Authentic on The Ranch: Sleepwalkers Need Not Apply

Image of Alan Alda taken at the World Science ...

Image of Alan Alda taken at the World Science Festival launch press conference (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Having spent the last day and a half at home plagued with a gastrointestinal flu that has mercilessly raged through my household, I have had a significant amount of time to just lay in bed and think.  This can be a dangerous situation, as there is nothing like a fever and dehydration to dust off the welcome mat for one’s neuroses. I’d like to think however that my thoughts flowed in a more productive direction.

Prior to being kicked in the gut by this stomach bug, I happened upon a quote from Alan Alda that I could not get out of my head: “You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition.  What you will discover will be wonderful.  What you will discover is yourself.”

Maybe it was the fortuitous timing of reading that quote, along with being asked about “life on The Ranch,” with a rather sarcastic and skeptical tone, that really got me thinking.  What would life be like if all you ever did was live according to the confines of whatever pigeon hole others put you in?  This question isn’t new or particularly clever, but it is important.  There is no doubt in my mind that most people, myself included, would like to think they are leading a life guided entirely by their own unique compass, but getting to the truth requires stepping a bit closer to the edge and asking, “am I really?”

That 3 word question, if answered with painful honesty, is a foolproof bullshit detector.  You will feel the truth in your gut.  Ignoring that truth is a recipe for the kind of soul scorching disaster that can only come from betraying yourself.  You feel the burn every time someone tells you your ideas are stupid–and you listen.  You feel it when someone tells you that “you can’t, “you’ll never,” or the bitterly dismissive, “good luck with that.”  Not to mention the thousands of images we see everyday through print, TV, or the internet, preying upon our insecurities in order to make a profit.  Throwing your hands up (literally or figuratively) and asking, with the kind of authoritative tone that only comes from believing that you are a person worthy of respect, “Seriously?” is the first step toward calibrating your compass to your own true North.

The Ranch has been the perfect backdrop for refining the vision that I have for myself and shedding the dead weight of expectations not authentically mine. Anyone who has followed this blog will know that this is a very different world for me.  I have learned a lot.  Here, convention is more likely to get “the finger,” than compliance.  In many ways the freedom and inspiration I feel on The Ranch reminds me a lot of Paris.  Clearly, they are not the same, but both have a long history of fostering individualism in wildly varying ways.

Have I perfected the art of living with 100% authenticity?  Hardly, but then again, perfection isn’t the point.  Being the exact dog mom, writer, chef, knitting enthusiast, Francophile, organic gardener wannabe, good friend, daughter, sister, all black wearing, other half of My Beloved that I define IS.  No more sleepwalking through the day, guided by someone else’s ill conceived expectations. Being a follower was never really my thing, but everyone can benefit from a fever induced slap in the face every now and then.  No one dimensional category or pigeon hole can contain me. Now when someone asks me quizzically about my life on The Ranch, I just smile.

Make people uncomfortable. Labels and categories are only for the convenience of others.  Be your most authentic self. It doesn’t matter if you have failed in the past.  Start small.  It’s never too late.  I dare you!  Let others say what they like–trust me, they’re probably jealous.  The people who really matter will love you for it.

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7 thoughts on “Authentic on The Ranch: Sleepwalkers Need Not Apply

  1. Murray says hi and that you have always been an inspiration. I was just reading her your post as we lounge in our B&B here on our Vancouver vacation.

    I say “Are you sure it was a stomach flu, or did you just consume more self help books than a person can safely do in a limited time frame?”

    I have to embrace that I am not fully authentic. I give myself the excuse that as a human I am a social animal and have to be a bit flexible. I like to think I at least know how and where I am not always authentic, but I am sure there are other axes of the ingenuous yet to be discovered.

    Get well soon-


    • Please give Murray a big hug for me. I am wildly jealous of your Vancouver vacay…

      Very funny about the self help books. I tend to steer clear of those. As I am knocking on 40’s door, I’m not so sure I want to turn to anything or anyone but myself. It feels more real.

      I have to say that your smiling face popped into my head on more than a few occasions as I wrote this particular piece. Since we were 15 I was convinced that you were the only person I knew that did and said things according to his own compass, whose North was pointed EXACTLY where it was true. If YOU are not fully authentic, then we are all doomed sheep. Hee-hee.

      The reality, as you point out is that we are social animals, so of course if we want to maintain our meaningful relationships and reduce our chances of being shot on sight, we can’t simply walk into a restaurant, see a 400lb person with a plate of food and shout, “are you sure you really want to eat that?” Or to say to a crime victim, “Wow, you kinda deserved that…” It’s just not really possible, unless we make it so of course!

      Knowing the areas in which you are not authentic may be where we chose to hover–it’s at least a step in the right direction. Know them and exactly WHY. Be clear why the WHY is legitimate and worth it. Well put as always. I can always count on your for a nugget my friend!

      p.s. I am in the land of the living again.

      • Glad to hear you are feeling better. I used to be the more the type of person who would speak their mind and say “Do you really want to eat that much big boy?” But since then I have worked on the art of spin. I can take you off the path of authenticity, but it can also help to soften the blow of what you must say enough that the person has a chance of hearing you. And when the person has no chance of hearing you sometimes the best you can do is hold your tounge in a full Nelson and try to empathize. But it is so hard when I am so convinced my opinions are valuable and so right. I used try to check in with myself more often and ask “If I really, objectively, wanted this person’s, day, siituation, life… to be better what would I have done?” Frequently it is something other than what I was thinking I would say or do. I should probably go back to asking myself that more regularly.

        BTW, that superficial friendliness is worst in CA in my experience. Actually more S. CA. They are the most likely to say “we should get together soon” and the least likely to mean it.

  2. Well and inspiringly put! I was just thinking about this the other day after reading a similar quote from Thoreau which said something to the effect of, one can only find themselves after they are lost. The scary part is letting yourself be lost! Alda may speak of the wilderness of intuition but honestly I find that my intuition is towards comfort and inertia. It’s so difficult to break out of these modes of thought and arrive for an experience that is authentic and unique to yourself.

    • You can always count on Thoreau to rev up the soul searching. I’m not so sure that there is really anything wrong with comfort or a degree of inertia as long as we check in frequently to make sure we are going in the right direction. Living a very authentic life seems to be a lot of work and it takes some getting used to. To say exactly what is on your mind and what you really feel about the things, people, food, politics, or whatever comes up can be frightening. It also means acting on those true feelings. This will often making other people uncomfortable. Not that you have to be rude, just have the guts to be honest. That can be a challenge in American culture that’s known for a habit of superficial friendliness and our notorious permagrin!

      How about your experiences with the French, particularly Parisians…have you observed anything about their authenticity?

  3. This is such an interesting question, and I’ve actually been pondering it for a day. Thank you for making me think about it!

    You know, I don’t think Parisians or even the French in general put as much value on “authenticity” as Americans do — at least, I don’t think it’s viewed as an ideal to aspire to. I feel like this concept of “authenticity” is really *marketed* towards Americans; for example. you commonly hear the word tossed around in commercials for jeans and casual clothing. We’re inspired to be authentic, unique individuals, but it’s a sales pitch and we don’t even realize it.

    The French on the other hand don’t necessarily value “authenticity” as we think of it, but they have ways of expressing themselves that we do not! Even though they have elaborate systems of conduct and etiquette, if a French person doesn’t like you or something you do, they make that *very* clear. It’s acceptable to show displeasure in social situations, to ask nosy questions and to offer unsolicited advice. An American on the other hand… you never know what lurks behind that smile and silence, I guess!

    So – like everything else – it’s complicated. =D

  4. This presentation is only 20% about authenticity, but they other 80% is pretty amazing as well.
    I have been thinking about this more. I think where I am most guilty is when I am trying to empathize and connect with someone. I tend to agree with them when they say something I can at some level agree with and am quieter when they say things I don’t agree with. I would like to think I do this because it is hard to productively disagree till you win some points with a person. But if someone on the left heard me talking to someone on the right, or vice-versa, I suspect either would suspect I was somewhat two faced.

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