Tag Archives: 30 Days of Truth

30 Days of Truth Challenge – Day 3

On the third day of the 30 Days of Truth Challenge (Is anyone else hearing the tune for “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? No? Just me? Alrighty then…), we are prompted to write about:

Something you need to forgive yourself for.

Just one? Seriously? I think I had a pretty long list by the time I was 9, so this seems like a case of Pick-a-Card,-Any-Card.

It is certainly tempting to go for the low-hanging fruit – the fact that I left my husband and tore my family apart when my children were only 5 and 7. How easy it would be to wax lyrical about my children having to pack their entire lives into little Dora the Explorer wheelie bags and move back and forth every single Friday of their childhood. Yes, that is definitely an easy one with which to self-flagellate.

But I will resist that particular temptation. Other guilt-ridden siren songs playing in my head right now include: not living up to my full career potential after spending almost $200,000 on college and graduate degrees; distancing myself from my mentally ill and abusive mother (“but she’s your mother!”); and all the times I have unleashed my attachment issues all over some poor, unsuspecting friend or lover.

But alas, those will not have their day on the screen this time.   Because, frankly, I feel that they’ve had enough time on this blog as it is. So they can just shut the hell up.

Today, instead, I will seek self-forgiveness for the times I have not fully appreciated the people that I should have. The people who gave me more than they should have, cared more than was wise, and put up with me with more patience than I would have thought possible. And yet I failed to fully see them. To appreciate them. To make sure that they understood that I had not overlooked their kindnesses.

I am ashamed to admit that there are many.

First, there was the suburban street that formed a village around me and gently guided me to adulthood through a childhood that was strewn with familial loss, the kind of loneliness unique to only children, and a simmering anger that sunk downwards toward depression as the years ticked by. The men, women and older kids in my neighborhood cared for me when I was sick, snuck me treats when I wasn’t allowed them at home, gave me free rein to their pools and yards, and kept a dozen vigilant eyes on me when my single, working mother was otherwise distracted. And I have never properly thanked them. How could I? Are there any words?

And what about the kind strangers who befriended me when I lived in England, all on my own, at the age of 21? There were those professionals who offered me internships (known there as “attachments”) that ultimately changed my whole career trajectory and led to a job that provided some of the most precious (and unrepeatable) memories of my youth. These men and women generously used their contacts to place me in enviable positions in amazing proximity to legendary creativity and power. And I took it all in, accepting their graciousness as if it were my due. Then there were the people on the fringes, who stepped in and offered me a place at their Christmas dinner table, introduced me to the magic of Lemsip when I had my first English cold, and carried me home from the pub when I finally realized that I hadn’t been raised to drink pints of anything. Did I say thank you? I honestly don’t recall. I hope so, but I can’t assure you of that with any conviction.

Finally, what about the people who have offered me their friendship, only to be met with ambivalence and indifference? You know these friends; you more than likely have had one or two of your own. They are the people who aren’t exactly in your squad but desperately wish to be. They look up to you, admire all your best qualities and ignore your worst, and either pine to date you or be you. And you hardly notice them. In the vanity and stupidity of youth, you take and take the gift of their friendship, while tossing them an occasional bone of attention or gratitude, which they devour hungrily and you use to appease whatever guilt creeps into your consciousness. Eventually, they tire or give up or grow up and walk away. And you, sadly, hardly notice.

But these friends are true friends. They offered themselves without guile and with complete sincerity, hoping for nothing but friendship in return. What is real friendship but that kind of desire to give of ourselves and make a connection with another person? I have had several of these peripheral friends in the course of my life, and they have passed through without leaving much of a mark, except on my guilty conscience. I know, in the deepest, darkest parts of my heart, that I was a poor excuse for a friend to them, that I returned almost nothing that was given to me, and that I am terribly ashamed of myself.

Nearly all of these people have passed out of my life, some without leaving even a precise memory of their full name. Others have left this world, and I have grieved them more than they could have ever possibly expected. For a few, I have seized the opportunity to express as much gratitude as I can without making them or me completely uncomfortable. Was it enough? Definitely not.

Sometimes I try to absolve myself by recognizing that we all have treated people shabbily in some fashion or another, and that the best we can hope for is the maturity and growth to recognize it, correct it when possible, and dedicate ourselves to doing better next time.

Is that enough? Probably not.

Oh, well. I guess I’ll keep working on that forgiveness thing.

forgive yourself

 

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30 Days of Truth Challenge – Day 2

So, after exposing our soft underbellies on Day 1 of the Challenge, Day 2 prompts us to write about “Something you love about yourself.” This is just plain easier than Day 1. Not because of vanity, but because focusing on what we like about ourselves means we get to operate from a place of power rather than a place of vulnerability. Plus, it’s incredibly valuable to show ourselves a little self-love once in a while. Makes us feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn’t it?

The thing I love about myself that I’m choosing to write about is not an accomplishment or a natural talent, but something that is still a work in progress: I love that I genuinely try to live authentically. I try, as much as possible, to say what I mean and put myself out there without wearing masks or performing roles or having to put someone else down in order to feel good about myself. I try to be conscious of those things and when I feel myself doing them, I try to step back, take a breath, and start again.

For so many years – maybe most of my life? – I lived in fear of being truly known. Deep down, I was terrified that if the people around me discovered who I really was, they would point, laugh, and reject me outright as unworthy, not valuable, and, ultimately unlovable. So I tried on different roles and masks. I assumed an air of reserve and haughtiness that caused many people to conclude that I was a snob. I hid behind my grades, my accomplishments, my career, my marriage, to create a persona that I thought people would like. I didn’t realize then that I was being disingenuous, honestly. I suppose it felt more like I was sparing people the pain of having to know or endure who I really was.

Not that I was a horrible person underneath. I sincerely cared about other people – very deeply – and was capable of a kind of fierce loyalty and unconditional love that I realize now is not always available. I didn’t use people or lie or cheat. I wasn’t racist or homophobic or judgmental. I was generous with my time, my feelings, and my love. So it wasn’t that there weren’t things about me to like; it was simply that I was subconsciously convinced that, underneath all of that, I was so broken and flawed, so much worse  than anyone else I knew, that if people truly knew me, they wouldn’t like, respect, or value me. Never mind love me.

But it was exhausting. If you’ve ever been the perfect wife or perfect mother or perfect girlfriend or perfect friend or perfect student or perfect daughter, you know this. And you know also that it is, at its heart, a very real lie. By withholding our true selves, we not only feed fear, create stress, and undermine our ability to contribute all our best parts, we deny people a chance to know our best parts in true intimacy.

Because, the thing is, the best parts of us are never the masks we wear or the roles we perform perfectly. What we call perfect is actually boring and forgettable and not at all relatable.  The moments of true perfection are in the mistakes, the flaws, the flashes of vulnerability we show each other. It is the times when someone does something unexpectedly kind, or reveals something about themselves that we can connect with, or offers some unobligated comfort or support – those are the moments when we can feel the walls between us collapsing and we can feel our human connection most deeply.  Those are the moments in which we create admiration and appreciation for another person.

None of those moments is possible without authenticity. I have come to realize that few people are genuinely bad. Most who behave badly are simply chronically and/or deeply disingenuous for any number of reasons. But at our core, I sincerely believe, almost all of us are good. And want to be even better.

Living an authentic life is scary. Every single time I expose myself, I risk rejection, laughter, and pain. Like most things, it gets easier with time, but I can’t say that it’s actually “easy” for me yet.  And I think that it’s so hard that we lie to ourselves about whether we are being authentic.  We are so used to our masks and our roles, we don’t even notice them anymore.  But simply stating that we’re being authentic is not the same as actually living authentically.  Would that it were that simple!

If you, like I did, are living life in a box of expectations and moving through your days out of obligation, if you are being your best (fill in the blank here) because you feel that you have to or you need to (rather than because it is simply your natural operating system), then you probably aren’t living authentically. If you refuse to post anything negative on social media, if you resist revealing your true feelings to people about parenting or your marriage, if you couldn’t admit the relief you felt after your mother/father/grandparent passed away following a long, bitter war with cancer, then you’re probably not living authentically. In short, if you’re showing people only the best, happy, positive and uplifting side of you, then you definitely aren’t living authentically.  Authenticity demands vulnerability and fears and flaws.

It is so tempting to put our best face forward. The idea that people will admire us and look up to us and want to be like us is an intoxicating incentive to cling to that mask and that role. It is tantalizing to think we might be the “It Girl,” the Carrie Bradshaw, or the Martha Stewart of our girl squad. And I’m here to admit that it might actually work… for a time. But eventually people realize that they can only get so close to you. They begin to suspect that you are hiding things, or, more surprising to me, that you are withholding intimacy because you are judging them and finding them lacking. No kidding. It happens.

My authenticity experiment since my divorce has not been without its lumps and bumps. I have confided to the wrong people. I have revealed more than I should. I have let some really bad people into my life. It’s honestly a case of two steps forward, one step back for me most of the time. But I know that I genuinely like myself better when I am behaving authentically. I can feel it. It isn’t sanctimonious or judgmental. It isn’t better or smarter or more talented. It is flawed and broken and honest and funny and compassionate and open and achingly real.

And whatever else it is or isn’t, at least it’s not perfect. And I love it.

authentic-self-soul-made-visible2

 

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30 Days of Truth Challenge – Day 1

Hi.  Remember me?

Needless to say, it has been quite a while.  I fell off the writing wagon quite a while ago.  First, it was because I was so blissfully happy with James that we couldn’t get enough of each other, and every single spare minute was devoted to basking in that glow.  Then, it was because things started getting hard and I was so confused and overwhelmed, I didn’t even know how to write about it.  Then, finally, life got so busy and full that there didn’t seem to be enough time or energy to devote to writing.  It, along with my yoga practice, faded away and became a silent part of an earlier chapter in my life.

I now earn a living being creative.  I have a  3o-hour-per-week job doing marketing and communications, plus I do freelance writing and website development another 10 or so hours per week.  I no longer need a creative outlet.  I spend my days — all day, every day — being creative. In fact, all these creative outputs contributed to a bit of creativity fatigue that fed my ambivalence about blog writing.

But I missed my blog and the outlet it provided.  I have always missed it. I never felt that it was over or considered pulling it down.  This is the only writing that I do entirely for myself.  The memoir I wrote and revised for hours was ultimately for an audience.  As is the novel I’ve outlined and started.  This, and only this, is purely for me and you.  Not for a publisher or an agent or a client or a boss.  Just some words here, in my little corner of the internet, where we can connect and explore the mundane and profound.

Oh, have I missed it.

Many times I have written whole posts in my head but not quite found the time to put them to the screen.  However, inspired by Oh Jenni (once again), I am picking up my laptop and dedicating myself to getting back in the writing groove again.  The 30 Days of Truth Challenge is a great way to do it.  I’m a day behind Jenni, so this is just my Day 1.  I’m rusty, I know, but hopefully you’ll bear with me as I rediscover my groove and my voice. And don’t worry… I’ll be sure to bring you all up-to-date with the ever evolving soap opera that passes for my life.  But you might be disappointed; things are much quieter these days.

But I digress…

Day 1:  Something You Hate About Yourself.

Boy, whomever created this challenge didn’t start easy, did they?

I spent the day contemplating this question in the back of my mind and then the answer was suddenly so clear to me:  the thing I dislike most about myself (hate is frankly too strong a word) is that I don’t know.  I don’t have a solid, tangible sense of who I am.  My sense of self feels ephemeral, gossamer, translucent.  What I think of myself, how I think of myself, what I see of me, seems to come and go, fade in and out, with the kind of fluttering inconsistency of fog at sunrise or clouds sweeping a windy sky.

I understand and appreciate the psycho-babble that answers the question of why I am this way, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating or strange.  So much of the time, in between rare moments of  grounded certainty, I feel like I exist only as a mirror of other people’s ideas about me.  I fumble to sketch the basic outlines of who I am and end up with nothing but eraser marks and ripped paper.

I’m not talking about knowing what I believe in; that I know.  I know what my values are and what my feelings are.  What I do not know is what I am.  I know what people say about me — the good and the bad — but I have a terrible time discerning the truth within those accusations and accolades.  I don’t seem to have the ability to hear these things and simply know whether I agree with them or not.  I have observed people my whole life and seen how most people do this constantly and usually without much thought.   But not me. It takes endless hours of journaling to sift through what is their stuff, what are their projections, and what are more evidence-based critiques of me, and finally determine what I think about their thoughts of me.  Do I agree with them or do I think their assessment is just plain wrong?

Look, I know that too much belly-button gazing is often worse than too little, and I know that life is a long journey of self-discovery, but it seems to me that, having reached the other side of “middle age” at 47, I should have a better and more immediate grasp of my identity.

And truly, not having a grounded sense of who you are and (perhaps even more importantly) who you aren’t, makes it all too easy for other people to project onto you their own ideas of who you are.  It’s as if you are simply a green screen onto which they projec their images of who and what you are, without any resistance from you.  After all, if you aren’t sure whether you are bossy or incompetent or inspirational or kind, how do you know whether their projected images are true?  Or is truth merely relative in this context? Perhaps the old psychological theory about there being three “real” identities for each person — Me, Myself, and I — is actual and factual and the only real “truth” is that we there isn’t only one truth to be divined about who each of us is.

Has your head exploded yet?  Because mine is starting to hurt.

Anyway, I really, really, really dislike this about myself, and I am chronically envious of pretty much everyone else in the world, who don’t seem to struggle to figure out who and what they are.

It’s okay if none of this makes any sense to you.  That just means that you’re one of the people I envy.

See you tomorrow for Day 2.

I-ve-been-trying-to-figure-out-who-I-am-and-I-fina

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