Best Books for Authentic Living: Searching for Authentic Voices

I've never understood cool people. The ones who fit in, who say the right things, who wear the right outfits. I admire them like I do exotic birds at the zoo, but I am always more drawn to the monkeys. The monkeys are over there scratching their butts, picking fleas off each other, and making noise. The exotic birds are prettier, but the monkeys always look more interesting.

It's a good thing I am drawn to the monkeys, because I am so not good at being cool. It's like I got the wrong instructions for the game. I'm over here trying to play poker and everyone else is playing Monopoly. Anyway, that's how it feels sometimes. I don't seem to get that we aren't really supposed to expect change. Or that sports and children's accomplishments are two of the handful of safe and acceptable topics of conversation. I always want to know how your life has been transformed. How you dug your way out of your deepest despair. How you figured out how to put one foot in front of the other after that death, divorce, or betrayal. I want to know how you find meaning. I want to know what causes you think are worth putting your neck out there for. I want to laugh so hard I spit out my drink. I also want to cry with you and tell you, "I get it."

These are not popular topics at cocktail parties. I understand that it is me. I really wish I could care about the latest draft, but try as I might - nothing. I care about the players. I care about the community around the players. Sometimes I even get excited about the score for a little while, but mostly I am wondering why we spend so much money on crappy food and produce so much garbage at games. Total buzz kill.

My faith helps me through those feelings of alienness. So do some of my favorite writers. Frederick Buechner writes, "Same as creatures from some other part of the universe, Jesus was a stranger in this place...I belong to someplace else far, far away. Sometimes I get homesick for it something wicked."

Or, here is Glennon, "Here's my hunch: nobody's secure, and nobody feels like she completely belongs. Those insecurities are just job hazards of being human. But some people dance anyway, and those people have more fun.” 

Sometimes I am tempted to try and go back to sleep. Get back on the antidepressants, choose the numbing behaviors, get cable television and drown time in a new series, try to say the right things. But another part of me says, "Just sit with it. This heavy uncomfortableness will pass. This feeling of bewilderment may change into wonder if you don't get up and run away from it." 

I am encouraged to stay in the murkiness of being alien by my writers. Anne Lamott says, “Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you're going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.” 

The birds do look like they have it easier. It's peaceful in their cages with well-groomed feathers and quiet songs. For now, I will stay with the monkeys. I am always looking for voices straining for authentic living. I would love to hear who your favorite writers are too.