One Real Thing
In his notebooks, Albert Camus said, “But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.” I've been thinking a lot about how to be more authentic, how to be more real online. I think in real life, I'm pretty straightforward. In fact, I'm pretty boring and becoming more dull all the time.
I get up in the morning, and have my coffee. I like a lot of coffee. I write on my novel for about an hour. Well, that's the hope. If insomnia has plagued me, I might sleep in for that hour, which pretty much messes everything up. I still open my file, I look at it, and I write a word or two. I might continue, I might not. The pattern is that I have a week or two of poor sleeping, and then a few weeks of okay sleeping. So that's what that is.
I usually work four days a week, but my shifts don't usually start until noon, sometimes 10 o'clock, sometimes later. Variable shift work is good, and it's tiring. I do know that I'd struggle to write if my job was 9–5.
I want to seem real. I am real. But Camus is correct – better to be than try to seem.
The thing is who really knows how they seem? Especially online. I do try to just be, and I try to be who I am. But honestly, after many years of being online (Facebook let me know that it's been over 10 years for me....) I feel less and less inclined to say “real” stuff. Mainly, I'm just not that interesting, and hasn't everyone heard about it all before? But I have had people assume that everything is smooth sailing for me, because I often keep it to flowers and leaves, and blog posts. I've been told off and been unfriended. Which is okay. I think I understand where those things are coming from.
Brené Brown has done a lot of work on authenticity. She says, “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It's about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” (From The Gifts of Imperfection). In another book, Daring Greatly, she says, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
In an interesting interview in The Guardian, Brown says, "do the best work you can and find the courage to put your work out there and know that, no matter what you do, some people are going to like it and some people aren’t. All you can really control is how you feel about what you’ve contributed.”
It would be weird, anyway, wouldn't it, if all the people liked what you were putting out there?
Not being liked is the price you pay for becoming who you are. I don't think this next quotation can be uttered too often:
So, all that said, I was thinking many months ago that what I missed on social media, and maybe here, too, were those very real moments that people used to post all the time. Some people still post them, and I gravitate to those posts. A kid with a messy face, a dropped eggshell on the ground, a story about a terrible day. Or just saying that the day was terrible without even the details. I kept telling myself, just post one real thing a week. One. Real. Thing. I even thought it would be a cool hashtag. #ORT
I particularly liked the "ort" aspect of it because of the line from Virginia Woolf's Between the Acts which is oft quoted where she talks about "scraps, orts and fragments."
And ort is a real word:
ort |ôrt| noun (usually orts) archaic or dialect. a scrap or remainder of food from a meal.
ORIGIN late Middle English: from Middle Low German orte ‘food remains,’ originally a compound of which the second element is related to eat.
I honestly don't know that I want to share real things anymore, that I have the heart for it. Whatever that means these days. But today, I offer you my toast, hastily prepared, with peanut butter and cherry jam. It wasn't something I'd planned to photograph. I was going to sit down and scroll through IG, drink the last of my coffee, and just eat the toast.
The scraps and fragments of life, the toast crumbs, if you will, have a way of capturing so much, when it seems impossible to speak. Maybe they're not sublime, but they're real.