“This is the beginning: to let out what you have held hidden.” —Natalie Goldberg
I am just plain sick of it. Sick of holding back, holding things in, holding my tongue.
I know there are some of you who think I blab about everything. After all, in the history of this blog, I’ve shared about eating binges, flatulence, passion, moments of grace, even anger at the All Knowing. And in real life, I sometimes say things that the more circumspect among you might not publicly utter. Even so.
The reality of my life has been that I worry about everyone else and how they will feel, react, respond to what I might say. I worry, and I fear – fear that if I say the truth, share my feelings, let out the things that have been kept secret that love will be withheld or withdrawn from me. Fear that, like Helen Hunt’s character in the movie “What Women Want” my reality will be that “…the price you pay for being you is that you don’t get love.”
Newsflash, folks. We pay the price whether we are ourselves or not. Because people can’t truly, authentically love someone they don’t know. It turns out, then, that the only person harmed by keeping yourself a secret is…you. Others will or will not love you, but if you keep your truth inside in an effort to be palatable to others you won’t love yourself. And this self-abuse will slowly destroy you.
You may wonder where this rant came from. After all, last week I was all about being kind, and how to respond with generosity of spirit when others hurt you or take advantage or don’t even notice your efforts on their behalf. To be clear, I don’t believe one has to be unkind to be truthful. But to share your own truth, no matter how carefully, is to risk. You can control what you say and the manner in which you say it – you cannot control how someone else responds or feels about it. (Good thing too, because they are responsible for their own crap. We all have more than enough to handle just managing our own loads.) So this rant actually follows somewhat logically on the heels of that kindness post. Because finding my way through the Land-of-Sharing-How-I-Really-Feel while treading the Path of Kindness isn’t always easy, my friends.
So why try?
I received a gift this week that has helped me begin to gel into a coherent whole my far-flung thoughts on this. An old friend from far away sent me a book by that title (Old Friend From Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir by Natalie Goldberg). Goldberg’s advice is for writing authentic and meaningful memoir, but it is also good advice for living authentically. She says, “Go for the jugular, for what makes you nervous. Otherwise, you will always be writing around your secrets, like the elephant no one notices in the living room. It’s that large animal that makes your living room unique and interesting. Write about it.”
This is true for writing memoir, and it is also true for speaking up for our own lives. It is our perceptions, feelings, unique perspectives that make us who we are – that make us interesting and that allow others to connect with us. When we edge nervously around our feelings – the ones we are afraid of, those we are ashamed of, the feelings that are petty or that are expansive and wise – we do avoid conflict. But the cost of avoiding that conflict is high – we teach others that we will accept anything, any behavior or treatment at their hands; we teach ourselves that we are not worth fighting for, not worth engaging in conflict over.
And I am just plain sick of it. Sick of holding back, holding things in, holding my tongue – sick of betraying myself in order to maintain the status quo, to get through another day without conflict. I’m not looking for a fight – no cruising for a bruising here! Even so.
This is the beginning: to let out what I have held hidden.