Poems and Phantasms

Posts tagged ‘authenticity’

How Becoming

Do not shed your skin only

to wear it as a jacket in polite company


It wears thin, pliability

grows brittle, pretense


Beware most hypocrisy

oily and clinging


Lest your mask

become you

“The Invitation” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer

“Path to the summit of Mangere Mountain in Manukau City, New Zealand” Ingolfson, 2008. (Public Domain)

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved


“In the Month of June” by Laurits Andersen Ring, 1899. (Public Domain)

I always both feared and idolized confident authenticity in others. It seemed dangerously self-indulgent to just be out there in the world, unguarded. I preferred the incognito approach for myself. I watched everyone around me and tempered my every action to please as many people as possible. Invisibility would have been ideal, but I settled for nice.

Let others go first. Let others choose. Take up as little space as possible. Apologize for having needs. I was really good at this.

I still am. Mine is not a midlife rebellion story. I still choose to be polite, but I am now being honest too. Pretending to be someone else only spares temporary conflict; it does not lead to true peace.

I still try to fit in, but I now accept that I will seem out of place in some settings no matter what I do.

I am grateful for what is offered to me, but if I have strong preferences against something, I will speak up now. No, thank you. I’m not interested. I have learned to say no.

I used to feel powerless. I used to seek protection and approval from men and people in authority, as if getting them to like me would keep me safe somehow. I have learned that such safety is an illusion, and that giving my power to others is a worse threat than risking independence.

My voice and my wishes were buried so deep that I had lost them. The change came with becoming a mother, and realizing that I want to raise girls who are stronger than I was. The change came when I had faith that if there is a God of Love, my whole self would be loved, not just pieces. The change came when others saw through my pretenses and loved the pieces of me that I thought were unlovable.

True grace changes you. It gave me the courage to unearth the roots of my dormant self.

No more filling my days with what other people want, nurturing their wishes for me and tending to things that choke my soul. No more living in someone else’s eyes.

It’s time to let my whole self have its chance in the sun.

If You’re Looking

Public Domain. Zygmunt Gloger, circa 1900-1903.


most of my tattoos are on the inside

engravings of childhood stories, deep as a well

etchings of songs that crackle with each echo

impressions of memories, prettier as they fade

and of course

the scars


I used to decorate myself

with notions and intentions, superstitions and pretentions

then truth came, burning


I look rather plain now

all the beauty got buried

it’s not skin-deep anymore, you know?


but the marks that tell my story are still here

you can see them

if you’re looking in the right place

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