weeding through the clutter

In my old age (ha!) I find myself constantly searching out authenticity. It's practically my life's goal now, to surround myself as often as possible with the people and the things that make life feel genuinely authentic. It's always on my mind, like I'm having a sacred moment each and every time I encounter something that feels real.

It's also so obvious to me lately that my awareness of authenticity in this world is directly linked to my desire for simplicity. That simple and authentic go hand in hand like milk and cookies.

(And if you feel like you're having a daja vu moment, well it's because I talk about simplicity and authenticity often on this blog, should I apologize? It's just so much apart of my life lately, this search.)

Myself, I don't often find that staunch authenticity in places like church or facebook. I don't feel it in places where generally people toe the line, where they wear the same things and believe the same things and stay huddled together in their groups of like minded fellows. Those places, to me, feel more like a bubble of seclusion than a real human experience. And that's not to say that these places are bad mind you! Sometimes I find peace and love while sitting on a church bench. Sometimes I find an inspiring message or a cute picture of my friend's baby while scrolling through facebook.

But finding bona fide rawness is something else entirely. I find the search for this to be similar to my cupboard filled with coffee cups. My favorite coffee cups aren't brand new and they don't conform to an entire set purchased off the shelf at a department store. My favorite coffee cups are the ones with a story to tell. The clay mud-colored cup with patches of orange that Dan purchased secondhand years before I met him, where the top of the handle is worn thin from the weight of being held so many times. The dust colored ceramic cup with swirls of deep brown that we bought from a booth at a local summer art show, surrounded by like-minded and carefully crafted ceramic designs such as honey pots and giant cooking bowls and mugs of all shapes and sizes. The rusted tin cup that Dan's sister brought back from Russia. The mug with the autumn leaf designs that was given as a Christmas gift, so perfectly large and wide that it reminds me of a bread bowl while I cup it in my hands.

Like all of these mugs, I find intangible authenticity in places that have stories to tell. In places that are beautifully real and sometimes completely outside of my comfort zone. Like the tattoo parlor I stepped in, where the floor was checkered red and white and the walls lined in odd sized honest art, the air thick with some combination of notebook paper and faint cigarette smoke, and the skinny tattoo artist from new orleans tells stories about the landscape of his home city and the art of cooking real food. In solidarity at the top of a mountain, while watching the wind dance with the branches of the trees and listening to the river babbling at my feet, watching the world in slow motion from my perch. While sitting across the table from an elderly woman who I hardly know, whose dementia is turning her into someone she is not, but who cheerfully tells me all about her late husband and her children and her favorite grocery stores in town. While reading a book written so passionately and beautifully that it all but reaches in and touches my spirit while I read.

Lately, while discovering these moments of authenticity, I have been weeding through some clutter in my own life to create a more authentic space in my soul.

Such as.

I have been spending considerably less time wasted on my phone. I deleted my facebook app to rid myself of mindlessly scrolling through the newsfeed twenty times a day. I've pushed myself to choose to call people over texting them. I stopped checking my email and instagram first thing every morning.

I have been shopping at the thrift store. Oh the authenticity to be found at a thrift store! Since I discovered a quaint little thrift store downtown my life has changed for the better. I have collected some of the most lovely authentic things: worn-in chunky oversized sweaters, stacks of award winning books for thirty cents a piece, an old bread board, barely worn vintage adidas sneakers, a tin pot to hold coffee beans, rain boots for the boys, a pair of brown lace-up riding boots that make me look like katniss everdeen.When you buy something from a thrift store you get to carry on someone's story. You even get to make it up, if you'd like. I always wonder whose magical memories and mundane moments and massive life milestones were passed through with this in their possession.

Hands down the very best thing I have been working on to increase authenticity in my life is the art of listening. I'm naturally quite terrible at this, as I often find myself listening to respond. Thinking about the stories I can add to the story, or my thoughts on the matter at hand, instead of listening to just listen. Really focusing on what is being said and taking it all in. When I can remember to listen instead of talk, I am floored at the rawness that finds me. When I focus and listen to what is being said, I feel all of the feelings. It's one of the most wonderful traits and I'm truly so sad that it doesn't come naturally to me, like all of those perfect people who are born to listen. Aren't they lucky? I wish I were born to listen instead of talk. But if wishes were fishes, you know. I have instead this amazing ability to change and mold into who I desire to be, and so that's what I'm doing. I am trying to change my ways so that I can become the person who listens.

Anyhow, these little changes in my life have made worlds of difference. I am feeling so...free. It's lovely. This constant search of mine is always reminding me of how beautiful a thing life can really be.


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