Tag Archives | empowerment

These Babies are Real: The Beauty of Authenticity

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(Photo: Courtesy of Stock.xchng)

While in the midst of my most confusing, turbulent years, a relative casually commented about girls with implants, saying, “I’d rather have fake pretty over real ugly any day.”  The word play sounded convincing, but at the heart of it was the sad sign of the times, where the core message falls into the bloated “WTF” category.

That comment may be an extreme expression of the sentiment, but it was brutally honest about a viewpoint that manifests itself in many areas of our society.   I have a close friend who feels the need to “keep up” with her image to the world, and she has been on that treadmill for so long that she has become accustomed to it, and in her need to present “perfection,” any insinuation of human imperfection has her scurrying to try to validate against it.  It’s both sad and frustrating to witness.   A family member of mine has been in a series of relationships with people so disconnected from the truth of their own beings that any no real progress could take root, neither on personal nor relationship levels.  I see people putting humanity and/or positivity quotes (the “new cool”) all over Facebook, yet defining success as accumulation of material things, among other contradictions to their campaigns.

It seems that this B.S.itis stems from deep insecurities, which is rooted from the lack of understanding oneself.  When I wanted to start a serious blog, one that I could truly identify with and be able to consistently write about, I had no idea what I had to offer that could give value to others.  I was a Jane of All Trades and master of none, simply because my life routed me every which way, so I could not develop any socially marketable skills – I only knew how to survive, and I learned about the funny ways of the world, and the misconception of the misconception of bad people.  But mostly, what came naturally to me was my introspection, and through my “20 lost years,” this understanding deepened.  The one thing that I knew how to do was be real.  And I would learn that it was not a common ability.

I started off believing that I was doing the right thing, being genuine, kind, fair.  The ridiculousness of chance: me, being this kind of person surrounded by completely opposite types of people.  I stood my ground for a long time, but eventually, I started wondering if I was, in fact, wrong.  At one point, I even thought that I should try to be more superficial, care about amassing money, care about what people thought, because, after all, when you worry, you scurry, and maybe I needed to scurry to fit in, because then my life would be easier and happier, right?  Hypothesis FAIL.

The only thing I learned about that experiment was that such people lived a busy, frantic life. It was flashy and noisy, but without substantial joy.  It was distracting enough on the surface to ignore the loneliness deep inside, and you had to keep chasing the chaos so that you don’t ever have to face the truth of how void of meaning there was in this impressive commotion in which you’re partaking.  Although the power of introverts is coming into awareness, the perversion of extroversion is still society’s soup du jour.

All of this masking is really a disservice to us as a society, as well as individuals.  What kind of society do we have if we’re a network of weak links?  As individuals, how do you fix a problem if you are unaware of it, or if you hide it from others?  Imagine if people could come out and be honest about their true selves because they felt safe in the world they lived in.  If everyone in the world could feel unabridged safety, love, acceptance, there would be no need for validation through power as exhibited in its many morale-(and sometimes moral)-crumbling forms – we may have discovered the formula for world peace!

Well, that’s not a guarantee, but there would certainly be peace in the worlds of our individual lives.  And I would imagine that not many people would be opposed to that scenario.

Being authentic, simply put, is being honest, humble, vulnerable, and human in the most edifying, interconnecting way.  (Not to be confused with being an unapologetic jerk, although if true jerks took on this approach to authenticity by saying, “I’m an asshole, accept it,” they actually do us a service – who wouldn’t want such a fair warning?)

Most insecure, fearful people have been rubbed raw by hurts and disappointments, and so they wrap themselves in layer after layer of all kinds of numbing material, some harder than others, some pricklier than others, but all burying the truth.  It’s no way of living, for we born to be alive, and unless life’s hurdles shut us down, we desperately crave living in this state of convergence of who we really are and who we pretend to be:

(“Breaking Bad”: Walter White – “Alive” Scene)

Authenticity removes the muffling layers, catalyzing self discovery, enhancing life experiences, and teaching the world not only tolerance, but celebration of the individual.  I’ll take this real beauty any day.

Related: “Choosing the Red Pill”

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Choosing the Red Pill (Why Authenticity Matters)

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“The Matrix” (Scene: Red/Blue Pill)

“The Matrix” poses an interesting dilemma in the red/blue pill choice: Choose a fabricated reality that seems comfortable and safe, or choose to exit from the induced state and into true reality, which is dark and stark and full of extremely uncomfortable challenges.

When I first watched the movie, I thought, I don’t know if I could handle the truth.  If the dream feels completely real, what is wrong with staying in that world?  Isn’t achieving the feeling of happiness and security what it all comes down to anyways?

That was over a decade ago, and in that time, I’ve learned quite a bit about the virtues of being true to oneself and living a life honoring that truth.

Being transparent was never difficult for me, but I had an unfair advantage.  I grew up in a very sheltered home, and was fortunate to have had a loving upbringing where my brothers and I were well provided for and praised lavishly.  I didn’t have today’s cable TV, the internet, or even a social life to confuse my sense of self-worth.  All I knew how to do was be myself, to think and act naturally, comfortably, confidently and without apologies.

The problem was, after my family split apart following my brother’s death, and I had to wander into the great, wide world beyond Ronson Drive, I would learn that when people were nice, they didn’t always mean it, and my naivete and openness were either targeted by the predators of the world, or shunned by the unauthentic.

It took me a good decade of all kinds of heartaches from people I thought were friends, from “outlaws” I thought were family, and even from family that I thought were on my side.  I was forced to take the red pill, a sublingual that slowly but intensely absorbed into my system, and I saw all kinds of ugly.

The bad part was that the ugliness started to make me doubt myself.  Had I been doing it wrong all this time?  Why couldn’t I care to spackle myself up to fit in?  I was too skinny, too smiley, too energetic, too friendly; I spoke too freely about my past, too matter-of-factly about my faults, too enthusiastically about helping.  I couldn’t plan ahead or pack my schedule or join the PTA or keep my house clean or cook well.  I didn’t dress up, wear makeup, get my hair or nails did, care about shoes.  What the eff was wrong with me?

Turns out, nothing, except for my lack of understanding at the time that 1) I was not with the right company, and therefore 2) my gifts and strengths were not being honored, not even by myself.

I eventually learned how flat a perspective people’s judgments could be.  Some people would tell me that I was too sensitive; turns out, these people had upbringings where sharing, showing, or talking about feelings were discouraged.  Others have said things like, “You’re pretty. You should dress up more.”  What?!  This is as logical as telling someone that they’re ugly, so they should just quit trying.

But I bought into the propaganda, and after my third child, I found myself a bit delighted that, for the first time, I could not lose the extra 15 lbs.  I was not heavyset by any means, yet it was noticeable extra weight on me, and people would encourage it, practically high-fiving me on it, even though it made my knees ache and had me short of breath going up a few steps; the extra few pounds on me was not my natural and healthy weight.  But I finally felt accepted, maybe even loved.  So this was what peer pressure felt like.  And this unhealthy glee made me realize that I wanted to fit in, even against my own well-being.  A bit of self-loathing started creeping in at this point.

I started hating my nature of feeling so much, thinking so much, caring so damn much about people, principles, the “unbling.”  I did not fit in – I never quite did.  I felt like “Powder”: I saw things with such vividness and beauty and awe, and it took me a while to learn that many didn’t understand what I had inside, and distrusted, disliked, and in turn, disrespected me for it.  Real life was harsh and such a contrast to my authentic self, where people were as kind as they said and acted to my face, and it was particularly difficult to emotionally adjust to this clarified reality once the red pill took over, and there was no turning back.

I was so angry at the constant meanness and deceit that I started fantasizing about the “good ol’ days,” when I was blissfully ignorant and soft.  Why didn’t I take the blue pill, like all the rest?  They seemed unbothered by their own layers of fakery, sparkling in the New Cool of the day: piety, yoga spirituality, green and organics, “perfect” parenting, the feigning good will to mankind through positive quotes (some stolen and posted as if their own) on Facebook, and other audience-based indicators of their “integrity.”   How the frick could one tell who was authentic anymore?

One might argue that it doesn’t really matter, like Angelina Jolie’s potentially adopting of a myriad of kids to bury her unapologetic home-wrecker reputation – who cares – socially disadvantaged children around the world get a posh new life, and that’s all that matters, right?

Yes, and no.  Yes, these people who buy organics and boast positive quotes as a means to be praised, but then turn around and treat people with saccharin smiles and insincere words do help the small farmers and evoke chipper nods in the process, but in not confronting the truth and embracing who they want to be, not just who they want people to see, they limit the circumference of any positive rippling effect.  Not only that, but this insincerity waters down the potential potency and beauty of this new movement towards things worthy of adopting and universalizing.

When I got over my own shock and the gamut of emotions that came with such a rude awakening, I thought back to “The Matrix.”  In it, only a few people had come out into the real world.  There was so much to be done, and only a handful were in the wakened state that was required to make a change.  Imagine if everyone awoke out of the Matrix and worked together.

Imagine, now, if we all took the red pill of authenticity; even if the reality was ugly – so what?  Being authentic doesn’t make the reality uglier; it gives us, engineers of our lives, an accurate blueprint to begin the difficult, but worthy, task of healing, changing, building up.  And it is in this place of authenticity, of honesty and accuracy, where everything we do becomes tangible, and where our greatest, brightest dreams become truth.

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Guilt to the Gallows

Gallows2“For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,

Dies in his own too-much.” – Shakespeare (Hamlet)

Guilt is like power: always in the wrong hands, and rarely used with proper moderation or purpose.  Like anger and sadness, guilt has purpose: to guide us and grow us, but anything more than a pinch in the mix can take over the composition of our lives.  Stereotyping truthfully here: Being a girl, being asian, and being Catholic growing up really gave me a triple propensity for feeling guilt. Extreme guilt.  I’ve come to realize that a large portion of my painful experiences in life were attached to some form of it:

– guilt about my brother Dedrick’s death, that maybe my family was too close and so we had to be punished somehow.  This  also led to –

–  guilt for getting pregnant at 19 with an uneducated, illegal alien, and trying to rectify the pain and shame I caused my parents from it by sticking it out with him, even though I was miserable, in hopes that it would turn around and ease my parents’ sorrows

– guilt over the terrible “choice” I’d made to give my sweet, innocent children such an unworthy man to represent as their father

– guilt that I didn’t become the accomplished person that everyone expected of me before Dedrick died

– guilt that I could not save my parents’ marriage after Dedrick’s death

– guilt that I could not save my surviving brother from living in the streets and in gangs to survive

– guilt that I could not keep my children from going through the pain they had to process growing up

– guilt that I could not help my mother, who mentally went wayward and made poor choices therefrom, so I had to cut her out of my life (and guilt from that)

– guilt that I could not provide a comfortable old age for my father, who, in his 70s, after having survived a back riddled with bullets from the Vietnam war; after starting over in a foreign country; after having put in much sweat equity without a single complaint, having built a good life for his family, only to have one son killed, another lost to the streets, and his daughter penned up in an abusive relationship; after all of that, still does heavy manual construction  labor to care for himself

– guilt that all of these things were because I allowed myself to fall into an imprisoning relationship, and that if I hadn’t, I could have been there to save my family.

These are just a few things that I burdened myself with guilt over (the comprehensive list is staggering – I see them floating in the peripheral).  But I don’t know if I could have avoided it – I was a very compassionate person who took ownership of my actions and mistakes, and always wanted to be sure everyone was okay, even above my own well-being.  It was easy for me to accept the guilt that bad things were of my doing, rather than hurt others with accusations.

And in the aftermath of a tragedy that made no sense and rendered my family hopeless, powerless, guilt persuaded, “If you’re to blame, then you can just change, and then these bad things won’t happen anymore.” So I carried that philosophy into my relationship at the time, striking down every instance of my screaming intuition in favor of accepting every cruel thing that Adalberto (his real name; may the truth of him be billboarded to save others) would do/say to me, including that I was a terrible person, and that God punished me for it by killing my brother.  For anybody, that is hurtful, but for a young girl who had recently lost her brother, her loving family, her friends, youth, and dreams; who was so naive that she didn’t understand about stalking or sociopaths, never dated, barely knew about sex; who was isolated from the world to make babies so a manipulative man could have permanent legal rights to stay in her country and continue to torment her; who didn’t even have internet at that time to learn all the things she needed to know in her situation, such a comment was brutal.

The funny thing about guilt, even when you can mentally process the logic of the reality to not be as guilt suggests, it seeps deep down through layers of your being.  I hated the man for his cruelty, and knew he was wrong, yet the guilt stained and stung and would not let me ignore.

But there is a grace to this part of my story.  My son, one of the things that that man hoped to chain me to him, at only 4 looked up at me in one of my crying bouts and said, “Why don’t we just leave him?”  In that instant, the tremendous burden of being obligated to stay was lifted, and soon after, my plans to escape would form and come to fruition.

I would be struggling with great guilt for another decade or so, with different people and arenas.  I had family members telling me daily that I was going to hell for not staying with my abuser.  When I stopped working full-time because my little one had febrile seizures, I had people who didn’t even have children tell me that I should be working, that I was lazy and selfish.  I had always given people compassion and understanding, a shoulder, a hand, and a dollar whenever I could, but they didn’t return even the courtesy of the benefit of the doubt.   The world was so full of confused people saying and doing unkind things, and I was told to constantly forgive and have compassion or that I was not really a good person.  I became so angry that I started feeling guilty that I was ever so nice to so many thoughtless people in the first place!  Imagine that – any excuse to feel guilty!

I had a monumental shift in my guilty tendencies when I finally had to evict own mother from my home.  That is a whole other story.  But let me tell you, once you’ve mustered enough courage to take your mother to court, game over for future oppressors.  It took a LOT for me to get to that point.  And it was one of the best things I ever did for myself.

It taught me that guilt, for the most part, was an useless emotion.  Once I got that, I was free, happy, and at peace for the first time in decades.  From this place, I have become more capable of helping others, as well, starting with my own children.

I think I am still quite accommodating, and kind (my heart feels steadily warm and full), and actually more patient than ever.  But if I don’t like someone, I’m okay with that.  If something pisses me off, I remind myself to trust my instincts and allow the process.  And, as you may have read, if I don’t feel like forgiving, I won’t guilt myself into it.  Not anymore.

Guilt is not completely out of my system.  It still pokes its head in the door every so often and says, “now?” and I have to shake my head no, and then it leaves.  Sometimes I’ll entertain it by asking it what it wants, and it tells me.  I can sympathize with it – or not.  Guilt and I rarely see each other, but I know it’s there, and it knows who the boss is.  It is no longer the grossly inflated monster that thought and directed my life for me; that one, I’ve offed with its head.

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