This is a pretend world we live in, and I have been a pretender. So have you. It’s in our nature and to me, it seems a lot more prevalent now as we pretend our way through social media and its images of us.
I’ve recently discovered one quality that draws me to friendships with people more than anything else is being real — transparent. My closest friends in the world are the ones with whom I can say things like, “I know we had plans, but I am just crabby and tired. Can we reschedule?” Or, “My heart is in a million pieces and this is why…”
In all honesty, these friendships took me several decades to cultivate. Why? Well, I really believe that it’s because it took me that long to let my guard down, take my pretender mask off, and be real and be willing to take the chance and see if those folks still really love me — warts and all.
Looking back, I see younger me in settings where I acted a part — played a role. I felt that certain cultural settings demanded a particular behavior, a side of me that didn’t always come naturally.
If I was in Mommy and Me groups I felt like my children needed to behave as if I’d mothered a dozen times before despite my new momma status. None of us wanted to be the mother of the kid who peed their diaper past the recommended age or needed a pacifier to fall asleep, or screamed for gum in the middle of the store.
Instead of owning it, I put on my smile and forced introvert Alison into hiding and showed up with my happiest smile (after I had wiped the crusty oatmeal and juice off the face of my kiddos) and presented my most amazing mothering skills.
When it came time for company parties that I needed to attend with my husband, introvert Alison talked herself down from sheer panic for weeks ahead of time so that I could set down my mom jeans and buy what I thought office folks would wear and act as if standing around with a tiny plate of food in one hand and a cup in the other begging God to not let the spinach from the artichoke dip be in my teeth as I talked with the gorgeous, polished single girl whose cubicle was near my husband’s all day every day — desperately hoping I had something relevant and half-intelligent to say that didn’t have anything to do with potty or sleep schedules or nursing bras.
Even friendships back in the day were strained and worrisome. I would get stomach aches as we would go to friends’ houses — even the ones we considered best friends as I worried myself sick that I would sit wrong and look fat or say somethings stupid all the while comparing my cluttered home in need of paint and a maid to the new ranch house that had every single thing in its place. We were happy and loving life at our house, but all it took was someone making things appear perfect in theirs to make me insecure and question my entire self.
Back then, my faith was also phony. Well, the side I displayed was. I knew I loved my God, but after having attended nearly every denomination in my past, I had unintentionally studied and learned the system. There were certain words you did say and you didn’t say. There were things we did talk about and things we never talked about. There were polite and acceptable truths to share, but then there was the nitty and the gritty that was not really supposed to be discussed. There were ways to hold my hands and ways to rise up to popularity.
This is a tough subject, but we all know it’s true. And I’m no longer trying to win a popularity contest. This is me being real. If I do it badly, well, chalk it up to a learning process.
Christian and I found ourselves at a place where we stripped down all that was feeling fake — every single relationship, motive, position — and kept only what was real. Part of our fresh start (moving so far away) helped us determine what had value and what to bring with us and who would support that. Those folks that loved us, maybe didn’t understand fully, but believed in us enough to tell us that they were behind us all the way have proven their realness in every step. They’re the ones who show up — in the moving, in the good-byes, at the hospital, in the prayers, in the words of love, even at our door.
And we even stripped down our faith. What if our relationship with our God is not ever about what we do, how much we accomplish, what anyone else thinks about it, or how we hold our hands? Again, what if it’s just about being real? Being brave enough to take our nitty gritty straight to our God and being willing to have HIM be the only One to set us straight and make the path clear and show us how to be faithful only to Him?
What if this whole thing is about me and God?
I didn’t much like the Alison that struggled to find herself in friendships and church and society. As I have learned more about who I am, I find I have much less to prove. I want everything — even down to my Facebook statuses to be me. To not be what everyone thinks they should be. When I choose my profile pic, I struggle with the ones that show the weight I’ve gained and may not have been taken from my best angle and with my hair a mess. But, that is the real me! I have bad angles that I am trying not to edit!
So, that’s it, in a nutshell. I refuse to edit who I am anymore. It’s pretty refreshing, really. Like any new skill, I’m still working on it. Some days, I don’t want anyone to see my ugly. There are, after all, just a few who I feel need to see that. Sometimes, I worry about what people think too much, and then I remember that the ones who really know me, the real ones, love me–not the edited version. My husband loves me, older girl curves and all, so I choose to not hold back from him and hide like my instinct tells me because he’s not getting eighteen year old Alison back anyway!
And guess what?! My God loves me thoroughly and He’s always seen the ugly — as well as the good and the bad. Like my husband asks, is it possible for God to love me less based on what I do? Or is it possible for Him to love me more? No way! He just loves me. And He’s asked me to be faithful with exactly what He’s give me, to be real, to have integrity with how I present myself and Him.
As this post worked itself around in my mind and in my heart, I watched this amazing podcast that confirmed the whole thing. Watch it. I dare ya. And step out with me into the land of the unedited.