I am sitting in my favorite chair, drinking my first cup coffee, from my favorite coffee cup. The cup is just the right size and it has a sepia photo of a young John Wayne. Whenever I use it, I smile and think about the friend who gave it to me. I have many wonderful friends and thinking about any one of them is a great way to start my day.

Each time I see John Wayne’s mug, I am reminded that the great American poet Walt Whitman said, “I contain multitudes”. We humans are complicated and wisdom comes from acceptance of our complicated selves. As we gain wisdom we no longer have to try to be just one way all the time. We no longer feel we need to wear masks in order to fit in.

I am through with masks but I do have many roles including grandmother, mother, lover, student and teacher. I also have a consciousness that is full of ideas, desires and opinions that may not fit all of those roles. I am who I am and like you, I want to be accepted for myself. And, like you and Walt Whitman, I contain multitudes

I love old movies, and especially horse operas with celluloid alpha males. They are not my only form of entertainment, but they are a continuous delight. I enjoy them the same way I enjoy opera – the story may be preposterous but who cares? In fact, one of my favorite operas is Puccini’s Girl of The Golden West.

The real reason I love drinking coffee from my John Wayne cup is that it was a gift from a  former student who is now a good friend. The cup may be an unconventional one to give to a wisdom teacher but it pleased me that it wasn’t decorated with the usual rainbows or butterflies. My friend is happy to know me for myself and she never insists I play the specialized role of teacher. While I am comfortable in the role of teacher, it seems to me that we can only be true friends when we are  accepted as our complete selves.

My personal wisdom journey has included getting comfortable in my own skin and learning to live with the fact that I am quite different from most people. Now I am comfortable letting the world know who I am, but it took a lot of years. My friend is dear to me because she never seemed to have a problem with the fact that I was who I was.

I believe we all love to be seen as our complete selves, don’t we? When I was painfully young, I put all my energy into learning to play my roles and speak my lines. Many of those roles were uncomfortable in those days and I sort of ricocheted between Marilyn Monroe, Doris Day and Ida Lupino.

In my long life, I have had many excellent roles but they were not always comfortable. There was a time in my life when I was living on the East Coast and making a successful writing career when I was very uneasy about letting anyone see the real Jane. I never talked about where I came from or who I was. I wanted to fit into the role of successful writer. All my friends seemed to have gone to prep schools and then on to Smith College. There was no way I was going to tell them I grew up in a housing project in Wilmington, CA and barely scrambled through California State, Long Beach.

Honesty has always been an important value for me and I felt like an imposter because I kept quiet and let my friends assume I had their same background. Because I was out of sync with my own values, I was unhappy. I’d earned all my success but I was uncomfortable. How could they really be my friends if they didn’t know me? It was only when I took the risk to tell the truth, that I established true friendships.

I have learned that it is fine to be complicated and to play many roles but it is not fine to pretend to be someone other than who you are. I treasure my friends who know me as myself and I try to be a good friend. I also try to be a good friend to myself by accepting myself as I truly am.

Ask Yourself

Are being honest about who you are with our friends?

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