That inner voice has both gentleness and clarity. So to get to authenticity, you really keep going down to the bone, to the honesty, and the inevitability of something.
~ Meredith Monk
My friend sits on my bed, sipping her Skinny Girl Margarita. Luau is downstairs, hosting his Tuesday night card game with the boys. The television is on, paused in the middle of the previous night’s Colbert Report. Stephen is suspended mid-sentence.
We are determined to stay up until the Daily Show to see Jon Stewart’s take on the ridiculousness that has recently dominated the twenty-four hour news cycle – from Weiner’s new found certitude regarding what turned out to indeed be his weiner to Sarah Palin’s defense of her revision of our nation’s revolutionary history.
They are stories that don’t belong on network news; they are far more appropriate for comedians than anchormen. We are dying to see what Jonny has in store.
But we can’t seem to get through more than a minute and a half without hitting pause.
We’re talking about turtling. Regrouping. Dropping out of the social cycle.
“I have found recently,” I tell her, “that I’m really kinda lonely.”
I let the words hang for a moment.
“It’s just that well, we used to be really social people, ya know?”
“We used to have friends close by. Up the street, around the corner, at the end of the block. The kids could walk back and forth. We hung out as couples, as families, one on one. We just don’t anymore.”
I don’t even mention the parties and the fundraisers, the big events, the dressing up, the constant flow of people through the house.
“I miss the ease of it.”
As I say it, I remember that it wasn’t always easy.
“But I’m just not there. I don’t enjoy the time spent anymore. It feels like work. It’s exhausting. I just feel like I’m in such a different place.”
My friend is nodding eagerly. She gets it.
“I suddenly realized that I had completely pulled back. Luau and I used to go out with other couples nearly every weekend. And then I just didn’t want to anymore. It’s been ages. And as much as it’s been my choice, I’m really kinda lonely on the other side of it.”
“This life changes you, Jess.”
This life is one we share. Her two boys are both on the spectrum.
“You have no patience for the surface anymore. And as much as we may love them, it takes work to be around people who don’t speak our language. There’s a sense of being one step removed. It just doesn’t feel real.”
I let the word roll around in my head.
She’s right. I simply have no energy left for pretense. This life demands authenticity. It’s not just Brooke. It’s all of us.
Family rule – no bullsh-t allowed.
Katie told me one day that she had done a little test at school to see who her real friends were.
“It was no big deal, Mama,” she said. “I just asked them one question – if I shaved my head tomorrow, would you still sit with me at lunch?”
I marveled at my daughter. In the language of fourth grade, she’d found a way to get at what matters to her.
Can you handle difference?
Do you run from vulnerability?
Would you stick around if it wasn’t ‘cool’ to be my friend?
She needed to know. In fourth grade, she demands authenticity from her friends.
When she told me that two of five had told her that they probably wouldn’t sit with her at lunch anymore, she shrugged and said, “Hey, at least they’re honest about who they really are.”
For a moment, I’m torn. As grateful as I am that the pretense is gone, I sometimes miss the ease of life lived on the surface.
But it was never real.