I have been thinking a lot about what it means for me to be real. You know- authentic, original and down to earth.
The difficult part is accepting this change and just going with it. So much about who I am (both physically and not) has metamorphosed (yes, that is a word!) as I have grown up. Getting married. Having children. Working. Developing hobbies and habits. Growing spiritually. These are all great things. They build my character. No, wait. The way I deal with these changes builds my character. And my character, I believe, is what makes me Real.
Quite a few years ago, a very good friend of mine introduced me to a story called The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams (you can read it here)
In it there is an exchange of dialogue that I have come to base a lot of who I want to be on. My own personal mantra of being Real is important to me. I reflect on this again and again, and when I am feeling down-trodden, depressed, ugly or if things are changing that I am not ready for, I can read this part of the story and remember that to be Real takes time and is not for the faint of heart. I remember that I don’t have to kept carefully, nor do I want to be.
The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
“I suppose you are real?” said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive.
But the Skin Horse only smiled.
I really, really like that.
Another way I have learned to be real is by being alone.
I am most like WHO I AM when nobody is looking. I question myself quite often when I am alone (which really is not too often these days).
Is this who I want to be?
My own journey of accepting my changing self and being true to my personal mantra of being Real will never end. And I’m glad because the world needs more Realness in it.
What is Real to you?