Got To Be Real

Got To Be Real

It had been a lovely day of wading. Several brookies and a rainbow danced with me. I helped a bat get back to his tree, found three spools of expensive tippet in the water, and enjoyed the green bursting out everywhere in the mountain forest. 

As I was finishing my hike, I glanced across the field, behind the old church, and saw a wedding happening. The white dress, bride’s maids…the whole thing. My car was parked along the dirt road, past the dressed up folks at the wedding. I was wet wading so was soggy up to my knees, had on a muted green jacket and a baseball cap. Scrambling up and down banks, slipping on wet rocks…doesn’t lend itself to fancy dress.

(Photo by David Knapp)

Normally, I’m happy as can be in my fishing clothes. But today, I noticed something happening within me as I contemplated walking out in the open, past the wedding party. I noticed I started walking with my head down and feeling self-conscious. What am I feeling, I asked myself. The answer came immediately…shame.

My brother and me enjoying dirty feet and freshly caught fish.

It was like my entire life flashed in my mind and I saw how hard it was for me to be myself growing up, which was a jeans and tee shirt girl with skinned knees nearly all the time. It wasn’t any better moving into my teen years when expectations to conform to social pressure were high. I never fit into the girlie mode yet feared if I was myself, I wouldn’t be accepted. But I still wore jeans, avoided the ‘in-crowd’ and always felt like I didn’t fit in. 

I’ve always been fierce in standing up for myself…what to wear, how to be in the world…30-something Simone

Feeling that way helped me grow to love solitude. I could be myself when it was just me and my horse or my dog. I could dress however I wanted to, ride on the dirt road and open my heart to the sky and fields, free from the pressure but grievously aware I didn’t fit in, hardly anywhere. Anywhere except with Nature.

I hadn’t thought about any of this in decades until I noticed shame arise when I was faced with dressed-up people in the field I was about to walk through. Of course, now I realize I was dressed appropriately to be in a national park, out in the woods…hindsight, you know. 

I reflected on my life as a kid and teen a bit after that moment of shame arose. The definition of shame is the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous done by oneself.* As if the way I dressed or the fact that I loved horses and dogs and being outside was somehow ridiculous because most kids didn’t do that…no, most girls didn’t do that. 

Yes, I wore a cowgirl outfit as a kid and loved my grandmother Wenzel who grew flowers and had puppies.

How much pain we go through being real. By the time many of us are adults, so many protective layers have been applied that we hardly know ourselves. If we are courageous enough to strip away those layers and be real, I suspect we’ll discover light that would illuminate the world.

I still love dogs…

The solitude I cultivated as a teenager has blossomed into a deeply spiritual practice. As I wade and hike and cast, I open myself to Life…and it is so good. And to the girl with skinned knees, the teen riding her horse in jeans and a tee shirt, and the 60-something year old woman wearing fishing clothes, I say this: your beauty shines bright, keep your heart open, and never, ever be anything other than yourself. When who we really are is embraced and encouraged, magic happens. 

(One of the reasons I am creating Wading Women is to empower women to claim the wildness within, to enjoy Nature without feeling a need to fit in or conform to anyone else’s expectations. And to fill their lives with their wonderful, shiny hearts.)


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