Tag Archives: honesty

I Get It, I Understand

You know who’s the best? You guys. After my last post I had so many people reach out to me, by email, text, comment, phone, Facebook message, husband, currier pigeon, pony express, smoke signal, morse code, and, dangnabbit, even in person. And just about everyone was saying, “Yes, I hear you, I’m in this place too.” or “I was in this place.” or “I think I’m headed for this place.” I’m humbled and honored by those of you who opened up to me about your own struggles and I’m buoyed by the love and kindness sent my way. And of course it has gotten me thinking a lot.

Why, if so many of us are burdened and struggling with one thing or another, is it so hard for us to talk about it? If there is a wealth of understanding and support out there, why can’t we just be honest with where we are at from day to day? Are we really going to be social lepers if we quit pretending that we aren’t a wreck when we actually are? Maybe. I don’t know. But I suspect not. I think we all crave intimate connection but most of us are well trained to keep our less pretty emotions tucked away. My Norwegian ancestors keep a close eye on me and they don’t mind shaming me from the grave for crossing the line of what’s appropriate. “Stop making a scene,” they say tersely, “and don’t embarrass anyone.”

I’m actually terrified of embarrassment, mine and other people’s. Once I was at the dentist and the hygienist thought I was pregnant when I wasn’t. It was like being thrown into a humiliation casserole. I was embarrassed, of course, over my size and shape, but also embarrassed for her for making such an ostentatious social gaff. I was full of guilt that my own body could cause such awkwardness between people and ashamed that I had no snappy comeback, just hot, red cheeks and sweaty armpits in an office full of other embarrassed people. While that experience had nothing to do with emotional openness, it had the result of everyone feeling mortified and I never want to be the cause of that. Still though, I know that the subjects that sometimes make people uncomfortable are the ones we need to share the most. I want to be bold and open and real, but I’m a wuss when it comes right down to it. I find it easier to share my inner workings in writing, here and in less public settings, because I can avoid seeing the reaction on someone’s face and if people disapprove or find me immodest, chances are they won’t tell me about it.

A friend recommended a podcast called ‘Terrible, Thanks For Asking‘. I’ve only listened to the first few installments, but I really like the concept. The idea is that every episode is an interview with someone who has experienced something hard (or awful in some cases) and the difficult emotional recovery that comes with it. It’s people who are unapologetically honest with their pain and shortcomings, even if it causes some discomfort. Some of the stories are hard to listen to, but it’s a refreshing look at how the dark sides of life make us who we are. Obviously, it’s right up my alley.

That podcast, combined with the feedback I’ve gotten on my last post has made me wish we had a different way to communicate with each other about how we really are from day to day. Of course it’s going to be hard to be totally honest when you see an acquaintance at the kid’s swimming lessons or while meeting a potential client or waiting in line to buy tampons, but what if there was another way? Humor me for a minute and just imagine:

Every morning after we get up and start the day we put on a name tag. But instead of writing our name, we write how we are really feeling. Write it in green and it means you are open to talking about it. Write it in red and it means you aren’t. Then you go to work or school or the grocery store and everyone is walking around with a tag. I’m lonely. My husband is cheating on me. I’m so excited for my trip tomorrow. I think I’m pregnant. I’m sick of people giving me advice. Abandonment issues. I got a great job that I’m completely unqualified for. This sunny day makes me feel like frolicking. I ate an entire bag of Cheetos. In laws. I screamed at my kid and I feel horrible about it. I’m falling in love. My wife has cancer. Bankrupt. I want someone to take care of me. I’m jealous of everyone who is better looking than I am. I had a hard time leaving the house because of my anxiety. I’m happy for no reason.

Of course this alternate universe relies on us always knowing what we are feeling and why, being aware of our issues and able to articulate them. As far fetched as that is, when we have a glimmer of insight I think it’s worth trying to be brave and vulnerable and generous with our truth. Most of us are floundering through life looking for the people with whom we are simpatico. It’s hard to keep in mind, when wallowing around in our own emotional shit, that people long to say “I get it, I understand.” as much as they want to be understood themselves.

Authenticity might be my favorite quality in a person. My own moments of faker-ness come more often than I would like but I’m striving to be more candid in the way I present myself to the world. When someone shares their real self with me, it brings richness to my life, another complex layer of flavor. Being open with our truth is a gift to those hearts that are in harmony with our own. It makes us softer and more trusting. It feeds the compassionate parts of human nature instead of the judgmental ones. It’s an awkward stumble into grace.

“Engrave this upon my heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” – Mary Lou Kownacki

(Except that I’m too realistic to be completely sold on this. There are plenty of people that I will continue to dislike even if I hear their story, because some people are just plain obnoxious. But I like the quote anyway.)

 

How’s this for honesty?

Where have I been? I said I’d be back after Christmas, and here it is, almost a month later and I have written nothing. What the hell?

So let’s address that. I wanted to write a New Year’s post, with my wishes and hopes and inspirations for 2016, but I couldn’t make it happen. Inspiration was not on the list of things I was feeling. The things I was feeling were depression, exhaustion, lack of knowing where my life is headed, a serious dose of martyrdom over the fact that I am the support staff to so many people, and the thought that this little writing experiment is a total waste of time. The more I snoop around the internet, the more it feels like everyone has a blog. And seventy five percent of everyone is writing about food or parenting. There is so much to read out there and a lot of it is very good. It’s daunting and had me feeling like I should just give up on this and go be useful in some way. I was hemming and hawing and moping and crying about it. I didn’t want to write another post about struggling with my dark side because, come on, no one wants to read that. But I also didn’t want to try and write some chipper thing about the food I’ve been cooking and the funny things the kids say when I wasn’t feeling the least bit chipper. It didn’t seem honest. And, lo and behold, a piece of the puzzle came together for me. That is what I want this blog to be at its core. Honest. I still don’t know what exactly Baby Loves Butter is about and I feel some pressure to get that figured out, but I do know that I don’t want to write anything that isn’t coming from a really truthful place in myself. I don’t want to give this up, I want to learn how to be better at it, and I want to turn it into something besides a hobby someday. (Whew, that last sentence was kind of tough. All the alarms are going off in my head, “DON’T SAY THAT! DON’T ADMIT IT! YOU’RE DOOMED TO FAIL AND NOW EVERYONE WILL KNOW!”) There is so much of life when we have to fake it, just to be part of polite society, and I think we all long for a safe place to admit what is really going on inside ourselves even when it’s scary or ugly or insecure. When one person has the guts to be real it makes it easier for the rest of us to do the same. So I’m going to work on being real.

I’m feeling much better this week. I have some perspective and don’t feel as though I’m doomed to the role of pit crew for eternity. Maybe for a while, but not forever. And I want to get back to this blog. Part of me thinks I should lay down some rules for myself like that I need to post every two weeks, or I need to spend x number of hours a week working on it but I don’t think that is really going to serve me, it will just make me feel bad if I can’t stick to it. So my goal is to write regularly, and to write from my heart, and to not be too hard on myself when life gets in the way.

More coming soon.