Can Real be Offensive?

I just read a very interesting article about one publishing house’s decision to remove the “n” word from its latest printing of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and replace it with something less offensive to today’s readers. (http://shelf-life.ew.com/2011/01/03/huckleberry-finn-n-word-censor-edit/) Well, you can be sure my journalism degree shook on the wall with that headline! I had a PHYSICAL reaction (faster heartbeat, sweaty palms… you know the feeling.) Edit Mark Twain?? Are you kidding me?? Let’s throw some clothes on the Venus di Milo, too, huh?

I understand the argument. I really do. Huck Finn has always been a controversial work, even banned by many schools, because of the use of that one word. This new version, which according to the article will use the word “slave” instead, will allow more teachers to use it in their classrooms, introducing students to a classic they may not have otherwise read. Ok, that’s valid. One comment on the article said it’s no different from an “edited for content” version of a movie classic. And I can buy that, too. But I am looking at this news through the lens of authenticity, and I find it really hard to stomach an edited Mark Twain.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my journey is about “Letting go of who I think I am supposed to be and embracing who I am.” And who I am will not please everyone. Who I am may be controversial in some circles. Who I am might make you uncomfortable. Who I am might not be popular. But it is who God made me to be. And it is real.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in its original version, was written from a place of pretty clear authenticity of the practices and language of the people in that time and place. Authors, especially the masters like Twain, choose their words carefully to convey exactly what they are trying to say. It may be ugly, but it’s real.

We are all “offensive” … we all have pieces we wish we could edit away, pretty up, make more presentable. But I have to believe that desire is more about looking good to others than it is about being true to myself. So I think I’ll stick to being an original, warts and all. And I happen to think Huck Finn should be, too.

Resistance

There is always a reason not to bother with making a change. It’s almost always easier to just stay the same. So as I choose to be more real, I already knew courage would be a recurring theme in the journey. The inner critic would really rather I not rock the boat.

In the War of Art, author Steven Pressfield defines the enemy of change as Resistance – with a capital R. And he is very, very clear. Resistance only shows up when the change is worth doing.

Ok, so I have to face Resistance – the enemy of a new blog, a new way of thinking, eating better, sleeping more, or ANY pursuit worth doing. But I love how Pressfield defines and characterizes Resistance because he makes it way less scary. Here’s a peek at my bullet-points gleaned from several chapters of the War of Art.

Resistance…

  • Is impersonal. It’s not out to get me. It doesn’t even know who & am and doesn’t care. It resists only for the sake of resisting.
  • Has no strength of its own. All of its power comes from my fear of it.
  • Gets stronger the closer I get to the finish line.
  • Likes to distract me with a cheap, easy fix in order to keep me from doing my work.
  • Most often shows itself as procrastination.
  • Is expressed as fear. But the pro tackles the project that makes him stretch. The amateur  bows to the resistance.
  • Must be fought anew everyday. Its repeat appearances, then, does not mean I should give up. Quite the opposite. Repeated resistance means I am still headed in the right direction.

And this is my favorite: “Resistance is always lying and always full of crap.” (Ok, so he uses a different word, but I’m going with this one.) What a relief! I don’t have to worry about whether that inner critic is making sense or has a good argument – I just have to call her out for the liar she is and keep on doing the work (whatever it may be) that I have been called to do.

Christopher Robin says it like this to Winnie the Pooh: “You are braver than you believe and stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.”

But as much as I love that quote, I think I’ll cling more tightly to this one:   “If God is for us, who can be against us?…In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:31, 37)

January=Authenticity

The Guide on my Journey of Wholehearted Living in 2011, Brene’ Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection, has set up 10 Guideposts that make up the common characteristics she found in her research of those living with their whole hearts. So I’ve decided to marinate in one each month of 2011 — studying other sources on the topic, exploring applicable scripture, and recording ways I am practicing incorporating each into my life.

Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity. Which Brown also defines as “Letting Go of What People Think” – Ouch!

One of the reasons I know this Wholehearted Living message is coming to me at the right time is that I can track how many of the topics have already been on my heart and mind over the last months.

In July, I wrote this quote from another powerful book, Shrink Yourself, in my journal. “Most people struggling with their weight mention a powerful inner critic – a part of themselves that is always criticizing what they do and how they do it. This voice comes from self-doubt and it comes from not letting yourself be who you truly are.” (I bolded here, but in my journal those words are underlined 3 times!)

In November as I recorded thoughts on what I wanted to receive from some upcoming business coaching sessions, I said, among other things, “I want to feel my own enoughness.”  (I never noticed how often I underline in my journal.)

So as I launch into cultivating authenticity and letting go of what people think, I am deeply aware that my most oppressive measuring stick is not, and never has been, one set up by other people (as much as I want to blame them for it.) The person I most have to start letting go of what they think … is me.

I had a chance to practice that letting go today as I tackled cleaning out my closet. Tired of not being able to find what I wanted, I pulled out every single piece of clothing and started sorting. Now one of the reasons this closet disaster has been so frustrating is that I have been struggling to find clothes in there that I really want to wear. Over the last several months I have gained about 15 pounds. (I almost wrote that I have “inexplicably gained 15 pounds,” but I am certain it’s due to poor eating choices and being a slug.) So thinking about the extra weight and dealing with clothes typically would put me in a place of calling myself all kinds of names that if I wrote them here would certainly be authentic, but not appropriate. But today, thinking about being real and how being real means not being perfect, I simply reshelved in the closet only the clothes that currently fit me, then I put others in tubs sorted seasonally and said with each piece, “I really look forward to wearing that this spring/summer/fall.”

Authenticity says it’s OK to feel disappointed with the extra pounds, but NOT to feel ashamed. It happened. I can’t change that. But I can change what I do now. Being real means forgiving myself for imperfection. One bloody goof-up at a time.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

I am Enough

How did I know Brene’ Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection would be a life-changing read? Because it starts like this:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

Seriously. That’s Page 1; Paragraph 1. And it only gets better from there.

Hello New Year!

It is no coincidence that I picked up, just a few days before New Year’s, a book that’s been sitting in my Read Pile for months. The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene’ Brown is the perfect backdrop for renewal. Its subtitle: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are is just about the most perfect New Year’s Resolution I can imagine.

So that’s what I’m going with for 2011. This Blog is intended to…

1. Keep me accountable to the journey. Goals are more likely to be reached when they are written down. Changes of success improve exponentially when shared.

2. Provide an outlet for my thoughts and journaling. If I were asked to chart a time-line of personal growth throughout my life, I am certain the days of biggest breakthrough would correlate with my times of consistent journaling. Some of the most stagnant times in my life have no written record. I do not think that a fluke. So here I am recommitting myself to a year of reflecting and recording by writing it down.

3. Welcome reflection & discussion. We are all broken. We all have battles. We all could be more authentic, more alive, and more comfortable in our own skin. If this blog, in any way is an inspiration, or an affirmation that you are not alone, or a way for you to talk about your own journey, then I will be blessed to have you walk with me along the way.

So here we go. Let the countdown to 2011 begin.

10….9…8…7…