I have recently committed to a path of Honesty. This may sound easy to many on first read, but rigorous honesty is something entirely different than, “I don’t steal from my employer’s till” or, “I don’t tell bald-faced lies, or at least not that much, or only when it doesn’t matter.” It means no longer telling any lies, even those by omission – and excavating where I’ve been lying while lying to myself by not admitting I was doing so.
Deeper still, honesty to me means no longer accepting the tacit bargains of codependency and hardened hearts. It means being present in the moment (this is hard); it means caring about the other party involved in a way almost transcendant. It means risking hearing the other person’s response when I speak up with things previously unsaid. It means no longer lying to myself that omitting information isn’t dishonesty – when it really is.
Relevant to the last few days, I have committed to being honest about my thoughts and feelings with my friends – specifically when something they do hurts me or affects me adversely. Everyone is different, and some people (though I suspect, not so many) do not have this difficulty in their relationships; however, I historically have. What I have typically done in the past is either held my feelings inside (and thus developed either resentment or anxiety, or both) and/or perhaps committed to avoiding or turning off to these people – cutting off or curtailing friendship. I’ve often thought a version, a lie really, not so specifically spoken, of “easy come easy go”. It has been my softer, more cowardly way to let go of a possible intimacy than do the scary work of growth.
You can imagine how hard it is to live this way with husband and children. I’ve caused a lot of suffering for them and myself.
And finally, I am of course of severely diminished use to anyone else – everyone else – when I live this way.
Yes; when I live this way, growing active cultures of Anxiety and Resentment, I become Fearful and Angry. I don’t necessarily complain too vociferously to other people about the party who hurt me; but of course I have spoken evil about individuals. I regret this as these behaviors accomplished nothing good. I don’t want to do this any more.
My avoidance tendencies and my responses due to deep-seated fear of being cut off (from affection, mostly) were developed and perfected over a period of many years, as a result of my upbringing and as a survival mechanism. While understandable responses as a child, I have spent years parcelling my mind, heart, and spirit into ever more narrow and frightened spaces. I’ve outgrown the usefulness of these strategies and they now hurt deeply – and not just me.
So I am honest now – to the best of my abilities – and it is not at all the freeing experience one who hasn’t committed to fully might guess. It is quite terrifying. Implicit in telling someone, “Ouch, that hurt” is every single Boogeyman that kept me from saying it for years. The possible responses: “See you later, I don’t need this shit”, “Come on, you’re making a big deal of nothing!”, or “Well now that you’ve opened the floodgates let me tell YOU just what I think about YOU!” – exactly the results I’d feared so much and for so long. It risks everything I hadn’t been willing to risk before – all this at a time in my life, now, where I am learning to cope with life on life’s terms; without the evening cocktail to obliterate the pain.
See, telling someone I’m hurt is the opposite of a Control thing; no, Control was what I’d tried to maintain earlier by my dishonesty. Speaking aloud these truths is not done to secure a friend’s future behavior nor demand anything in particular from them, but to be honest about who I am – today – and what I think and feel. I don’t require people change, and I could not force this result even if I wished to; to the best of my ability I merely tell them in as direct and brief a way possible (seriously, like one sentence) what they did and that it hurt. Then I wait to see how they respond.
Turns out, so far, some people don’t like this kind of honesty much. Most recently, someone I care for very much literally stomped out of my house. I won’t write down the things this person was quite quick to talk over me and claim about my character, but they were many and they weren’t complimentary.
After the person left it felt so tempting and familiar to think of attempts to “take it back” – to apologize if I hurt their feelings – to diminish what I said as if one or two sentences were too much for me to claim. But I can’t apologize for other people’s experiences (or feelings). And at the same time I am brave enough to be honest, I realize there is no friendship I absolutely need – there are many I want to keep, if possible. What I need is to love others unconditionally, and to instantly forgive them when they wrong me – even if they never apologize.
I am no longer going to deal the way I used to with those who respond poorly to me; even those who outright try to hurt me. I can’t afford to hold a grudge or cut them off from my thoughts and prayers.
The one time in my life, that I can remember, that I earnestly wished for death – I sat in an AA meeting in early sobriety and even my final barrier, that I could never physically destroy my body for the pain it would cause my children, in that moment even that barrier was removed – a man shared and at one point he said, “No one owes you a goddamned thing for getting sober.”
His words were like freshets of water and they give me strength now.
But, unlike the words of my mentor and virtual life coach Dalton – I find pain, really, does hurt.