What does it mean to be authentic? Does it mean that you have to share every passing thought, desire, opinion and passion with whomever will listen? Do you have to follow every fancy, eat whatever you’re craving because well, you gotta be you? Not for me, no. “To thine own self be true” is something I try and live every day which is not to be confused with self-centeredness, narcissism or lack of self-restraint. Sometimes it involves making life-altering choices; other times it’s seemingly inconsequential, however when such “little” decisions are strung together over time they look a lot like a lifestyle.
So why then do I sometimes feel like I need permission to be myself? And from whom does this permission need to come? What if it never comes to pass?
When I first became friends with Chippie, may she rest in peace, I didn’t even know I needed her. Suddenly I was filled with wonder; my deck became an enchanted place. I wanted to know more about her and the other chipmunks in my yard. It was then, after an online search, I discovered the book Eastern Chipmunks: Secrets of Their Solitary Lives by Lawrence Wishner. As I wrote in a past post, his book inspired and encouraged me to pursue my interest in my little courtyard jesters that inhabit my yard. He spent his retirement years documenting and photographing the chipmunks on his property. Each had a name like “Lady Cheltenham,” “Fenwick” and “Mistriss Earwicker” with a biography at the back of the book. He was like the Gladys Kravitz of chipmunkville but with a scientific spin. I never thought I’d be able to tell one chipmunk from another but I learned to strengthen my observation skills and pay even more attention to detail.
There was a throwaway line in his book, something about “much to the chagrin of my neighbors” before he proceeded to describe laying on the ground with the chipmunks as he photographed them. The takeaway is that he was having fun and didn’t let the opinion of his neighbors stop him. He wasn’t hurting anyone by following his passion, yet to stop it would have meant not being true to himself, not writing a book to be published. But he did and it wasn’t just the knowledge in the book but his self-confidence that really inspired me. I named Wishy, may he rest in peace, after him. Wishy now lives on through my children’s book, Wishy the Bookworm Chipmunk. Thank you, DeeDee for sending me this photo of how Wishy’s e-book is bringing smiles to new generations:
When I discovered that Elizabeth Taylor also loved chipmunks and at age thirteen wrote a charming book about her chipmunk named Nibbles, I was beyond delighted!
Now if you have never had a chipmunk, you won’t know what you have missed. That is why I am writing this, because I think a chipmunk is the nicest little pet and companion anyone could possibly have.
As a fan of Elizabeth Taylor I noticed I felt even more justified in my love of chipmunks. You don’t have to be a lonely old lady sitting on a park bench to appreciate them.
Then I realized what I had been doing. I had been waiting for permission to be me. “Well if ___________ thinks it’s cool, then so it is.”
So I’m thankful to Ms. Taylor and Mr. Wishner not just for sharing their knowledge and love of chipmunks, but their inadvertent permission to be me, that I now realize I never really needed.
Don’t wait for permission to be yourself, for it may never come!
In the meantime I’m contemplating growing into a kooky old lady who wears chipmunk earrings, knit tops with chipmunk appliques and a CHIPMUNK vanity plate if not already taken.