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Authentic Selves

How many “selves” do you have? Just one? Several? Many? When do you introduce them? Why are they helpful? Do they get in your way? Or are they all authentic facets of your one self?

For the last six summers (except for one) I have taken my Harley-Davidson on what I now call (thanks to my friend Greg Richardson @strategicmonk) a pilgrimage. These are 2-3 week treks alone with minimalistic camping gear and just enough technology to keep me somewhat connected when I want to be. I have no expectations and often have just the barest of ideas about where I am headed. All I expect is to learn a great deal about life, myself, and how we are all connected. I expect to meet some good folks along the way and enjoy some fabulous scenery. This year, I headed out to Montana to ride through Glacier, visit my daughter in Bozeman and drop down to Boulder, Colorado to visit two other daughters. Yellowstone was to be the gateway between the daughter visits.

My friends,  family and folks I meet along the way range in support from “You are crazy to go off on your own CAMPING and riding!” to “You GO girl!” As is always the case, I am only met with kindness and support from people of all ages, backgrounds, walks of life, and philosophical foundations. The strength I gather from these brief encounters sustains me and accelerates my spiritual growth. They guide me towards the light that we are all one. They guide me towards my One Light.

One of the more interesting people I met this summer was Tony. Tony and his son David were traveling the perimeter of the US. They had come to the US from the UK and had been traveling for about 140 days when I met them on my leg home. I had at that point been traveling about 19 days. Besides being envious of the time they had carved out for themselves to do this Father & Son journey, I was interested to hear their stories of life. When we first met, I was just getting my camp set up and I was tired and very hungry. Tony was interested in my bike as he had during this trip become a Harley enthusiast. I believe he had come from a BMW background. Tony was kind, energetic, funny, interested and interesting. His eyes sparkled with joy and fun. David was a bit more reserved, but I am old and he is not. He and Tony both were missing their ladies at that time and ready to load their Florida purchased trusty Harley motorcycles onto a ship and fly home.

During one of our conversations, Tony was showing me photos of the kids on his street and his tough-biker personae at home. His comment was something along the line of, “When I have my leather jacket on and am on my bike, the kids think I’m a bad-ass. We kind of play that don’t we? And then they find out who we really are. We play those roles up to establish an aura, a connection.” I have spent the last three months thinking about that conversation and the many facets each of us possess and how those facets, those personae feed us, protect us, nurture, serve and sometimes hurt us. Yet in the end, they come together as the One that is us. I have observed my various selves to tease out their differences and similarities.

Who is it that wears my leathers? What does that woman, sweaty and grimy from a day on the road want the world to see? Anything or nothing? How does she want others with whom she comes in contact to view her, think or believe? Does my Harley-riding-black-leather-wearing self want to portray strength and edginess? What about the cowboy-boot-wearing-jean-clad Assistant Principal? Or the black-silk-with-emerald-green-embroidered-dragon-jacket-clad woman, what does she wish to exude? Is it the perception of others or my own self-re-collection (hyphen is purposeful) for which I search? I am honoring these characteristics of my authentic self when I allow them the freedom to simply BE “out loud.” And in that, they each have a voice.

Each of these costumed personae are pieces of my authentic self. Tony’s eyes and interested demeanor revealed a thoughtful, intelligent, and multi-faceted man with a deep understanding of human nature. “We all are made up of complicated pieces, aren’t we?”

I will tell you that I have lived many lives. Whether those lives have been lived in this lifetime as imaginary lives or ones acted upon, or whether those lives have been lived in other ways, I cannot say. I can say that they all feel “right,” those different selves. They all serve me in myriad ways. I love them all and love living those lives out now. What exactly is an authentic self? Is it just one self or is it made up of many fragments that are as authentic separately as they are glued together, stained glass window style?

I do know that no matter which Peg is presenting at any given moment, the foundational Peg of integrity, deep belief in humanity and the goodness of life and humankind is always guiding. My authentic self lives deep within my mind, heart and soul. My authentic self knows “the heart of life is good” and searches for it in every encounter and life lesson.

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