When are you really your true self?
Flying to St. Louis last week, I finally had a quiet moment to finish listening to Ali MacGraw’s interview on the Super Soul podcast. Plane travel isn’t always pleasant for me – my anxiety kicks in and the only way I can balance my wanderlust and my irrational fears of heights and closed spaces is to distract my mind with whatever means possible. And when I am lucky enough to have a window seat…well, that is a curse and a blessing.
I have huge gratitude for podcasts and books in those moments…
I suppose it isn’t too coincidental that I’m thinking about my true self while the demons of plane crashes and motion sickness are dueling it out in my monkey mind. Looking out the window over the Rocky mountains, knowing down below are thousands of souls just like me, moving through their work days and trying to do the best they can, without the benefit of being isolated inside a metal tube with the thought-provoking words of Ali McGraw soothing my worries helped me breathe deeply. Settling into my seat, I allowed myself to be truly present. I allowed myself to look out the tiny oval window and know that all would be well, that the raindrops on the outside were reminders that I am here, now, exactly where I should be.
Travel offers the opportunity to be our true selves. Away from home, anonymous in our human package, we may carry out authenticity. Travel strips us of our comfort zone, our ability to fall back into the shadows and hide in our places of control. Travel reminds us that we are real, just one tiny piece in the massive yet minute conglomeration of humanity. We look around airports and hotel lobbies and fantasize If we could just have that life… maybe then ____________ (fill in the blank with hopes and dreams).
Seriously – why not? I’m just real person trying to figure myself out. I’m just a white woman, traveling alone, knowing there’s a high likelihood I will arrive at my destination and life will be just fine.
But the monkey mind jumps in as I shiver and remember I’m thousands of miles up in the clouds, at the mercy of a pilot (whom I noticed with great glee was female) – and think Jen, when are you out of your mind joyful? When are you really your true self – when you’re back IRL, in your home and your classroom in your small hometown surrounded every day by people who know you, from childhood to adulthood, when are you really settling back into that seat and breathing deeply? Is your true self shining through the clouds right at this moment? Are you a model of what a woman could or would or should be?
Motherhood was never a goal for me. I never thought much about it until I was worried it would never happen. I established some arbitrary goal of being 30 and pregnant and now looking back, with that child I bore in that third decade living so far away, I wonder if that was my true-self speaking or perhaps the idea of what I thought I should be or maybe, most likely, the Universe whispering to me that she was ready to join us.
Whatever magical, powerful force brought her to me, I know that she is what brings me unconscious focus and pure joy. I know when I’m in the present moment because I feel all the grounding of the spirits that came before me, all the safety and soundness and rightness that I am exactly where I’m supposed to be.
I know I’m really my true self when I’m in the kitchen and watching my beautiful almost-grown boy cook and chatter about his goals or progress in school or why he’s so excited to move away to college or start his next phase- what he feels school has really prepared him for.
I’m really my true self when I’m aware I’m avoiding wishing it were another time, or that we were back snuggling on the couch on Friday nights, sleeping bags all around and pillows stacked to the ceiling. I’m not wishing we were biking together to school or holding hands when we cross the street or sitting on the kitchen counter beside me while we beat cookie batter…
I am my true self right now, and it’s ok. In fact, it’s awesome. Those memory-moments wind together to help remind me that yes, I am here and I am human and I have made choices that right or wrong, sideways or upsidedown, have led me to this instant of sitting alone on a plane, traveling to a place I’ve never been but which is covered with the footprints of those who came before me. I am my true self right now and in that space, may I keep making a difference in this moment. Slowly, often unwittingly, I’m unpeeling the secret to inner peace, looking for gratitude in every corner. I’m enjoying the small moments and trying to focus on what is in front of me while resting in the comfort of having experienced all the joys and sorrows of life that has come before. I’m learning that the richness of life comes from beyond what we are experiencing right now, and rests in the journey we have survived.
I used to think my legacy was built on the quest to be better, to find perfection and then I could relax. I know now that perfection paralyzes, and when I sit back, breathe, and find joy in the moment I am really my true self – and I like her. I’m proud of her, too.
As the podcast concludes, I rush to jot down Ali’s response to reflecting on her life’s journey, and where she sees her legacy. I smile, rewind, and know that if I’m lucky and say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ at the right times, I might be lucky enough to be known as “the crazy lady in a black dress with a bunch of silver bracelets and 439 stray dogs” too.
Touch down. I’ve landed.