The truth may set you free, as they say, but before that it might kick you around a bit and bitch slap you upside the head.
I’ve thought a lot about the truth in the last year. As I set out on this adventure to write 52 blogs in a year (yeah, yeah…I’m a couple behind….no worries) I promised myself to try two things: 1) write a piece of fiction (done) and 2) reveal some truths about myself (done, and painfully so). For years I’ve carried things deep inside myself, things that – truthfully – most people would probably hear and say, “That’s all you’ve got? That’s it?” But to me, they were my things, the things I felt too proud or too scared or too whatever to share. It has actually occurred to me that I could make a list of every stupid little secret I have and unveil them all in one single blog. I’m not there yet, but I do wonder how freeing that might feel.
In the last few months I’ve witnessed a couple of women I admire tremendously reveal themselves in ways that stunned me and gave me pause. The first was my friend – a blogging hero of mine – who wrote about the back alley abortion she had when she was in college. Her rawness of her emotion practically jumped out of the computer screen as I read her story. She used her undoubtedly painful story as a means of advocacy, and did it perfectly so. Her story was so meticulously descript, I wondered if she wept while she wrote it. It’s possible that the events were remote enough that the sting of the truth had lost its sharp edge, but it is equally possible that the pain couldn’t fully resolve until she told that story. In the end, as I read her beautiful story in awe, I realized that her sharing of one of her painful truths only made me respect her more. And I didn’t even really know that was possible.
A couple of weeks ago, our department held a training event in which we invited David Sheff, author of Clean and Beautiful Boy to talk about his son’s addiction to and recovery from heroin. In the afternoon, we asked a panel of individuals to talk about their own experience with addiction, each afflicted in a different way. One by one, they revealed their stories. Stories that I won’t share here, because I respect their privacy and the intimacy that the room of 300 people experienced that day. But suffice it to say, everyone in that room walked out the door at the end of the day a different person. Here were people we knew and deeply respected, who shed a bright, burning, unrelenting floodlight on the darkest corners of their lives. More than two weeks have passed, and I’m not sure the lump in my throat has fully resolved.
As I checked in the next day with one of the most forthcoming panel members, the feelings of vulnerability were palpable. I won’t say there was regret, but there was a detectable shred of doubt. I assured this person that sharing their story was an act of courage I’d not see the likes of before, and it had surely profoundly changed everyone in that room. Then, one by one, emails and phone calls and personal visits were paid to this panelist to express gratitude and awe and pure love. In less than 24 hours, any lingering doubt -and substantial portions of the power fueled by the painful past – were permanently swept away. The truth, some of it more than 20 years old, when shared in such a public and bold way, had actually set this person free. I saw it with my own eyes, and it was beautiful.
I’ve had my own truths to face at times, truths I avoided facing sometimes for years on end. Truths that, when finally acknowledged, hurt like hell and made me take a good, hard, painstaking, god awful look at myself and re-evaluate everything. But always, every single time I tell you, the other side of that mess has been a better version of me. A better version of me with more respect for myself and more authentic relationships with the people I love.
This blog is my therapy. More truths are on the way.