I can’t say it was a bad dream. I wouldn’t call it a good one either. Maybe just the kind that has you laying awake, slowly exploring every inch of your white cotton sheets with your fingers, toes, and backs of your legs, staring in the direction of the ceiling, but not directly at the ceiling because it’s much too dark. It’s the kind of dream that tempts you to turn on the lamp and hope that with the lamp shedding light on the dessert sand walls of your room it will shed light on the words your subconscious catapulted into your very 2:28AM consciousness. “You’re not being your authentic self,” my coworker said as he looked me square in the eye.
I could physically feel the weight of his words in my dream and in reality. In my dream my heart panicked, my stomach summer salted, and my throat grew dry. In reality I could feel all of those things. That’s what woke me. At least that’s what I am telling myself. The physical reaction to his words in my dream was what woke me and had me lying awake in the almost completely quiet of my room. There was fear, at least in that dream, that I had delayed my protest of a response to too long. Surely I was found out. Anything I would say would betray me and would reveal I was indeed not being my authentic self.
I already knew this though in reality. About a month ago when I noticed how my body responded to Friday mornings, as if a huge weight was lifted, I knew. I would wake up with a distinct joy and conviction that come what may the day would be awesome. I didn’t have that outlook Monday through Thursday. Friday mornings meant I could ease up on pretending. I was on the cusp of just being me. I was on the precipice of what really mattered to me, brought me the most joy, allowed my creativity to gush forth. There would be no boundaries on what I read, how I engaged it, how I saw it being useful for the work I truly want to do all the time, not just as it can be massaged into Mondays through Fridays between 9AM and 5PM or 5PM to 9AM.
I made peace with this reality, deliberately carving out more moments during the week to engage in my authentic self. Even in how I was relating to colleagues and friends, new and old, I made room to connect in ways that honored my need to be authentic, my need to give my best yes, my need to give a firm no, my need to not prepare a rationalization to win others over to decisions about my life. I was managing my acknowledgement of not being my authentic self with moments of infiltrating my fraudulent self with with shots of authenticity.
Then I went to this training for work, with my coworker from the dream, and it was ALL about the importance of authenticity. How authenticity breeds real relationship and facilitates healing, especially the kind of healing needed in the work that I do. Clearly that training jacked up the arrangement I had going with myself as far as suppressing my authentic self, as it should.
Any time we are living outside of who we were created, equipped, and purposed to be, we aren’t living authentically. That absolutely should bother us. It should disrupt us until it gets us to where we are supposed to be. It should manifest in the words of coworkers in our dreams at two something in the morning. We should feel it in our bodies. It should bring us inexplicable energy when we are living authentically and the weight of bottling it up should hang heavy on our backs, shoulders, and around our necks. If it doesn’t then how else do we ensure that we are living and not just alive?
While it took me a while to get back to sleep, and I was at odds with my alarm when it rang later that morning, I carried the subconscious call out about authenticity with me throughout the day and even into the evening. I allowed them to guide me as I went about my day, measuring the ways in which I was engaging in a way that was genuine to who I am, what matters to me, and what I believe. I allowed them to keep me alert to the ways I was not, questioning why I was holding back or not bringing all of me to the moment. Finally, I allowed them to write this post. To forego the TV watching, Pinterest pinning, Instagram Scrolling, calling/texting and checking in on everybody else, and to do something that is inherently a part of who I am- writing, and doing so with the hopes of encouraging someone else as they figure out what it means to LIVE authentically, and well.
I know in the weeks to come, I will continue professionally and personally to unwrap what living authentically will look like for me regularly, not just on the weekends. I know my relationships will shift as quite a few already have. My resources will be allocated differently. My yes will be better, my no firmer, my word unapologetic or second guessed by myself. My dreams realer. I don’t know if that’s a real word- realer. I just know that dreams, visions, purposes have no choice but to manifest in real tangible ways when we commit to leading and living authentic lives.