extreme.  I’m not sure if my Mom even recognized fact from fiction by the time she passed away at 59.  We had BIG secrets throughout my childhood that still haunt me to this day.  So, needless to say, it has always been really important to me to be “real.”  But last week when my teenager said, “how honest do you want me to be?”  I came face-to-face with a moral dilemma.  Ignorance is a blissfully safe place from which to operate.  I rather like the peaceful flow of living in a reality of my own making…where everyone is exactly the way they pretend to be.  And besides, I have done quite a lot recently in terms of blowing up old relationship structures that aren’t working for me, thank you very much.  So I took a breath and felt fear grip my belly and in that briefest moment I wondered how honest I really did want him to be.  What I chose was to let go of pretense, expectations, or what I thought I was supposed to say or do.  Instead I connected with what was present in that moment and I’d like to believe that something new was born out of that authentic conversation.

How do I stop playing it safe and take the risk that goes with having those authentic conversations?  I recently took a step in that direction with one of my closest friends.  Today I question the wisdom of that decision…authenticity is not a panacea.  In being totally vulnerable, I opened up the possibility of a different relationship and sadly rather than moving closer I may have moved us further apart.  This raises the question, can one be too authentic?  Is the truth sometimes just more than people want to hear?  Authentic conversations take us away from the smooth surface and plunge us into dark murky waters of unpredictability.

With my teenager, the question becomes what kind of relationship do I want to have with him in the last few years he’s at home?  Should we operate like our military did for years with gays and lesbians, “Don’t ask, Don’t tell?”  Do we become polarized like the Republicans and Democrats?  Or do I aspire to have a different conversation than most parents are having, one that offers the possibility to influence his decisions in terms of safety, moderation, balance, and responsibility?  Generally speaking, how much do I really want to know about his life?  And how much do my friends want to know about mine?  How authentic do I want my relationships to be?

If I’m being totally honest with myself, I don’t know the answer to that question.  I am going to have to feel my way for a bit.  I know for sure though that my relationship with him is worth the risk.  And I am learning that things aren’t always what they seem, or what you hope, but they are what they are.

I also realized in the past few days there was a bit of an authentic conversation formula that seemed to work.  Play with it if you like, and give me your tips in terms of what works for you.

  • Let Go– of past expectations, beliefs, perceptions, and opinions of how it is supposed to be.
  • Connect– be present in the moment
  • Listen– with an open heart
  • Seek to understand– ask questions from a place of genuine curiosity
  • Show Compassion– and Empathy
  • Check in– with yourself and communicate your truth and needs with respect

Waking Up on the Same Side of the Bed

My husband and I had an interesting conversation the other night.  We were getting ready for bed, and I mentioned how curious it is that we are stuck in a pattern related to our bed.  I don’t mean anything risqué by this comment.  I mean that over the course of the last twenty-five years, I crawl into bed on the left side and he crawls in to bed on the right.  We don’t talk about it.  We don’t think about it.  That’s just how we roll. Now there is nothing wrong with that, but it is interesting that at some point we claimed our space and now we repeat a ritual night after night without giving it another thought.  Until we did.

As he and I have gotten older, we both have problems sleeping soundly through the night.  I got to wondering, what if shaking things up by switching up the way we always do things makes a difference.  I mean, who knows what might happen?  We agreed it might be fun to try it out and see what happens, and then we went to sleep, me on the left and him on the right.  That conversation took place several days ago and we have yet to change our pattern.

This whole idea of being stuck in a pattern is intriguing to me.  Especially the patterns that might be a bit destructive.  Example: we have a teenager at home.  There are times when he wants to assert his power and independence, which is exactly what he should be doing, but does it in a way that feels disrespectful.  I started to notice in myself a tendency to sometimes ignore the behavior.  Partly, because it is just not worth taking the time to remind him to watch his tone.  I even consciously decide to make light of it and not let his moody attitude impact my positive mood.  But last week I noticed that we had formed a pattern, where he thought it was okay to talk to me in a way that I could no longer tolerate. I realized I had to respond differently.  I did, and so did he.

Now I am watching for patterns everywhere.  Where else do I perpetuate what I don’t want, and yet haven’t been able to identify the cycle so I can shake things up?  I’m excited about the proposition of pushing where I was pulling, or just doing nothing at all.  I reminded my husband last night that I really want to wake up soon on the wrong side of the bed.  I hope everyone around me is going to have as much fun poking at this as I am!