Two things happened a couple of weeks ago. Willie Nelson turned 90 and my aunt gave me some digitized photos and 8 mm films from my childhood.
These events were unrelated in all ways except for this: they have converged in my mind as reminders to live my truth. Watching myself in the old films is surreal. I see a little body I know is mine experiencing life, yet I have absolutely no memory of the experiences. Was the me then in any way similar to the me now or to all the me’s in between? Which me is the true me?
The answer, of course, is all of them. Yet, I’ve spent lots of me time not living as my truest self. That is to say, I’ve often lived in a way that felt culturally sanctioned, and much of that time not realizing I wasn’t being true to myself. Even when I knew what was true for me, I didn’t always express it. It’s still a growth edge for me.
The tiny me on the right in the photo was carefree. Note the unabashed licking of icing off my fingers while my cousin, Cheryl, appropriately eats with her spoon. There is no 8mm film evidence of this, but I have a memory of myself at about age four lifting my dress over my head while I was modeling in a mall fashion show. I’m guessing I said exactly what was on my little kid mind in those days because I remember getting scolded at least once for being sassy. Over the years, though, I reigned myself in, said things and did things to fit in. Blended into cultural norms to feel a sense of belonging. Often at the expense of my truest, most free self.
Willie, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have been burdened with this, but that’s probably only partly accurate. Obviously, I have no idea. But if you’ve ever seen or read an interview with him, and he’s asked about some of the crazy things he’s done, he sort of shrugs and chuckles, providing no explanation or excuse.
And in a recent E! Insider interview about his 90th birthday, he was asked what kind of person he wanted others to remember him to be. Here’s his answer: “Well, I believe in honesty. I believe in being truthful even when it hurts, and I think that’s a hard one for everybody to grasp. And that’s what I keep telling myself, ‘You’re lying, shut up and tell the truth.’”
Many of us are not as brave as Willie. I know I’m not, consistently anyway. It’s so easy to go along in life not speaking your truth or allowing yourself to be talked out of your truth by others who appear to be more confident in theirs.
It’s easy…until it’s not. Often something shifts and we are no longer willing to live in a way that is not fully supportive of ourselves. That can surprise people in our lives who are used to us behaving a certain way. Often that way includes putting other people’s needs ahead of our own to our detriment and keeping our mouth shut about it. So of course, they are startled when our mouth opens!
A smoother transition might include learning what we need in order to be our fullest selves and mustering the courage to express it. This requires learning how to spend time in stillness so we can hear our higher-self whispering to us. Or our child-self. It also involves being in touch with our body and listening to it rather than trying to control it.
It is imperative to remember that we cannot be authentically present for others if we are denying our own needs. And if we don’t know what our needs are, how we can we expect anyone else to?
Seeing me as a little one and Willie’s big birthday also remind me of something else–the swiftness of a life. With the years passing so quickly, it seems crazy to spend even one minute not living in your truth, doesn’t it?
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