And despite the reservations about the word itself, the concept seems to be something many can relate to, particularly in regards to friendship. As K.Line (who says she "call[s] it realness") comments, "it's the thing I value most about my friendships." I love her qualifier -- "everyone's authenticity is unique" -- and even more, her insistence that despite the different ways authenticity manifests, "you know it when you see it."
The entire thread is worth reading, I think. So many rich comments.
And some of those comments lead right into what I'd promised to talk about in a second post on the topic of Authenticity at a Certain Age (that second post being this one, right here, right now ;-) Comments such as Lisa's, for example, when she speaks about "relationships across generations", saying that when her "mother and stepfather first started really ailing, I realized I wanted to make all all my relationships more authentic now, because otherwise I would have to use capacity to keep up a front in my old age and I didn't want to waste it on that. Second, it is now my priority to make my relationships with my children as authentic as possible, because if I don't work to have them know me from an adult perspective it won't happen" . . . and (another) Frances's comment that as she thought about the authenticity she wanted in friendships, she questioned whether she was living up to that ideal herself.
Perhaps it's Suz's comment that best echoes the way that word "authentic" arose in the second conversation that struck me this past spring. Suz from Vancouver says that it's important we find time for ourselves so that our authentic selves can be revealed. It's this determination to be authentic that my friend Carol spoke of when we sat together over coffee back in March or so, even before I wrote here about her wonderful memoir of love and loss and grief. As you might have gathered from that post, I've never ever doubted Carol's authenticity, her willingness to be "real," to be as rigorous and honest in her thinking as a situation demands (her ability to discern a situation's demands is pretty stellar as well). I wasn't surprised, then, to hear her say that this authenticity is perhaps our most important task at this end of life, but I was a bit startled to have the word echoed so quickly after it had played a central part in my discussion with a friend just the day before.
As well, I suppose, given the work that Carol had already been doing in writing her memoir, I might be forgiven for taking her "authenticity" for granted, for assuming she didn't need to work at it. But as I continued to think about our conversation over the next few days, to wonder about why "that word" was cropping up, I thought of the many ways we are called to respond -- to people, to news, to retail advertising, to social media, to books, to film, etc. So many, many layers of stimuli, always and everywhere -- more, surely, than our hard-wiring was ever designed to cope with. Would it be surprising if our own values and preferences and goals and hopes got buried or compromised or forgotten? What does it mean to be authentic to ourselves? And how then does that authenticity play out in the world?
You can see my friend Carol working at that in her new blog. She doesn't hesitate to examine social and political issues, but she does this in her particular, erudite, very personal -- I don't think she'll mind my saying "idiosyncratic -- way.
And I'm trying to sort my own way to figuring out what's authentic to and for me. On this blog, yes, but also in my social relationships -- family and friends -- and in how I want to spend my time. What really matters to me now and how much of that am I going to be able to manage in the time I have left? How will I prioritize? Should I be saying "No" more often, or "Yes"? Do I really want to travel so much or am I being unduly influenced by a variety of factors? What do I most want to accomplish with my writing, and why, and for whom? How do I distinguish between the "shoulds" and the "musts," and then do I prioritize the latter or default to doing what I "should"?
Perhaps you can see why I've procrastinated for so long on this post -- far more questions than answers, my thinking still inchoate on the topic. But I have been trying to clear more time for noticing what I like, trying to leave more space for discernment. The morning pages help, as does walking and looking, as does talking with an insightful friend. . . Simple observation and reflection. . . And I'm hoping that chatting with you might help as well.
Do you find any resonance at all in that call to explore or reveal or make room for your authentic self at this "certain age"? (I'm assuming the majority of my readers are nearing my level of maturity, shall we say, although I know there are also a number of you who are just observing, from over the fence). If you're retired, do you find that you're able to pay more attention to a congruence between your deepest values and the way you spend your days? If you're not yet retired, do you hope to be able to do so? And how much does awareness of mortality's nearing presence affect your efforts to "be authentic"? (If this term just doesn't work for you, feel free to suggest another that does.)