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Posts Tagged ‘truth’

Today is the 20th anniversary of my mom’s death.

20 years feels like a long time. This also marks the point at which I’ve been alive longer without my mom than I was with her.

I’ve been thinking, as I am wont to do, about grief, and about our society’s difficulty accepting and supporting grief. I’ve been thinking of the ways in which I have not been well served in being taught about grief or shamed into pretending not to have it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the past.

On Tuesday night I was very sad about all of this. I was sitting finishing up some reading, and I found myself crying. I’m not afraid of grief anymore. It’s a flavor of discomfort I don’t mind sitting with, so I did. I sat, and I felt sad.

I did need to write a personal email to a friend of mine, and I knew it would also end up being sad. I considering not writing it, putting it off. After twenty years, it is wearying, dealing with people’s unhelpful reactions to grief, to sadness, to any emotion that isn’t happy or quiet or easy.

But I did write it. Not out of some desperate hope either. I included a boundary, just in case, but I knew it would be fine. I knew this person would show up for me, just as I was, sadness and all. And they did.

So I can think about the past. I can think of all the pain and disappointment. I can think of the times all those years ago when I was really struggling and people didn’t show up, or I gave a cry for help and was instead pushed further down. Those things will always have happened. They cannot be changed. They are irrevocable.

But then I return to the present, and the present is a very different story. It’s not that it erases the past, but it removes some of its sting. And it makes the progress I’ve made and my relationships with the people who show up for me now even more meaningful. I know what it is not to be here, and so I know exactly how precious the love and solicitude and presence I receive now are.

To be allowed the space for grief is a transformative thing.

My grief is difficult and uncomfortable and messy, and it always has been. My mom was a remarkable person, warm and loving and she gave the best hugs I’ve ever received. And she was also a parent who regularly went off the rails, with all the stress and confusion and trauma such a statement implies. The grief of losing such a person is never going to be simple. For so long I felt so much outside pressure for it to be clean, for it to be your standard tragedy narrative, but that’s not what it is, and it never was.

It broke my heart when she died. And that’s okay. My heart breaks all the time. Sometimes it heals quickly and cleanly, and other times it takes a really long time and leaves an ugly scar behind. Sometimes I don’t want anyone else to see those really ugly scars, and sometimes all I want in the world is for someone to see them and recognize the beauty in their ugliness. Those scars, they show vulnerability and the courage that goes with it, and the persistence to continue on with both of those things in spite of the fact it would be easier not to. And they are also evidence of naiveté and a certain slowness to learn, which are endearing in their own imperfect ways.

I told myself, all those years ago, whatever else you do, Amy, you need to fight to keep an open heart. Because I’d rather suffer and make lots of dumb mistakes and wonder how on earth to keep going with an open heart than shut down and go through the motions with a closed one.

Whatever else you do, Amy. It’s twenty years later. My heart is still open.

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We don’t always live in a way that’s consistent with the things we know to be true.

I wrote this sentence on Monday when I was writing Tuesday’s blog post about making yourself a priority. It was the best sentence I wrote that day, but it didn’t fit the post, so I set it aside to use today instead. Take a minute and think about it.

We don’t always live in a way that’s consistent with the things we know to be true.

There are all kinds of reasons for this, of course. Maybe we’re being socially pressured to conform or live in a certain way. Maybe the truth is too painful to deal with. Maybe the truth calls into question our core beliefs, values, and what we hold dear. Maybe it has become so obscured we’re not even sure what it is. Maybe we’ve decided to bury the truth because it seemed necessary or because we were trying to be kind or because that was the only way we could see to move forward.

Life is messy, and sometimes truth and reality become misaligned.

I offer no judgments here. We’ve all done this, we’ll all probably do it again, and perhaps we’re doing it right now. We do it because we receive some kind of value in return. Something that we might really need.

But such a disconnect can also become malignant. It can worm its way inside of you, insatiable and bold, and it can hollow you out into an echoing emptiness. It can silence your voice. It can dull your vision. It can leave you in a dizzying state of confusion.

There is power to be found in the place where truth and reality intersect. The kind of power that creatives tap into to create the art that grabs you by the shoulders, kicks you in the gut, and never lets go. The kind of power for you as an individual to use to create a life story filled with meaning. It is not always a comfortable place, this intersection, but it is healing and challenging and ultimately uplifting.

This meeting place, where you live your truth, is where you can be the most authentic you. That you may not always be perfect or nice or happy or popular or responsible.

But that you is so blindingly beautiful all the same.

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What subjects do you avoid? What don’t you like to admit? What topics do you not talk about because they feel somehow inappropriate?

Theodora Goss’s recent blog post Telling the Truthis an excellent and thought-provoking essay well worth a read: “And this got me thinking about all the things we don’t talk about,” she says. “There are so many of them!”I think a lot about all the things we don’t talk about. In fact, that was one of the reasons I wanted to start a blog, because I wanted to have a platform from which to speak about some of these things. But of course, I still carefully write around so many of these things of which we never speak.

I recently spoke to a friend of mine who revealed that he used to have crushes on girls starting in third grade. He had never told anyone else about this because he was embarrassed because he thought it was out of the ordinary. Can you imagine? I had crushes in elementary school, and some people in my classes even had “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” (although of course it meant something slightly different back then). But you know what? I never talked about my crushes. And apparently no one else talked about them to my friend either, so he’s spent all this time secretly thinking that he’s different, that something was wrong with him, because he failed to pick up the social cues that would have informed him that crushes aren’t so unusual after all.

I wonder how many things we are all secretly embarrassed about or ashamed of that are, in reality, very common. Only we never find this out because we’re all busy feeling like outsiders together.

I think many of us are ashamed of failure, like Dora says in her essay. I know I am, and being a perfectionist doesn’t help out with this. And yet, failure is essential for those of us with ambitious dreams. Most people don’t succeed with huge dreams right away. I listened to an interview with Seth Godin the other day in which he bemoaned how afraid so many people are of failure. This fear holds us back. It makes us unwilling to take the risks we need to take to learn, to grow, and to achieve something truly great. And yet, even though I understand the need for failure intellectually, it doesn’t take away the fear.

But on the other hand, the more I fail, the more I know that I am living an interesting and daring life. Failure is taking your life and seeing what you can wring from it instead of coasting along and choosing the safest route. Failure is pursuing lofty goals and pushing back against the fear. Failure is exposing yourself to the world and teaching yourself to believe in the you of possibilities instead of the you of limitations. Failure is the strength to believe in yourself so much that you can rise above your worries (or the reality) of what other people think about you.

Failure is saying, “This is my life, and I’m going to make every inch of it mine.”
Maybe if we can reclaim failure, it won’t be so scary after all. Or at least maybe it can become a badge of courage instead of one of shame.

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