originality. authenticity. and…
A couple of years ago a good friend shared his mantra: original and authentic. He uses the two concepts like an internal compass to help stay on his path. For him, original means finding what he truly values in life by not going with the crowd. Being authentic means staying true to those values even when it might be convenient to do something else.
I’ve adopted my friend’s ideals. In the process of incorporating them into my own approach, I’ve noticed that another ingredient was necessary. We all have had experiences which seem destined to knock us down, to make us feel sad, stupid and hopeless. Hearing the doctor tell me I had cancer two years ago threw me into a storm where suddenly I could only see my end. My divorce and the succeeding years of conflict with my ex along with the difficulties of my daughters, particularly my oldest, have affected me deeply.
The missing ingredient was resilience. Resilience teaches us to bend but not break when life fails to meet our expectations. We can endure the bad times as if we are walking against a cyclone. We can notice when things cause us misery and doubt. But we keep walking into the wind. And then a funny thing happens: the wind stops and the sadness, despair and hopelessness are replaced by joy, love, wonder. That is resilience.
When I started to write, I used the metaphor of a blue couch. I got the idea from a Kleenex commercial sometime around 2007 that depicted an average-looking guy on different busy city sidewalks having conversations with complete strangers while they sat on this simple blue couch. In the commercial, each person shared their very personal stories. In fact, these people poured their hearts out to this absolute stranger and did it willingly. It made me wonder if many of us have stories we’d love to get out but don’t because, well, it would just be awkward.
Here’s the post that describes how I came up with the blue couch: http://christianrward.com/2012/03/22/the-exact-moment-of-inspiration/
Though I aspire to be more, I also am a relentless learner, a reactionary, and a writing junkie. I spend too much time in my head. I’m fascinated by “the adjacent possible,” the potential of life represented by the doors you can’t see until you step through the one right in front of you.
As Anne Lamott said in her amazing book on writing Bird by Bird: “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again.”
I’ve had the feeling for many years that my experiences are not all that different than the rest of the world, save for particular details. We all fail. We all disappoint. And, yet, we all succeed. We laugh and we occasionally find love. I want to take Lamott’s cue and try to laugh at myself a little while also deepening and expanding my sense of life. That is what I write about here.
Thanks for reading. And if you ever want to sit down for coffee and talk about your life, I’d love to be the guy in the Kleenex commercial.