And probably true.
Sacred is a great word choice. I picture brutal honesty as the Holy Grail in that Indiana Jones movie: a bright-hot light burning with ecstasy and destruction. The truth is that usually we fib about small insignificant things, until it becomes habit, and one day lies have taken the place of reality. It totally lacks the pace of movie drama.
When I was in high school, I got a speeding ticket. I know–a shocking confession. My mom went to court with me. The judge scolded me and then told my mother that I was limited to only driving for extreme necessity like work, and that she was supposed to put me on detention of some sort. While we were walking out of the courtroom, my mom handed me the keys. It had to look like defiance, but the truth was that she was distracted with concern about what would happen if my father found out.
I drove home–not what the judge had in mind–while my mom told me that it had to be our secret. That she wouldn’t tell dad, and neither would I, and then it would be fine. The idea made me nervous and I was a contrary teenager. Dad was home when we got there and as I walked through the door, I announced that I got a speeding ticket. He was no different than usual; cranky, but he always expected me to screw-up. You could say the news didn’t disappoint him at all.
This blunt proclivity for truth-telling was best named by an undisclosed ex-husband as “an exaggerated sense of truth.” What does that even mean? And since when is having a truth-based response treated as if it were a social disorder?
Well, I do know the answer to that one. When the truth is uncomfortable, which it frequently is, we change the answer. We are a species capable of deceit. We lie for convenience; it isn’t always intentionally mean. We make excuses that we are doing it to be kind to others or to make ourselves look better. We may do it to protect someone or my least favorite; we are not forthcoming so that we can control someone’s response. Like your father’s.
Maybe you’re the black sheep in your family. Maybe it’s your job to draw fire, at personal expense, so no one else has to take responsibility for things that have happened and things that were said…or unsaid. We just hold our tongues and tread lightly–listening for danger. And we never relax too much but one day we look around and nothing is real. It’s like Halloween; there’s an ill-fitting store-bought princess costume pulled over top of your own clothes–which would almost resemble a superhero costume if you just stood up tall. But standing tall comes with confidence that you get from being accepted for who you are, not wearing the costume of someone else’s design.
Disclaimer: We have all met people who relish saying mean things under the guise of honesty. They give honesty a bad name making statements that start with “You know what your problem is…” or “You need to dump that jerk…”
That said, I consider honesty the social equivalent of wearing elastic-waist pants. Just more comfortable, more breathable–honesty is the next best thing to freedom. I can collect my thoughts and then say what’s true for me. In therapy–and I would know–they call this using “I” statements. No blame is cast, there is no push to agree. It’s just your opinion but at the most and least, it’s an affirmation of who we are. What’s more primal than that? What is more crazy-making that taking that away? It’s always my hope that speaking out in “I” statements will be contagious. When one person does it, it gives freedom to others to follow suit.
Conversely, a small habit of dishonesty or withholding the truth can become a growing habit. Secrets can boil and fester, infecting and overwhelming the truth. It can destroy the possibility of love and trust. If you’ve built a house of cards around secrets and lies, it could all collapse, which fuels a good-sized midlife crisis. Not the worst thing.
WEEKLY UPDATE: This week a few sales tricked in but sales are about a third of last month. The good news and the bad news: this probably signals the end of the easy sales to my friends and followers. The Gazette, the Colorado Springs newspaper, ran a review/interview about Stable Relation. (Gazette article here) I appreciate it greatly, partly because it was a gift that I didn’t have to grovel for. Are you as tired of all this shameless self-promotion as I am? But am I ready to quit this book? Nope.
So here is an example of groveling, combined with “I” statements: I notice that other books have more reviews than mine. I notice that Chosen by a Horse has 329 and Buck has 827, because my Amazon page lets me know these life-affirming facts. Since I think Stable Relation is more than my story, I would like to see it go farther. And so, I would really appreciate it if those of you who’ve read the book, could take a moment to post a review. It makes a huge difference on this side–it’s like throwing Google a treat with my name on it. One sentence is fine, even if you didn’t like it, again, honesty is the goal. I‘d like to hear what you think, either way.
I’m giving my final word about honesty, writing, and common sense to Anne:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” –Anne Lamott