“Children go where they find sincerity and authenticity.” ~Eric Cantona.
They say confession is good for the soul. I don’t know if I ever admitted to one of my childhood crimes. My mother was quite an intimidating person, and at the time I found it far easier to deny, deny, deny, than to admit it was me that traced over the addresses on the stamped envelopes that were waiting to go out to be mailed. With a red pen. I think I just steadfastly maintained silence and my innocence. Yet I remember that sick feeling that accompanied the knowledge that I was lying and could be found out. Of course we grow up and find life to be quite complicated, sometimes being completely truthful can get you in hot water, or it may not be the kindest way to be. Sometimes we have to pause and breathe before speaking, especially when our filter is faulty, and wants to let first thoughts pop out of our head.
As a writer of prose I draw from life, from my life. From real people, situations, experiences. And yet I hope I do not do it in such a way that others feel exposed, or too clearly identified. For my goal is to share lessons learned, and to find common problems that may resonate with others. Recently I have seen and heard interviews with a woman whose blog has taken off and provided her with a wealth of opportunities because her words resonated with so many (Momastery). But her decision to be completely honest about her life was part of her recovery from a childhood of eating disorders which easily morphed into addiction. She had an unhealthy marriage and woke up at some point recognizing the need to change her life completely. She found honesty in a drug rehab facility, and that honesty was her road to recovery.
I admire someone who pours so much of their life into their work. Most of us are not comfortable exposing our flaws and weaknesses. We may think others know us, we may believe that what you see is what you get, but is it? What does it take to lay your life experiences out in full view, willing to let others judge your failures, willing to let others see your vulnerabilities? Glennon Doyle (the author of the blog Momastery) did so, and has such a large following that she has been able to start a foundation (“Together Rising”) which helps mothers and children in need.
I am not sure that I am ready to expose all of my life experiences for the world to see (or at least for my usual supporters to read!). Perhaps because I mostly write for those who already know me. It is easier to write in generalities than to spell out intimate details of a life which has had its moments of disappointments and betrayals. And there are others closely related to me who may not want their lowest moments shared with a general audience.
And yet it has been when I have shared those most personal stories with others (usually in one on one conversations) that those stories have been the most powerful. As a teacher I have had the opportunity to connect with (mostly) women who need to be reminded of their strength, of their ability. I have recognized that life has beaten them down, has told them they should not be attempting to gain an education and a profession. I have shared with them the times when I was at my codependent worst, doing my best to support the dreams of another while suppressing my own ambitions. I can give advice because I have been there, not because I am so much wiser or better than them. And it is only by speaking my own truth authentically that I can reach them, and give them hope.
The thought of pouring my deeply personal stories onto the page is scary. And yet there are ways of doing it. Fictional work often speaks to truth, even while the details and characters may not be actual people. But the ones who have developed the art of speaking truth using the least amount of words are the poets. And with their carefully crafted and creatively chosen words they can weave tales of truth, disguised in a lyrical line. Ah yes, a good poem reaches deep inside you and resonates, like the reverberations of a drum which recalls some long hidden truth nestled up against your heart.
This concept of being authentic is at the heart of many human interactions. A sick person knows whether their caregiver is authentic or not. Children, animals, can sense the intentions of those they deal with. They do not focus on the words, but look instead at the body language, they hear the tone, they study the facial expressions. My own grandchildren have recently been picking up on our current ugly political climate, giving commentary on ‘the worst president ever’ (thankfully, he who shall not be named does not yet have the title of president, please vote!).
So this Friday morning as I reflect on truth, on my truth, and on being truthful, I hope that you have also found your own truth, and your own voice. And may you find a way to express it authentically, in a way that lets you live your fullest life. And if necessary, write a poem!