It’s hard to be honest, and it’s scary. I don’t want to tell you about my past – the alcoholism, the drug abuse, the self-harm. And worse, you guys. I don’t even know you well enough to tell you all of it. Why would you want to hear it anyway?
And why would I tell?
Why tell these things that make me so remarkably, perfectly, imperfect? Why tell these things that put me right square in the middle of everyone who has ever disappointed themselves – which is to say, everyone?
Why tell the truth, anyway?
In the world, we’re taught to look our best. To put a good face on it. We learn, if we can’t say something nice, we just shouldn’t say anything at all.
So, when I’m dropping my son off for school, I look at the other parents around me and think, Oh, I should be dressed up for a fancy high-powered job. (Never mind that I don’t WANT a fancy, high-powered job.)
I think, I should have on some Lululemon so I can go run. In fact, I should probably start training for a marathon. (I hate to run. I almost died doing a 5K. An old abuela passed me, as well as a very fancy girl who was running with a dog in her purse. Basically, if you ever see me running a marathon, please kill me.)
Or CrossFit! I think. I should do CrossFit!
I get this idea that anything other than what I am is better than the truth. Anything is better than the truth. I think everyone else must have their stuff together – look at them! These women are beautiful! These people have huge houses! These people are the best!!!
Back when I was still drinking, whenever someone asked me how I was, I said, Oh, I’m fine. Or, if I was feeling especially terrible, I might say, Great! I'm doing great! And then I'd talk about my latest project, or how much I loved my grad program, my instructors, my classmates. They were all GREAT.
But the truth was, I wasn't doing so great. I wasn't fine. Not even close.
But I'd try to make it look good. As a woman, I felt I at least owed you that. We may be dying inside, but we better look pretty while we're doing it.
So, I’d get dressed up -- fancy stockings, cute skirt, great shoes, put my hair up in a fancy hairdo and then go to the bar and flirt with someone else’s boyfriend, and feel like I guess this is THE LIFE. And I looked pretty good doing it. I looked like I was leading the exciting life. And I was!
The only thing was, I was miserable. That was the only downside.
I had chronic diarrhea. I was constantly sick from the foods I was eating. I’ve never been able to eat dairy safely, but what was my favorite food during this time? Yep. You guessed it. Cheese. Ugh.
During grad school, I blacked out from drinking four times a week, so I was confused a lot of the time about what was going on in my life. I was losing friends, gaining friends, losing boyfriends, gaining boyfriends. All while I was on autopilot. I’d go into my classes the morning after a blackout, and just wait to see who was talking to me that day. What friends had I lost? What friends had I gained? I was like a private investigator about my own life.
Confusing, to say the least.
And the whole time, I was smiling -- when I was with people at least. There was a lot of secret crying happening. Crying on the bus. Or on the sidewalk. I didn’t really understand why I was so miserable. LOOK AT THIS FABULOUS LIFE.
Amazing grad school? Check. Super handsome, smart boyfriend? Check. Beautiful apartment? Check. Great clothes? Check. Funny, creative friends? Check? Dying inside? Check.
So finally, I walked into a room of people and said, I’m miserable. I hate my life. I can’t live like this anymore.
Despite every instinct I had, I found that the truth worked.
My life got better.
Honesty, it turns out, is a miracle cure.
And now, my life is different. It’s better. I don’t drink anymore. I don’t eat foods that make me sick. And it’s honesty that did it.
I don’t usually feel the need to say anymore that I hate my life because I DON’T hate my life. Most of the time, I can see Wow -- look at this: husband, kid, great apartment in an amazing city. Work that I love. This is amazing.
Sometimes I still don’t FEEL the amazingness of my life, but that’s another issue. That’s for therapy.
But I'm honest now. I’m honest when I say, I don’t know. Or I don’t like that. I’m honest when I say, I don’t want to do that. Thanks, anyway.
I’m honest about what I’ve been through. And I see a lot of people are honest back.
This is why we tell our stories – it makes room for others to tell their stories.
My honesty makes room for others to be honest.
And I need that.
I need to know I’m not alone.
When I keep my struggles to myself, my whole life becomes a secret. My deep inner self becomes a dirty little secret I’m keeping. Those secrets are shame-based behavior for me.
I need to know that others have issues too. And when I tell my stuff, I am saying to myself – it’s not so bad. This doesn’t need to be a secret. I need to know that I’m not as bad as I think I am. I’m not as bad as I feel.
This is just the normal stuff of being human.
And human is not so bad.
Right in the middle of humanity is a good place to be. Right in the middle of all the other people triumphing and struggling.
Right in the middle. I am ok here.
I am enough. And so are you.
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