Are we living life authentically?

By Lisa Johns

just turned 59, so I am hanging on to the fringe of those 50s.

Amazingly, I don’t feel 59. Sometimes when I carry on a conversation with a 5-year-old, I feel their age — their quizzical faces when you ask them a question, their eyes looking at you with total interest and their complete honesty when you ask a question.

“Don’t you just love the taste of spinach in your mouth?” You see, they are never on the fringe about anything.

They never see-saw back and forth with should or should nots. They live with a gusto and a drive that few of us do. They mix wild colors, wear shirts that don’t match and say what is on their minds.

But on the flip-side of that five-year-old mind is a heart that can be easily broken and one that shares reluctantly (especially with cookies and candy). They forgive, forget and love unconditionally, yet can throw one major temper tantrum with the best of adults.

As adults, living on the fringe becomes a learned behavior. I mean, do we really want our friends and co-workers to know we can cuss like a sailor? The tears that swell up in our eyes while watching a touching movie, hearing a hymn in church, or reading a passage in a novel or a line of poetry that reminds us of a younger or more compassionate us.

I think living on the fringe happens to all of us. We forget how to be our authentic selves. But I also think that at some unexpected moment or circumstance, the universe says, “Whoa! You cannot live like this any longer.” That tragedy. That special blessing. An unexpected illness. A new found friend or lost friend that comes along to shake up that comfortable, fringe-loving life that really isn’t life at all.

It’s not to say people don’t live this way. If one has the most remote knowledge of golf, on the fringe is a safe place to be. But do we always want to go through life being safe?

In 59 years, I have learned some things the hard way. I have let people down because, well, I am human. I have probably said things that cut to the bone, but again, I am human. I have loved people others could not fathom how I loved, but I believe I am called to love. I also have learned I probably have lived a life that is not authentic.

I worry about what people think. I worry about hurting or leaving someone out. I worry about going blind and never being able to read another book, see grandchildren grow or watch the night sky. I think about grudges I have carried and how their weight was like a noose around my neck. I think about pretensions and how many times I said “yes,”but wish I had the guts to have said “no.” I think about grace, light and love and how it envelops me and wraps its arms around me.

Five-year-olds can teach us all a thing or two. They include everyone. They see no color or designer labels. They don’t care what make or model of car you drive. They prefer a bike or a scooter. They are happy to hold your hand. They love popsicles and Go-gurt. They adore pizza with ranch dressing and love glitter and “bling.” They worry when you have bruises and pray for you when you are sick. They play and giggle and laugh and dream. They know no fringe, no safety net, no fear.

They have taught me to live. To share cookies, eat popsicles, play in the rain, imagine and create. To embrace life like a full-on hug. To be real. To be authentic. To live like a five-year-old.

Lisa Johns is a former teacher and librarian as well as anactivist on revitalizing downtown Winchester.