At the beginning of this year, I skipped the typical resolutions and, instead, decided to choose a word I wanted to live by for 2016.
I wound up on "honesty"—a supremely challenging word for me but which, as I look back on now, was far more beneficial than I could have imagined.
I learned many things along the way, but the most poignant was how being honest forced me to live and be an honest version of myself. This, of course, is not to say I have been lying about who I am. Rather that (as I think everybody tends to do to some extent) I edit bits and parts of myself depending upon to whom I speak.
But I stopped doing that in a number of big ways this year, and while it was terrifying and difficult, the results I encountered have been something I've been reflecting on for some time.
It started just being more honest about "little" things: if I had to back out of a planned outing, saying it was due to my chronic illness or not feeling well, instead of covering up for it in some way or another. I worked on being more open with people close to me, trying to express a little bit more of my thoughts and my self than I normally would. I no longer said "I'm fine" if I wasn't, worked very hard not to say "That's okay" if it isn't, and generally tried to be more forthcoming.
As this progressed, and I grew more familiar with living more honestly, I realized it was about far more than being honest for/to other people. I had thought being honest would only be a pathway for people to get to know be better, understand more things. And while it most certainly was, the biggest thing I took away from it was the freedom it gave to myself. Being open and vulnerable showed me exactly how "comfortably" I had lived for so long—which isn't a bad thing. It is self-survival and protection, an absolutely necessary for all people and me during that time. Before this year, I did not have the skills and the growth and the support which allowed me to jump into all of this; I have been working toward this for years.
I thought, by the end of the year, maybe I'd be less afraid of being vulnerable and have a desire to be more honest with people. This might be true to some degree; I want to continue trying to be honest and it is still more terrifying than not. But what I never expected was to be more OK with me. Yes, most people accepted me and it feels AMAZING and, yes, some didn't really and that hurts--but, regardless of these outcomes, I had begun to live a truer version of myself. And, in doing so, I have found more peace within myself—with who I am—than I could have ever expected.
It's like it removed the question of it all. Can I still be loved if I am still me? If I say what I think and feel? And this is the answer: yes. And, also: no. Other peoples' love and acceptance has given me so much, but there are some who have had trouble accepting who I've become and what I believe. But now I don't have to be curious about them anymore, I don't have to wonder. It feels backwards but living honestly has helped me to see how sad it is—how it is about them and not me. I has made me less afraid of myself and more capable of telling them I am proud of who I have become.
This little word has set me free in many ways, many of which I had absolutely no idea how, or to the extent, it could. But credit does also go to those who have not only let me speak, but also heard me. Who have understood my fear. Who saw my vulnerability under comments/texts/words that most people would not realize were so fragile and connected to me, and met them with caring hands. It's because of your love, which continues to helps teach me to love myself, that I have the courage to keep living an honest life long past 2016.
I sat outside to get some fresh air and watch my pups romp. Nature always helps me to reset, if only marginally, regardless of whatever is going on. Today was no exception.
Currently, there are a lot of things making it difficult for me to feel grounded and steady. Most obviously: today's election and the undercurrent of unease, fear, and even anger emanating from pretty much everyone I come into contact with. Not to mention my own variances of those emotions with which I'm try to balance and grapple.
But there are other things as well. Largely difficult and emotional things friends are going through, as well as some somewhat painful self-growth and deep-seated things I'm trying to sift through myself.
So, I sat outside to get some fresh air and watch my pups romp. I thought about how interesting nature is; how, in so much turmoil—like today's and all the various turmoils and changes that have come before—nature just goes. Not actively or outwardly, really. But with a quiet strength and steadfast feeling I want to wrap around me.
And then I wondered what it must be like to be so stable, to move along without too much change between one day and the next. How, when nature does change, it is slow and deliberate. How even its changing is steadfast.
I thought about this and smiled at my fluffballs as they sniffed around, wondering what I could do to help with all this chaos inside of me and around me. And then I found, next to my house where I usually sit, a wee dandelion.
Dandelions are my thing; I have had a long standing love-affair with dandelions for a myriad of different reasons. But in all my years, I have never seen one this late in the season.
So I sat outside with my dogs and breathed the fresh air and found this rogue dandelion and now I think: maybe we'll be OK. Maybe we'll be OK as long as we keep close. If we work to surround ourselves with people who know us and love us. People who forgive us if we act out of anger and who will listen to us when we try to speak. People who get us and root for us, who shelter us and believe in us. And the people who don't? To do neither harm nor spend too much of our energy on them if it is not appreciated.
Usually I pluck up dandelions, make a wish, and give them a blow to the wind—but I figured November dandelions are special enough to warrant a change, don't you think? So I stayed on my step, took a deep breath, and made a great big wish for all the people in my heart. All the ones I keep close. And then I smiled and went back inside, leaving the dandelion where it found me. Because, this time, it felt better to keep its little roots in, down into the earth. The earth that just goes. Not actively or outwardly, but goes. Just goes and goes with a quiet, steadfast strength.
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. -- Louise Erdrich