“She is learning now what it took me years to understand: that there is always a cost, that the past can be transformed but not discarded.
“Yet desire creates itself from nothing, out of air. Seeking, we cast a light and the shadows rise up around us, flickering, elusive, and yet with cores as round and as powerful as iron bars. What we long for defines us, finally. We are caged by our… own desires. Until, yearning, we cast our lamps into the black and invisible sand, we open our arms, embracing loss, and never, and we give ourselves over to that night.”
~ Kim Edwards, Thirst
I chose to go as a mermaid for Halloween this year.
The short story Thirst has always struck a chord in me. It makes me think about what I want and how I live.
Sometimes we look at our lives—our fears and desires—and dive deeper. Not because we are unafraid, but because we know it is necessary to living in our authenticity. We choose to dive deeper into ourselves and bravely face what we may find there, because we don’t want a shallow kind of life.
My ongoing challenge is continuing to open myself up to a wide spectrum of feelings, rather than shutting down when I face a difficult one. For instance, I find it challenging to form attachments to others. Or I should say that I find it easy yet painful to form those attachments.
My past experience has created a belief system that delivers a one-two punch: If I care for someone, he/she will hurt me. At the moment I realize I’m attaching, I feel deep physical and emotional pain. My challenge has been to stay with that pain—to sit and hold its hand until it passes. I dive deeper, not because I enjoy the experience. I hate it. I dive deeper because I desperately want to get to the other side of that experience and feel joy when I care about someone. I will never get to that place if I can’t first sit inside of that pain and figure it out.
That’s the thing about change: there’s no shortcut.
We can’t avoid pain just because we deny it. In fact, the only way through is actually through. We have to dive in and allow ourselves to feel whatever it is that we’re feeling—without trying to lie to ourselves or look good to others. If we’re going to be authentic, we have to let go of the bullsh*t. We have to stop trying to make our lives look perfect, pretending we’re fine when we’re not.
I work with some amazing people. I had a difficult month where I felt like I was being hit with more sh*t than I could take, and a few days I sat at my desk and leaked tears. I silently cried while I worked, and my coworkers just let me be. Sure, a few of them checked in to see if I was alright or needed any help—and then they gave me space just to feel what I was feeling and get through it. I didn’t feel judged that I was crying at work.
Being strong was so much of a burden that I just couldn’t hold everything in, and I was given the space to do that. I still got sh*t done at work, and I still took care of my kids. I was running my life like a boss, but I was also allowing myself to feel all the things that I felt.
That’s what authenticity is about. We stop trying to prove a point or look like we’re living our lives a certain way. It’s about taking off all of our masks and saying, This is where I am. This is real.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I respect the hell out of people who live like that. Don’t tell me that your house is always clean and your kids are always well-behaved. Don’t tell me that you recreated the perfect Pinterest project, contoured your makeup, baked a cake and still had time to run a marathon (all on the same day, of course).
During my marriage, I kept up a certain life online, because I didn’t know how to say that I was so disappointed in how things had turned out for me. Or that I was miserably lonely and thought that maybe I always would be.
I didn’t know how to say any of that, so I didn’t say anything at all.
A whole part of my life was absent, because I didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t tear a hole in the fabric of the lies I had wrapped around myself.
When we get tired of those masks and pretensions, we begin to gather our courage to dive deeper into our own lives to create change. We begin to choose growth and cast aside all the illusions we’ve built. We begin to say how we really feel and accept that it’s okay that we don’t always feel good. And, strangely, we feel good more often once we stop trying to pretend that we never feel bad.
It’s amazing how doors begin to open when we stop trying to hide so much of ourselves from the world! Instead of trying to please a few difficult people, we learn to please ourselves—by being real. And we often find that people do respect that, and it gives them courage to find their own core of authenticity. There’s a chain reaction.
Maybe we’re still afraid. Maybe we’re scared as hell nine times out of 10, but we’re still going to dive. We know we’ll never get what we want until we move forward.
So we push ourselves. We dive deep. We feel everything that we denied and tried to hide rise to the surface. It’s not dragging us down, but lifting us up.
We’re real now, and we don’t ever want to go back to living a surface sort of life.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Toby Israel