If there’s any kind of blog post you’ll want to stop reading immediately, it’s the one that starts with the question, “What is reality, anyway?”
Let me ask you people a different question.
Reality. What is it, anyway?
Some people might say it’s what the general population has preconceived and agreed on. Some people would say it’s only what can be studied, measured, and labeled. Others, something unknowable except through faith.
Or maybe reality is a vast government conspiracy plotted and implemented by the shadow elite, who are really alien overlords, and we’re all just living energy food, from which they feed through our television screens as we fall comatose to the rhythmic skirt swishings of sitcom star and secret reptilian Zooey Deschanel.
She does have gigantic eyes. Coincidence?
Anyway. What IS reality, people?
Unwittingly, variations of this question are what I found myself mud-wrestling over breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the past four weeks. Every question was framed within the idea that there is something wrong with my interpretation of reality. As if, somehow, everyone else received the Cliff notes to thinking “right” while I was stuck in the birth canal reading an US Weekly and eating Pop-Tarts.
I did, by the way, come to my own definition of reality, which I’ll share with you at the end. But before that, you should understand what was happening in my head prior to my mini-melt-up. A few friends tried to define it as a mini-melt-down, but, see, that’s how reality works.
For them, it looked like a melt-down (I mean, for gosh sakes I wasn’t BLOGGING). In my reality, it was weeks of soul-searching, journal-scribbling, past-exploring, truth-seeking, walk-taking melting up into something that felt more true.
Before My Melt-Up, I Was Scared. All the Time.
Because before this, I didn’t feel very true. And that’s what was in my head prior to disappearing for a while. Untruths. And they all seem so silly and irrelevant now, but you’re going to read them anyway, because at some point in your life, you may feel the same way. And when you do, you can remember that someone else, somewhere else, felt the exact same way – and was eventually brave enough to talk about it. So you can be, too.
Before my melt-up, I was scared. All the time.
Among a few other things, I was scared of you. The reader. And, when you read this, you’ll think, “Me? But … but I’m so nice!” But, see, I cannot know that, because “you” to me are about 15000 people. And each of you has your own version of reality. Each of you has opinions and preferences and desires that I cannot know.
And I was scared, because I was trying, desperately, to please you. And I was failing, miserably. Because through that desire – that true and honest desire – to please you, I was losing myself.
Every word I wrote was followed, immediately, by any one of these thoughts: “Will this make anyone mad? Will people stop reading Crunchy Betty because of that word? What kind of angry comments can I foresee as a result of this sentence? How many Facebook page fights will result from posting this link? How many things have I gotten wrong that someone is going to point out? Where am I not being thoughtful to EVERY PERSON in the world by sharing this idea? Am I being the example to everyone else that I need to be in order to show the “goodness” of “being crunchy?” Where am I wrong? Where am I wrong? Oh, good grief, WHERE AM I WRONG?”
As you can see, this was a painful and thoroughly exhausting process. And I did it every day, until I stopped posting as much. And then … then these thoughts happened:
“I am not doing my job. Everyone is so disappointed in me. I should be responding to all this email. I should be posting more on Facebook, but I can’t post too much, or else it will annoy everyone. I should write, but I can’t, and I can’t respond to these emails, and I can’t get up today, and all I want to do is play Words With Friends, because Words With Friends doesn’t JUDGE ME. And I do deserve to be judged! I mean, I am Crunchy Betty and here I am eating chips and dip and yesterday I even used a dryer sheet from a sample that came in the mail. And these petitions that everyone else wants me to back, but I don’t fully believe in petitions and fighting against things, but doesn’t that make me a bad person? That one person emailed me the other day and said I was actually HURTING the world because I wasn’t helping further their agenda and maybe they’re right? I am a terrible person. A terrible person who can’t write or do good things and only has vowels and can’t play a word over 8 points.”
Well, the World Hasn’t Ended Today
And one day I woke up, and I told all those voices to shut up.
SHUT UP and let me think for a minute. Is the world going to end if I stop blogging for a while and figure this out? Let’s see.
The next day, I woke up, poured myself a cup of coffee, looked at the weather forecast and thought, “Well, the world hasn’t ended today. And I’m not ready to write yet. Let’s see if it ends tomorrow.” And the next days followed, with nary a world-ending scenario all because I quit blogging.
(I did get a little worried right before Sandy. Sorry, New Jersey.)
After a few days, I decided I wasn’t going to blog again. Maybe ever. I wasn’t going to write or share or curate or host or anything. I wasn’t going to do a single bit of it, unless I truly, thoroughly and completely, wanted to. And, moreover, I wasn’t ever going to do it again unless I could do it with courageous vulnerability and authenticity to who I am instead of a pretend authenticity that said I had to please everyone else first.
Good news, everybody! Here I am!
I want to do this. And I am willing to be criticized. I am willing to disappoint you. I am willing to screw up royally and offend people and be wrong sometimes, because I AM FREAKING HUMAN (unlike Zooey Deschanel) AND BEING HUMAN IS AWESOME.
So What IS Reality?
Within this gentle awakening, I made friends with my personal truth. My reality. And in that, I realized something Very Important (for me).
Reality is subjective. You cannot know something unless you have experienced it. You cannot, ever, force a belief on another person. And if you try to tell a “truth” you haven’t personally experienced, you’re not living in your own reality. Yet.
It took me many, many steps to come to peace with this. To realize that my reality is not stupid. Or wrong. Or something I should hide. It is mine, and it is perfect. Yours is yours, and it is perfect. Choosing to be friends with our own reality – as it is experienced – is one of the most important things we can do in life. And whether we can let our many realities be friends with each other (sing it: peace, love and understanding) is fully dependent on that.
I have a really hard time not calling where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced an “awakening,” because I feel very awake in ways I’ve never experienced before. But I’ll try to spare you the sappy language and spiritual platitudes.
I won’t, however, not talk about it in ways that feel right to me. And I will, my friends, be sharing some insights that I’ve had over the last few weeks, in ways that you may or may not want to incorporate into your own reality. (Remember – it’s up to you to experiment with your truths, and they’re not truths until you experience them.)
So let me finish with this. This, my truth in reality as it is right now (and may change depending on what I learn in the future):
The only constant is change. Everything changes. All the time. Reality is slippery, and no one thing stays the same in our physical world, except the underlying “is” that some call God or Tao or Universal Energy or whatever. Morals change. Beliefs change. Interpretations change. Science changes. Even history changes, if you talk to enough people.
If you hold on too tight to what you think should be reality for other people, you will eventually be very, very wrong. The only thing you can know is your reality. If you’re lucky, even that changes, alien overlords willing.
If you want to play along with me in this fresh look at reality, right now, you can start where I started.
Can you think of something in your life that has excessively heavy criticism and judgment surrounding it? (Feel free to share it in the comments, if you feel courageous enough and want to connect.) Are the voices ever so loud and painful that you wish you could just STOP whatever it was?
Will the world end if you stop?
How will you know it will end, unless you experiment …?
(Just an innocent question.)