I have been thinking a lot about honesty lately. Not the kind of honesty that has to do with lying on my taxes. That is “cash register honesty”. It is hard to deny when you are caught red-handed in those situations.
I am drawn to consider the more subtle, and I am embarrassed to say, manipulative honesty issues.
Issues like being vulnerable and real and speaking your truth. Issues like convincing yourself that not speaking up is justified because the truth would hurt someone else. I am finding in my mature years the courage to admit that hiding my truth has never really helped anyone.
I say that I am drawn to this topic of honesty but that is not really honest. This topic has pitched its tent on my front doorstep and I cannot go anywhere or do anything without having to confront it or at least walk around it on tippy toes.
OK, I give up. I have invited the honesty issue in for tea. “What is it you want to say to me?” Or more to the point, “what is it I have to say about you”
I have lived a very dishonest life. This is a frightening admission. Does this make me a liar, perhaps, but it does certainly make me a fake and a good one at that. I have been honest in my business relationships. I am a coach and a consultant. I get paid to be ruthlessly or gently honest, it depends on the situation and I have not found it difficult to be honest in my work. But in my personal relationships I have come to realize I have hidden my honest voice one too many times.
I have honed the fine skill of hiding how I feel about many things and acting out a script which is as disassociated from my heart as an actor’s live on the big screen is from her home reality. Sure there are moments of courage and truth but too often I default to that old operating system- hide and perform.
I repeatedly answer, “fine, thank you” to the question,” how are things going with you?” I can say fine thanks while the world tumbles about me. Those words would probably be my last as a great white shark swallows me. This is not a technique to keep a keep a chipper attitude…in my opinion this is dishonesty.
I learned to do this a long time ago but I do not lay the blame for my lack of character at the feet of my parents. I really dislike it when people do this and I certainly don’t want to encourage my kids to bring their issues to my feet, though if they feel the need I recommend they do it while I am still here to listen. I do know that we all do our best and in families we often layer the habits of one generation on top of the next and on and on, not knowing there is a better way until we see the flaw or the crack in the veneer.
I have not meant to be less than truthful. I have not had an agenda to keep to myself. In fact I would say my agenda is the opposite but it is very difficult to overcome a lifetime of practiced behavior. But now the crack has snaked across the surface of my life story. I am hopeful that my favorite poet, Leonard Cohen, got it right when he said “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
We are forever in the hands of life. In this case it has lined up a fine array of helpers in the form of people and events. These helpers urge and push and they stand in my face until I look them in the eye and finally acknowledge what is here. I have come to sense through these prodding helpers’ hands that there are many separate compartments to my life, each deep and carefully maintained but each closed one from the other. I know now that the time for segmentation has passed. I want to knock down the walls and move the pieces of the puzzle into one integrated picture. I want to be whole before my time here is up. I am only 59 and not lining up for the departure lounge yet but I know this integration will take some time… so I best start today.
In “Modern Man in Search of a Soul” Carl Jung urges us to give serious attention to ourselves as we age. He states that “the afternoon of life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning.” So perhaps this project of vulnerability, truth and honesty will be the significance of the afternoon of my life. I am scared some days when I think about living out there honestly, with a new afternoon program, but more than fear I feel excited and relieved to know that this is possible and that I can make my way in this next half of my life differently. I have come to know this process as my spiritual path and I embrace it as a daily practice which may not visibly enrich my outer life but will begin the change within, growing each day until the internal and the external are one.
“It seems that finding our way home begins with finally accepting first our self and then the world around us.”