On Becoming Real


I have a deep and abiding antipathy toward fake mashed potatoes.  It’s not simply that I don’t care to eat them.  It goes far beyond that.  It is no exaggeration to say that I find them an affront to all things that are good and decent.  You see, it’s not just their foul taste and disappointing texture.  It is the very fact of their fraudulence that offends me.

On a fundamental level, I believe in real mashed potatoes.  In general, I believe in real food.  Not because it’s a slogan or a movement, but because it is real.  Lumpy.  Uncontrolled.  And, Real.

Is it too much to suggest that my mashed potatoes are a metaphor for life?  I don’t think it is. Because this becoming Real might just be what all my other work is all about.  

There was once a toy horse who knew all about becoming Real.  He told a forgotten stuffed rabbit all about it.

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand."
                    -The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

This is important.  This, Realness.  It is also tricky and complicated and difficult.  Most worthwhile things are.  And he's right.  Sharp edges and careful handling are not going to work out well with it.  

I can’t tell you how to do it.  I don't know much about it, myself.  There’s no formula for Real.  I can tell you what it feels like today, in this one moment.  I can feel my own one unique heart beating inside my own one unique chest.  It feels exhilarating and terrifying.  When I really look at my own Realness, I start to sense something big and powerful.  And, it feels like fear.  It feels like it wants to hide behind judgement, comparison, distraction and busyness instead of looking at its own reflection.  

The life I live, the home I create, the words I write, those all create a reflection.  I can create one that’s distorted.  That’s possible . . . easy, even.  But, to create a reflection that is Real—this is where the power lies, but it is where all the fear lies as well.  

I ask myself what it is I’m afraid of.  In answer, a question comes reverberating back.  What if, when I look at my own Realness, I don’t like what I see?  What if, what I find is ugly, unkind, or far from what I aspire to be?  Or, far worse yet, what if I find nothing at all?

“The Rabbit sighed.  He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him.  He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad.  He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.”
                    -The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams

Somehow I want this process of becoming to be simple.  Uncomplicated.  I want to become Real through a process that is Fake.

All the wanting in the world will not change what is.  My Realness will only be earned by leaning in, not shrinking back.  It is a process, after all, of becoming.  Messily.  Haltingly.  Hair rubbed off and loose in the joints.  This is Real.