When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I made a commitment that I would be honest and, dare I say, more vulnerable in what I had to share. I want it to be a nugget that has been aching to be spilled out, even in the event that only one person reads it, let alone identifies with it. (Bonus!) And maybe, just maybe, what is straining to break through the gate and get out there isn’t necessarily ‘neat.’ A girl I met last weekend joked about the idea of ‘being good at life.’ If we were all experts at life, then my bet is we wouldn’t even be living on earth at all.
So if your mind & heart is totally organized in colour-coded folders when it comes to feelings and thoughts, rock on.
This is for the rest of us who dare to be messy and sort through the tangled threads that help to reveal all the most beautiful things we can find in being human.
While in training for a summer camp leadership position back in 2006, I was told (very kindly) by the trainer we were working with that he could see clearly that I “wanted communication to be tied up neatly with a nice little pink bow.” This was one of those moments that you know you will never forget. At that phase in time, I was going through a break-up with my now husband. Our 23.5 year old selves had experienced a block in communication, a confusing crossroads. I knew even then, in the deep recesses of my heart, that there was more; this was IT. But at 23.5 and on the threshold of being spat out into the big post-Bachelor’s Degree world (and in the fine arts, nonetheless), our visions of the future weren’t lining up. Why? We couldn’t see beyond the hood of the car we were sitting in outside my parents’ house in the dark, let alone what the months ahead held for us. We were both nice people capable of a lot of love — we still are. At that juncture, we knew our relationship was on the brink of change. In a strange way, talking about our impending separation had made us closer, but I hoped we would be plunging to a deeper level of commitment. At 23.5, getting married seemed, well, a bit soon.
In our total confusion as to how to move ahead, we moved apart instead…Nicely. As nicely as a break-up could be. We even tried to carry on as friends, which was a devastating experiment in facing broken love head on just as often as we did when we were together, with the expectation of saying goodbye casually; no romantic undertones whatsoever. Impossible. When he told me he was ‘over me,’ I responded with the hard fact that my love for him hadn’t waned in the slightest, that I had known from day one that we were meant to be. My truth, in a nutshell. In one particularly heart-wrenching night of trying to hash things out and hitting walls at every turn, I finally had nothing left but sobs. He held me in his arms, let me cry, and eventually broke the silence with another truth of his:
“Who knows, Al. Maybe one day we’ll look back on this and laugh.”
Eventually, we did. What got us to that point is an entire blog post within itself, but over the course of a handful more years, we re-built our friendship in a healthy way. Through that process came many honest conversations which, somehow, led to a re-blossoming of a deeper love than we had experienced before. All in time, we moved in together, then eventually got engaged, and now married…
Last week, I read through my old journal from the year we first broke up. It’s amazing to read about this period from the other side. Our break-ups yielded some of the most direct, honest, intention-filled writing I have ever done. During that time, I messily expressed every confused feeling I felt. I also, very clearly, calmly and purposefully, expressed gratitude for all that was going right in my life, for all the things and people I loved, for every lesson I was learning, for every new person who entered my life and brought renewed light to my world… When it came to Love, I knew exactly what I wanted, and through all the hurt and anger, the part of me that was true to my gut (and my heart) never changed. My words were bold. At the time, his were too: “I’m not in love with you and I’m not getting back together with you.” Ouch.
But here’s the thing.
It was his truth. It hurt me to the very core of my being. (I’m pretty sure I felt the crack in my heart widen hearing those words.) As he would still say, “It was true… at the time.”
My truth was different. Even in the hardest conversations, my truth was that I loved him, and couldn’t imagine loving anyone else in the way I did, or being loved in the way he loved me. If there was any way to dispel my habit of communicating with neatly tied pink bows, it was with him, in this time, that I laid the foundation for communicating from a place of truth. Sometimes, what I had to say didn’t sound ‘nice.’ It would come out in a torrent of mixed emotions, or oftentimes, from a still, peaceful point in me that I had never experienced before. At least I was saying what I felt, what I meant, rather than stifling what I felt I couldn’t say.
I say all this to speak on communication, as well as a general state of being — the stereotypically Canadian trait of being ‘nice.’ I will always find the ‘nicest’ way to communicate a point. I will politely acknowledge a ‘wrong number text’ with a ‘sorry!’ and a ‘have a nice day!’ I will be pleasant in a situation that is frustrating, choosing the perfect words to not disturb any peace, or even just saying how I feel with the intention of being kind. I could argue that this benefits relationships in the long run. I say what I say in the way that I do with a long-term vision in mind: Am I going to wreck a relationship because I reacted rashly to someone else’s rash reaction? What’s the good in two people reacting back and forth at each other? Someone’s got to stay grounded while the other person flies off the handle, right? But at what cost?
In one of the most confrontational interactions I have ever experienced (over the phone, nonetheless), I simply got quiet, took the brunt of someone else’s anger, and then said something so genuinely nice and loving to this person that I was surprised they didn’t break down and confess that they had been horribly unkind. Yes, I chose the high road, but if that had been a fist fight in a dark alley, would I have let this person beat me to a pulp?
As of late, I’ve begun to see that ‘being true to myself’ is not always ‘nice’ for everyone. Sometimes, it doesn’t even feel ‘nice’ for me. It can feel a bit like getting snow in the sleeve of your fleece jacket — bracing, uncomfortable and awkward. It catches me off guard. I’m sure it still will to those who know me best. Like that classic movie scene, where the lead character has given a passionate ‘call-to-arms’ (with standing-ovation-provoking bravado, of course), and you’re expecting the heinous boss to furiously pick it apart and fire their ass…and instead, they start an epic slow clap that ripples throughout the entire board room…
Yeah, like that. You say it… and then you hover there in nanoseconds of limbo, just waiting for the world to fall down around you, and for the person you spoke to to write you off completely. For.ev.er.
But the world doesn’t collapse. And the person is still there.
My truth is like a shaky toddler, learning to walk. It comes out a bit more raw and jagged than it sounds in my head. If, for some reason it hurts your feelings, I’m sorry for that. That isn’t the intention at all. I’m just learning to stand my ground. At 30. Whether we make it clear to everyone around us, or we just silently wish it for ourselves, we all have a burning desire to just be liked, goshdarnit. To be impeccable, to be everything to everyone, to be NICE and spew out perfection laced with rainbows and unicorns whenever we open our mouths. (Wouldn’t THAT be magical?) But as one of my dear yoga teachers told me once, if you are authentic and true to who you are, people won’t just like you, they will love you.
Go forth, truthful ones.
Be lovable in a way that re-defines the normal ways you aim to be adored.
May you be truthful and authentic to no end, and may you be loved deeply for it.