What would life be like if we didn’t lie, if we didn’t pretend, if we didn’t put on a public face?
Given that we live in a Fake-It-Til-You-Make-It culture, and at times that has value, perhaps a premise of no lying, no pretending, and no public face is too sweeping and ambitious a goal. Perhaps telling the truth all the time is as inappropriate as not telling the truth – some of the time.
But what if we didn’t hide who we are quite so much? What if we felt freer to tell the truth of our lives, and without fear of judgment?
Ah, my ignominious idealism is rearing its hapless head again! The reality is that people judge. We all do it – projecting onto others our hurts, jealousies, resentments, insecurities, and our grittiest fears.
Kindness, Community, the “Truth” of Our Lives
This isn’t what I planned to write today; I set aside what I began when I came upon a post by a wonderful woman I’ve never met, in response to a need and request that I expressed to a few in my writing community.
Her words touched me, and I’ve been unable to stop the tears.
The truth of our lives is often complicated. Few of us are “just one thing,” and so the many faces we present are variable, especially to those who don’t know us personally.
There’s nothing surprising in this; we behave in ways that are appropriate to the context and respectful of boundaries.
Moreover, we hold pieces of ourselves back – out of respect for private relationships, for the protection of those we love, and also because we recognize that our view of the world isn’t the only view. Life is open to interpretation.
I’ll say that one again if you don’t mind: Life is open to interpretation, along with motives and consequences.
Yes, I’m being vague and I apologize for that. I’m pounding away on my worn keyboard, a bit raw and a bit rushed. I’m trying to gather my thoughts about places of truth, searching for fitting examples and evocative words, and coming up dry while stealing a glance at the clock.
Time constraints are part of the “real world” that is my truth, and likely yours.
Mavericks with Mouths
Yesterday I wrote about Bethenny Frankel, both here and in a slightly varied form at the Huffington Post.
I see Bethenny Frankel as something of a maverick. A mouthy maverick at that, yes. I admire her ability “to put it out there” – and I say that knowing full well that it’s to her advantage, it’s filtered through a variety of channels, nothing is entirely unscripted or unplanned, any more than what is planned will shield us from the unexpected.
When it comes to Bethenny, I wrote what I sense. Naturally, my impressions are formed through a personal lens and a passel of assumptions. I wrote in light of my view of myself – as an intelligent woman, at times a lonely woman, and one who is driven, strong, and also vulnerable.
My life is not what I thought it would be. My life is not what I “planned.” In some ways, it is so much less. In other ways, it is rich beyond imagining.
I cannot help but write from my own deepest places of disappointment: the legacy of an emotionally confusing childhood, with a troubled mother who gave me extraordinary gifts all the same; and the muddled passage of my marriage and divorce, aware that no “outsider” would understand the inner dynamics, much less my depth of loss.
When I write, depending on the day or the topic, I write from joy: the insights garnered in years of travel, the stunning journey of parenthood, the dizzying heights of connection in all its finest forms – the friend, the lover, the beloved.
I write from my understanding of contradictions: We can love those we don’t respect; we can love those whose actions dwell at the opposite end of the values spectrum; we can love despite the sensation of abandonment.
Defining Our Movable Truths
We all live with contradictions. Why don’t we simply admit as much?
Worries over money walk hand-in-hand with competence and responsible budgeting; sorrow as you greet the undeniable signs of aging can be stared down by utter delight in feeling free, comfortable, and more like yourself than when you were younger. Emotional pain can coexist with optimism. Physical pain can coexist with vitality.
Telling the truth?
Even that phrase is inexact – at least if you believe as I do that our stories at a point in time are what we feel with what we know. Unless we are reporting facts of an incident – and that’s facts, not factoids – and offering that reportage from emotional remove, every truth will be shaped by our conscious or unconscious agendas and experience.
But what if we allowed for our role models and heroes to own their contradictions?
What if it was really okay to say to someone – I’m tired, I’m worried, I’m overwhelmed, I need a hand?
What if we thought to ask a stranger – is there something I can do for you?
Believe me. When we do that, we give to ourselves far more than we ever imagine.
Distance Serves; So Does Rapprochement
I retain a measure of “separation of church and state” between one version of my life and another. I do so for professional ease, though I’ve intentionally allowed these worlds to blend, in part to offer credentials that back up what I say and write.
It may appear that my truths collide and my worlds contradict.
Happiness coexists with stress. Faith in love resides alongside a deeply ingrained suspicion that love won’t last. I am aware of my own strengths as well as my weaknesses, with frequent dismissal of the former and too much focus on the latter.
There are personal triumphs – some I’ve written about and while they may seem small, they’re significant to me. Parenting my sons, thus far, has been among them.
There are also searing disappointments, some of which I put down on the page, and many that I will never speak of.
But what if I could? What if we could – without worrying about being judged?
How Many of Us Wear the Mask?
I come back to the kindness of a woman who wrote about me today, in order to help. I come back to all the Bethenny’s – or would-be Bethenny’s as I imagine her – women who want to be themselves, be loved for themselves; women who choose to pursue their dreams and refuse to subjugate themselves to a society that says “have it all – but not that much and not that way;” women who are willing to put it out there for others to see, but who pay a terrible price in the process.
Yes, I’m making assumptions. Yes, I’m projecting.
But I hope I’m speaking from a place of listening, rather than insisting. A place of my own strength and concomitant fragility.
I hope that I write from the spaces between my words as much as the words themselves, from the recognition of emotions and events that I cannot know from experience, but which are no less “true” or powerful than what I’ve personally lived, learned, and observed.
I cannot imagine a culture in which we all tell the truth all the time. Realistically, it would never work: We dodge, we reshape, we “spin” at least in part to protect, and of course in order to get what we want. But couldn’t we tell the truth more often? Couldn’t we listen with open minds? Couldn’t we accept that contradictions exist?
Imagine the example that would set for our children.
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