#6: Real

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?

Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows


What is REAL?" the Velveteen Rabbit asked the Skin Horse one day. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Velveteen Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. But once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always."

- The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams 


Human vulnerability has diminished in value. If you feel too much, then you can't keep up. If we defer to our minds, we risk becoming threadbare. To be worn a little thinner is our greatest fear, because then we risk being hurt. And not necessarily by others, but even by ourselves. 

Vulnerability, trying to be real, is the agonizing beauty of being human. What other creature can contemplate and accept themselves? What others can choose to love another so deeply knowing that there is no guarantee of not being hurt. 

We seem to think that we only become real when others see us. Meanwhile, we are unable to see or look at ourselves. It can be terrifying to confront yourself, question the type of person you are or want to be.

You ask yourself am I doing this right? Or rather, we should, but we tend not to because inviting that into our minds can mean certain unhappiness. Rather, we (and I'm not claiming I am entitled to speak on behalf of everyone) allow a neverending barrage of stimuli build up walls around ourselves. We think these walls are to protect us from the others, but really they're to falteringly convince ourselves we're impervious to our thoughts and feelings. 

I've obstinately tried to deny this realness. For being the alternative can mean overwhelming happiness, or sadness, or pain. Once in a while, I decide to be open to this authenticity. Many times, and so far it feels like almost all the time, it ends in what feels like crippling engulfment. In retrospect, I see that those periods that once felt indefinite were simply part of becoming Real. 

We have convinced ourselves that denying our truth allows us to unmovable. We aren't meant to be motionless though. For a long while, I couldn't explore what it meant to be Real because my brain didn't care to, it really didn't care to do anything frankly. But I have regained my autonomy, and now have the choice to be frigid. I often want to maintain sharp edges, but repeatedly find myself failing at it. It seems worse to renounce myself, than to feeling nothing at all. 

Of course, sometimes it simply sucks. In fact, that's my current state. I get defensive and muddled. I tell myself to stop trying, it's clearly getting me nowhere. But then I realize that that means certain misery. To not allow myself to question who I am, what I've done, whom I'm okay being hurt by or loved by, essentially denies my existence. We don't exist, aren't 'Real' until we are threadbare. 

It's certainly not easy, but I can say with sureness that I can't possibly be Real without being humanely vulnerable.