Daring Truths

 

     Earlier this summer I confessed to a friend that I want for this truth and dare project to be big- really, really big with a million or more followers. I use the word confess here because saying something like this feels totally unreasonable- delusional even, as I imagine it does to many other dreamers. Anyway, this friend is someone I admire for being very honest- even to a fault. I told her I I had considered that if I dared to create this movement and it caught-on, I would likely face a rash of criticism.  I asked her how I could "practice" dealing with negative feedback and being criticized.

     Being a good friend and a brassy loud-mouth from Ireland who actually loves me deeply, she was happy to oblige. We set up a sacred space of love and acceptance between us. My heart was racing with fear just as it has when I climbed to the top of Bishops Castle last summer. I wondered if it wasn't too late to back out. Funny, I thought to myself, that I would have the same level of fear at being confronted with criticism that I had at the prospect of falling to my death. I considered this for a moment and laughed out loud and then I dove straight in to the conversation. I did my best to consider everything she said without scrambling to defend myself. I heard about my dorkiness, my safe and guarded behavior, my less than stellar rhythm and a bit more and I found that... I liked it!  A lot. The fear... the living through it. All of it felt very alive and new. Rather than feeling less loved I felt more loved. Crazy!

     I spent the rest the day spelunking in my psyche. I put a microscope to my emotional triggers and asked myself why these things bothered me.  I behaved as a field researcher- an archeologist in my the shadow caves of my inner universe. Then I started poking and prodding at things to see how they would respond to light. 

      At the very top of the list of my emotional triggers sat the queen herself. Gossip; The idea of people might say bad things or untrue things about me behind my back. This was a big thing in the world I grew up in,- talking about people the minute they left the room. Sometimes it would be in a sappy-pitying tone other times just plain ridicule and judgement. It always made me uncomfortable because I knew that they would do it to me too- just as soon as I left the room. As an adult, I carefully curated my community to be full of sincere and honest friends so I had all but forgotten about this old trigger cut. 

     Earlier in the year, I found out that my sister had been talking about me behind my back to our father. I was enraged. ENRAGED. To me, it was the absolute worst thing she could do to me. I was so furious that I blocked her on facebook and cut her out of my life completely- I even blocked her number- refusing to receive any communication from her whatsoever. I thought it would solve the hurt that I felt, but honestly it did not. It was stressful and painful and came at a great cost to me. Yet, I was so self-righteous and convinced of the justness of my stance that I stayed in that unpleasant muck for months. I was sad and lonely, I still loved my sister despite the betrayal- and it felt terrible.

    Now I was asking myself Why did I care so much? -The easy answer was that she had disrespected me and betrayed me in a cowardly way by talking about me when I wasn't even there to defend myself. Certainly, I could garner a lot of support for that position, and I found a plethora of that kind of support by collecting Pinterest meme quotes. But that answer did nothing but help to fortify the position that was already making me suffer- so I looked deeper. The vulnerable truth beneath it all was that I just wanted my dad to love me. My mother and I have had a long history of problems getting along, but my dad always seemed to 'get me'. At the time I felt that she was interfering with my right to be loved by the one parent who still talks to me. Now I was onto something, I thought. This was the truth of my inner-child, the vulnerable being inside that just wants to be loved and accepted. Yes yes yes! So painful and so true. 

   Since I had some time on my hands I kept asking questions, kept venturing ever deeper into the narrow tunnels of my ego. Did I just want to be loved by my dad or did I want to be loved and validated by everyone?  I found the latter to be true and it felt vulnerable and real. I both liked and disliked this naked feeling. I thought, I don't like gossip or to be disliked so I manipulate the way others see me by always trying to put my best foot forward. Aha!! THIS! . This was something true but shameful,- something I would try to hide from anyone else at all costs. It was the verbal equivalent of an ugly-selfie.

     Inspired by the introspective author Glennon Doyle and her book Love Warrior, I did something very daring and strange.

     Rather than hiding this unattractive thing about myself from people- I decided to do the exact opposite. I posted it on facebook.

truth: A big fear I have is that people will gossip or say bad things about me behind my back. Why? Because it deprives me of the right to manipulate how others see me.

OOHmygoodness. When I hit post I felt like I had jumped off a cliff. A social cliff.  I was breathless for a moment. I had to leave my phone at home and go for a walk to prevent myself from scrambling to take it down. I wondered if the next time I logged on to social media I would find that I had only three remaining friends, my husband and my two daughters.

    Of course that didn't happen, but I definitely got a wave of response. I got a lot of big-eyed wow emoticons, and some sad-crying emoticons. There were some heart emoticons from friends who probably wanted to reassure me that they loved me anyway. A few people wanted to know if I was ok- and I assured them that I was. Lots of people responded with the quote "What other people think of you is none of your business."-Something I decided I could agree with to a point- but had never freed me from my fear of it. Other people responded with comments such as "don't bother worrying about what others think, they don't matter. Just be yourself and have fun" and a dear friend responded with the quote- from Bernard Baruch-Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." I agree that these quotes have value but yet I still had to disagree. What if the person who talks behind your back is a family member- or a friend that you hurt? What if all people matter? No matter what they have done. Pretending not to care or that the perpetrators of hurt don't matter may do the trick in the moment and help us move on but I think it is a defense mechanism. Honestly, the truth is, I have never been good at it. I still care, and I still think people matter.

        Really, I think there is a reason that we wish to be lovable to others and the reason isn't inherently bad.- Perhaps the reason is a natural longing for "connectedness". Maybe longing for approval means we are simply hoping that we can be good enough to be connected to others- to be part of the tribe. Is that really so wrong? Maybe not.

      Maybe even the pussy-grabbing malignant narcissists of the world, the sex offenders, the cheaters and the liars, the polluters, the murderers, the gossipers and back stabbers matter too. Maybe they are reaching out for the love and approval of their parents and peers. Maybe they are trying desperately to be approved of to be worthy of connection to be loved and lovable. Maybe they are settling for negative acknowledgement when they have failed to get the affirmation they were seeking. No doubt the way they go about it may be totally messed-up but many of us are guilty of that. Sometimes when I am mad at some one I imagine blowing them up in smoke in my mind. I don't do it, of course, but am I really so different than the person on prison for life who actually did? Maybe not.  While we try not to, many of us are still protecting the ego in some way that hurts or blocks other people or even damages the planet. Yet we still want to matter and we do. ( I am prone to tangents- yet another one of my delicious flaws.)

       As you probably guessed- I did not lose all of my cyber friends and I did not die from admitting the truth. People probably did not even think it was a very big deal. The thing that appeared as a gnarling, drooling dragon/monster in my personal underworld was more like a cranky kitten when I brought it into the light- or better yet an awkward hairless kitten looking confused and bewildered. I liked how I felt when I did this. I felt strange, vulnerable, impossibly uncool, naked in the cafeteria- yet very, very alive. It was a tingly new feeling and I wanted more. 

     So I kept going.  Here are some awkward creatures from my shadow places. Rest assured I still love myself a lot- maybe more- there isn't anyone I would rather be than me. There may be a self -deprecating tone- but doubt lives in the shadow. I cannot pretend otherwise. You may want to roll your eyes- some of them aren't so bad, but believe me, they seemed scary when I first found them down there. Others are worse. Either way here, are my fifteen. That is probably enough.

15 Truths

truth: A big fear I have is that people will gossip or say bad things about me behind my back. Why? Because it deprives me of the right to manipulate how others see me.

truth#2: despite the fact that I am outraged by racism, few of my actual friends are of different races. I don't know how to change it and I am uncomfortable talking openly about race- I fear rejection and ridicule.

truth #3: I am so so disorganized and I am not at all ok with with it. I have read books and gone to trainings- and bought countless magazines to fix this but I have not been able to.

truth #3: I don't really believe in belief. I'd gladly take curiosity over belief any day.

truth #4: I don't really like achievement. Graduations and awards ceremonies are really boring and tedious to me. I prefer human connection over awards and certificates- even it it amounts to nothing on paper. ( I am afraid this truth could cost me my job because I am a high-school teacher.)

truth #5: I am an avoider of confrontation. I am afraid that I will lose people forever or find out that i am the one who is wrong.

truth #6 I prefer my human smells even body odor to that of perfume. I think I shower less that the average person.

truth#8: I procrastinate. A lot. To an embarrassing degree. I even procrastinate on things I WANT to do. I still don't know why.

truth #8: I have spent most of my life trying to fit in with the cool kids but deep inside, I know

I will never be cool. not ever.

I am warm and alive.

(The fallout and the comments from this one were so interesting and funny that they deserve their own blog post- which I will deliver after procrastinating for a while)

truth #9: I feel that I am a disappointment to my parents, even though I am an adult. To my mother I feel that I am not sweet or generous enough, and that I am waaaayyy to brassy and sassy-Also that I am not as good a cook as my sisters- and I definitely do not cook often enough.

To my father I feel that I am not successful enough nor do I make enough money- also that I lack a masters or a PHDfeels like a disappointment.  ( I did not publish this one on social media- because I didn't want to hurt them)

truth#10: I sometimes feel like a crummy parent and wife. Too wild and untamed- not structured enough. I marvel that my two daughters turned out to be so amazing- and that I am still happily married to an awesome husband.

truth#11: Medicine is a secret passion of mine. I wanted to become a doctor, like my father, but never admitted it. I figured I was too lazy or not intelligent enough to get through medical school- still he has always been one of my heroes. I still sometimes read medical journals in my free time.

truth #12: Even more than being a doctor I dreamed of being a writer. I feared that it would be nearly impossible to make a living that way, or even worse finding out that I had no talent. Also writing a book seemed to require a lot of stillness and a lot of alone time, neither of which I like. So I became a socially acceptable coward instead.

truth#13: While I like my job as a teacher a lot, it is not my true passion. I learned Spanish to be able to communicate with lots of different types of people all over the world- but that is not how I use it.

truth#14: I have been told on several occasions that I come off as "aloof". The truth is so so different than that. I can appear that way because I am either daydreaming or I deliberately learned to behave that way so that people would not find out how much I want to know and connect with them and think that I am weird. I am.

truth #15: Daydreaming is still one of my favorite things to do. I often have delusions of grandeur with my daydreams. For example, I imagine that this daring movement could cause a ripple and affect millions of people somehow- and that I will be on the New York Times best seller list and giving a TED talk, traveling all over the world giving talks, leading life changing retreats. etc...

 

    Two bonus truths- just for fun and because I am bad at following rules, even if I made them up.

truth#16- The main reason that I am not procrastinating and actually writing this chapter is because I hurt my back and I am lying in bed on a heating pad rather than puttering around the house and I had dared myself NOT to turn on the TV for the month of June so I am just writing.

truth #17- I sometimes let envy prevent me  from fully enjoying the gift of other humans. especially women

       The unexpected side effect of bringing the shadow lurkers to the light is that many of them seemed to scatter and run away. That is to say, a few weeks after this exercise  some of these truths were no longer "true". It seems that having  released the idea of wanting to manipulate how others see me by looking good or putting my best foot forward- I no longer could even "find" the desire to do so. Instead with nothing to fear I came in as a full expression of true self. My willingness to do so at times seemed to give others permission be authentic as well and I found myself enjoying deeper more fulfilling interactions- being fed by the  joy of authentic connection rather than the hollow and temporary boost of the ego. 

    

 

So there they are. Why not tell me some of yours? I promise you unconditional love and acceptance.