Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Raging Storm of Calm

Authentic. It's so overused that it has all but lost its meaning. What does being authentic mean to you? Is it being fully seen by another? Complete honesty? Is it letting it all hang out, no matter what?

I'm all about the honesty factor. Since my children were old enough to comprehend language they've known that they would never, ever get in as much trouble for something they did as they would for lying to me about it. Lying by omission? Same thing. Make it a habit, and unless you came out of my body, you're out of my life.

Being fully seen by another person is a beautiful thing. It's the most reassuring feeling in the world to know that someone's love does not hinge on false perceptions of perfection; that you can be human, and weak, and have annoying habits and still have a soft place to land is a kind of safety and gift that defies words.

And that's where the authenticity line is drawn for me. Because sometimes being fully authentic is a piss poor choice. Honesty is important, but saying what you're thinking is different than acting out your every emotion. Acting them all out is infantile at best and can be dangerous and destructive at its worst.

The last time I had a physical altercation with someone, I was fifteen years old. My children have never been beaten. When they were little and my authentic reaction would have been to spank the shit out of them, I put myself in timeout and told them honestly why I was doing it. They got it. They knew what it felt like to have an out of control temper. My oldest daughter has lived with me, day in and day out, for eighteen full years and claims that I have the patience of a saint. I don't call them names or throw things, and I think I've yelled approximately three times in the past year or two. Had my behaviors always been true to my emotions, this would not be the case.

I don't have the patience of a saint. Not even close. Somewhere along the line, I just realized that feeling something and doing something are two different things and while I had zero say in the things that brought that rage to life, I damn well had the ability and responsibility to learn how to deal with keeping it at bay.

Therapists can be a handy thing for a time, but in the end it boils down to you. And honestly, how many times can you talk about your mother or what happened when you were six before it starts making you more crazy instead of less? For goodness sake. Do it or don't do it. Let it all hang out or act like a decent human being. When it comes to anger and rage, my opinions are strong. Fuck authenticity. Keep that shit on a leash.

When I was younger, I had a lot of people warn me that not allowing my rage to come up and out would eventually cause it to grow and grow until it would come out in some sort of violent explosion or eat me alive. Know what? It didn't. The wildest thing happened. Not feeding it made it weaker. Learning to work with it without pulling other people into my internal shitstorm made me stronger.

I have kids who have zero fear of their mother, and a lot of strong, healthy relationships. When a relationship isn't healthy and shows no sign of changing dramatically any time soon, I let go of it, both for myself and for the other person. And while there was a time twenty plus years ago when the smallest thing could send me into a tailspin of fury, now the feeling of anger, let alone rage, is a rare event. When it does pop up, I know what to do with it, and it's anything but authentic.

I still put myself in timeout. I just call it meditation now. I'll take the calm of practice and self-control over the raging storm of my authenticity any day. I'd rather keep it under control than keep it real.

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