Posted on SOCIETY17.COM
June 7, 2017 Rebecca Walter
An onlooker at the International Women's March in Los Angeles on Jan. 21st, 2017.
Photo by Mark Miller
I am working on my authenticity. I have trouble with vulnerability.
They are my favorite traits in others, those I most admire. In order to follow their lead, I intend to trust-fall into a new perspective of self-worth. Today, I choose to believe that my voice is as interesting as the next self-searching soul.
I’ve re-written my introduction, because the previous was an unintentional facade. I didn’t want readers to think that my intimate words were haughty. Thus, I overlaid my feelings, my own voice, with proof of fact by citing other people’s words before my own. The irony in this is that this piece is about the importance of voice, and story, and ultimately, one's own veritable truth. Yet, even with the force of my entire being behind the conviction of this truth of self-worth, I humbly covered my own voice with “fact.” Ironic indeed.
Then a friend woke me up. Ethan told me, "I want to hear your voice."
So, let’s try this again.
My name is Rebecca.
I am from Detroit, through and through, and now I’ve made a home in Indiana. I believe in the Midwest.
Three years ago, I created a handcrafted snack bar company, which I believe to be the best in the world. My motive is to raise the bar on perspective; better is possible, especially in food. I am here changing the narrative of complacency. We have work to do, together.
We are all trying to solve problems, but first, we need to identify them. Post-election had me so congested, it was hard to see clearly. The rise of alternative facts has convoluted every aspect of our media today. I took this to heart and paused from writing and creative process for a while. I did less, and listened more. I focused on awareness.
Mindfulness will shatter the illusion that “fact” is “truth.” If we spend less time pontificating, and more time listening to one another, we can bridge the waters of polarity.
Our stories are the way, all of ours, equally.
* * *
Yesterday evening, I decided to check in with someone who knows me best. I sat down with my most intimate conversationalist, my soulmate and partner, Carly. She has spent countless hours dancing on silver linings with me, looking pain and anger in the face but not falling so deep that we lose the light of our path.
Carly helps me remove myself from the clutter of my mind for a moment. Only in such quiet moments can one see from a higher, freer perspective of this world; only then can one find place in it. If we forget what we are made of, we risk losing sight of who we are becoming.
This evening held the promise of a quiet night at the local distillery. While we shook the rain from our coats, unbeknownst to her, my mind began churning up questions. Before her drink had even arrived, our spontaneous interview had begun. (With vigor.)
First, I asked about Carly’s personal experience since the election. She confessed, “I was struggling. As a personal trainer, my clients feel attacked by the situation, and now have completely stopped talking about anything political. I was trying to be a support for my clients, but also had so much anxiety of my own.”
“Then, one day, a dear friend brought me a book. It saved me. I have read a few pages every day since then (her eyes sparkled telling me this), and I am now able to be a stable support for the people around me. For me it was as simple as the book, and that kind gesture. I am now certain that my helping clients in ‘small’ ways has a profound impact.”
Intrigued, I asked her to continue, “My advice is simply, ‘follow your path to happiness.’ This does not mean do more. It may even mean do less, but be more mindful. This patience and mindfulness will give you more endurance for the long-game. It’s not about a competition to do the most effective thing right now, it’s about changing a life every day, by first fostering your own light.”
Photo by Mark Miller
Carly told me that being the change you want to see in this world is manageable if you spend quiet time listening to your heart or intuition. “What brings you joy?” If it feels good to go to a march or rally, then do that. If it feels good to shop locally and be mindful of the companies with which you spend your money, that mindfulness is building real change.
I asked her to explain the gray areas between staying informed and living in fear, vs ignoring current travesties in order to surround oneself in beauty; essentially the ongoing discussion of privilege vs. action. She suggests, “Be informed but also be aware of what the root problem actually is. Once you identify the problem, spend time thinking about the inverse.” After much introspection, Carly has realized there’s no room for joy, healthy relationships, or abundance when the mind, consciously or subconsciously, is burdened by grievances. Grieving is different than fear; it can be released, while fear must be overcome. While giving credence to fearful strangers, we may neglect to celebrate and promote beauty already in our lives by supporting our friends and community.
A young participant in the International Women's March in Los Angeles. Photo by Ethan Hethcote
We spread our goodness when it feels most authentic. Carly acknowledges that her own platform is much smaller and more intimate than others', but they both serve great purpose. Not all people are given equal footing to stand on, so we must use our privilege, our resources (financially and otherwise), and our platforms to level the field. Providing accessibility to fresh food for everyone is one way. Beyond that, we need to keep sharing our stories and listening to others.
We need to rethink the narrative that our authentic stories are attention-seeking. They are not for the judgement of others. Our stories are our best tool. To counter the abundant state of false news, partake in genuine conversations about actual personal experiences. Let’s all be a little more real with each other, share our vulnerabilities a bit more, and demonstrate compassion.
Stories are beautiful because they are not objective facts to be challenged or discounted. What actually happened are facts we can never truly know. Yet, stories are perhaps the only truth in this world, really. The true lens to understanding someone is the story itself. The storyteller’s perception has shaped who they are, and is more real to them than anything.
If someone is upset or joyful based on experiences that have become their personal narrative, allow them the credit to feel the way they do and thank them for sharing in an honest way. You will understand them in a way you had not before, and perhaps that story will become part of you. Stories are the bridge to understanding each other, without needing to agree. Conflicting interests can coexist in a state of compassion, as long as we allow each other the space to speak honestly in a way that does not put anyone above or below another.
* * *
I pondered all of this. I circled back to the question of identifying the root of all problems and my purpose and agenda for solving them. I concluded years ago that fear is the basis of problems in this world. Yet, it may be even simpler, or more specific than that. This conversation got me thinking that connection, and unity, and stories are great tools, but for what? Perhaps to fix the segregation and break down the walls and impossible rules we have fabricated. Perhaps ultimately, we all want to feel connected and included? Perhaps our core issue at hand is separation?
My mind caressed the thought. Our waitress came with the check.
I paid the bill, in exchange for the interview I’d spontaneously thrust upon my loved one. Our conversation wrapped up with the acknowledgement that often people become too burdened by a weight that is not theirs alone to carry, or they try to do too much, so they become unable to do anything at all.
Mindfully travel your own path. Pause and listen more, to your own authenticity as well as the stories of others. Ask what is your purpose, and act when it feels right. If you are feeling anxious or unmotivated, step back and listen more, breathe, and ask questions. You need not react to everyone, but simply observe and receive. This will save your energy. Slowing down may give you the ability to treat your loved ones better. Surround yourself with people that are real, people you admire; they will naturally elevate you, for you absorb a piece of everyone with whom you spend time.
Treat your tribe better by being a better version of yourself. Smile, but not because I proclaim that you should.