Monday, October 9, 2017

Tell The Truth

It's a glorious October morning and I have awoken to a completely empty house. A very unfamiliar energy slaps me in the face- a product of absolutely zero place to go, nothing that really needs to be done, and no one that needs attending to. So I've made my cup of mint chocolate coffee and headed outside to write.

I listened to a podcast the other day where Glennon Doyle was talking about picking yourself back up after a crisis. Women's social media today seems to be awash with our modern-day gurus whose claim to fame is radical imperfection. In a way, I love it. But in a way, it gets on my nerves. Sometimes it feels like spectacle- and I am now aware that I'm especially sensitive to mass produced spectacles lived out in front of the prying eyes of the public as fodder for personal transformation.

But I listened to the podcast nonetheless, and she said something so simple and so beautiful that I had to sit in my car and wipe my tears and get myself together before walking into work. She said, "Everyone needs a space where they can tell the truth." Driving down a city street in Mesquite, TX at 7:30 in the morning, that tiny sentence unexpectedly knocked my carefully held-together world off its axis a little bit. The wheels in my mind instantly started grinding trying to figure out why I'd lost my breath in that instant, just hearing those words. I thought of the ways I don't tell the truth most days. But I also thought of how I'm not a liar. I thought of how hard it is to keep up a carefully constructed facade of how I'm supposed to be. And how hard it isn't at the same time.

Ahhh, this is why.

From birth I have been programmed not to tell the truth. On the front row of a church pew in front of thousands of people, I was programmed to pretend to tell the truth as someone else defined it. I was molded and prodded and scolded to present to the world what they wanted to see, not anything that was authentically me. In turn, I learned to apply a rigorous filtering process to all the words and all the thoughts that entered my consciousness. I am a master at figuring out in an instant what needs to be said, how it needs to be said most effectively and to whom. Only rarely does that equation include complete authenticity on my part. I almost always have a goal in mind, and it rarely includes me showing up just as I am and telling the truth.  Some people with this skill use it to manipulate others and get what they want. Others of us use this skill to make sure everyone is happy all the time and do our best to keep the peace with those around us, pacifying others and rarely considering our own needs.

Don't get me wrong. Reading people, reading a room, knowing how people will respond and why can be a great asset-  especially if you work with people who are trying to accomplish a common goal. It's a hallmark of self-awareness to consider your audience and know how to tailor your message, to consider your words and how they will affect other people. But it can also be a crippling talent when it becomes your mode of operation. You lose yourself. You easily become a slave to other people's expectations of how you should be.

And while I don't think I've ever totally lost sight of who I am, I don't think I've ever felt like the world was my space where I could tell the truth.

But I'm taking baby steps. It is first and foremost important to me to speak out when I see injustice happening around me- when I see people harming other people. I've spent the last nearly twenty years of my life in my career helping others in one way or another, whether it be as a resource for women with unplanned pregnancies, as a caseworker for children in the foster care system, as an urban public school teacher, and now as a school administrator. I work almost exclusively with people who need help and healing. I also encounter people who hurt others in one way or another almost daily. Speaking out and telling the truth means confronting that. It means telling people to STOP. It means teaching them how to love others and how to communicate with others even when it's not easy. It means being brave in the face of hate, anger, insecurity, and selfishness. And it means being courageous even when I don't feel like I can be.

I read a powerful meme the other day that simply said,

And I don't know, but I try every day anyway. And so letting the world be a space where you can tell the truth, doesn't necessarily mean we have to have that moment where we do the Big Reveal of the thing we've been hiding all these years- although it can mean that, and those are definitely life-altering experiences. I think telling the truth is most importantly about being courageous enough to speak up about the little things- about how people make you feel, about how you perceive people are making others feel. It's about sometimes saying no. It's about saying, "You know what, this particular thing is not my bag, but you're doing a great job, and you should run with it." And being courageous enough to say, "This is my bread and butter. Nobody can do this better than me," and take off leading even when you're terrified. That's telling the truth.

So I'm working on it in little ways every day and asking for the courage to speak up and stand still in the uncertainty and chaos on the days when I have to speak the truth in big ways. I'm showing up and being brave enough drop some of the filters I so naturally employ to speak the truth, even when it's difficult.