Slowly, as friends and family find this blog, I am discovering it is harder and harder to tell the truth. The whole truth, I mean. It’s easy to write the sugary bits and tie them together with swooping metaphors and a moral at the end, but the really gritty stuff gets harder and harder to write. Why is that?
I was talking with my housemate today about singing: it is so much easier to do in front of strangers. I had no trouble whipping out my guitar and playing eight original songs to a club packed with strangers last summer at the Viper Room. But when I’m asked to play for people I know…that’s hard. I think it has something to do with the fact that my friends are stuck with me. They can’t walk away, for fear of hurting my feelings, and they are sort of duty-bound to scrape up something nice to say at the end. Ouch. Strangers, on the other hand—they’ve got no reason to clap; so if they do, they must genuinely like it. Or, they’re drunk.
So I’m beginning to wonder if life is like this—if we save our deepest truths for strangers, if we set up our lives to avoid intimacy with the ones we are closest to. As an aspiring counselor, this interests me very much. Time after time, studies of therapy show that it is the quality of the therapeutic relationship itself that is the greatest predictor for healing. Even though the answers are coming from within, even though it is not the therapist’s job to give advice, somehow the quality of the relationship is the vital piece. Is it because the therapist is a stranger? Is it because we are safe in the borders of that room, knowing we’ll never have to face up to the truths we told there again? Can that be right?
I am sure that our healing as a species, as a planet, must come from accountability. What does it say about our chances that even our healing relationships work mostly because they help us dodge this?
I know I’m oversimplifying. I’m overwhelmed with work, juggling my studies and the recent bombshell that the-divorce-that-never-dies is going back into court. And yet there’s this: one of the most beneficial rituals of my day is the twice-daily phone call I make to a man I’ve never met. We call each other to talk about our dreams and goals, to envision what it is we most want and imagine our way there. We use the exercise I learned at the workshop in California, awkwardly called “kylego” (I cannot say that word without images of the pelvic floor flashing unbidden before my eyes.) When you kylego, you describe what you want as though it has already happened. It’s a neat little trick; it forces your mind to rapidly deduce how it is you got there, and suddenly you have a plan. I’ve never met my kylego-ing partner. I wonder if that’s why it’s been working so well.
I’d like to reach a point in my development where I am entirely consistent; where the person I am with my children is the same woman waiting at the DMV, the same woman singing to a room of strangers, or riding a bus, or crying alone, or teaching a workshop. I’d like to tell the truth always. I wonder why we don’t. I wonder why I don’t. These roles we play must serve some purpose, or we wouldn’t universally play them. But the people I’ve met who crackle with life, the people whose joy is a tangible part of them, they are congruent always. It is an immense bravery.
So in the interests of congruence, I’ll share this poem I was nearly too scared to share in class this week. It was written in response to a work of art made by a classmate, a folded origami balloon that contained images of her inner self. She breathed into it and the inner images disappeared, replaced by a suddenly-three-dimensional sphere. Although she is of Japanese heritage, my classmate had never known how to fold origami until her son taught her from a YouTube video. I found this evidence of the-future-informing-the-past completely mindblowing. But when I finished the poem, it revealed far more of my own ambiguity about motherhood than I felt comfortable sharing.
However. I’m a mom, and I’m ambiguous about it. That’s the truth.
You have changed.
See how you’ve been creased,
and bent, and worried over,
folded and unfolded along
those same relentless lines.
See how those inner brilliances get
caught, papered over with so
many enclosing demands
forced into a foreign geometry
Which will fit? So weary—
can this be right?
can this be right?
Feel the divine out-breath
rounding you, opening, lightening,
shaping inner emptiness,
a blessing, dimension:
rising from flat form to
In folding, you expand!
And now the future lifts its light onto the past
Mixes color in the grayscale of ancestors stretching back, back,
Holding out their hands until this language
Until you have always belonged here.
–See how there was never any lessening at all?
See how this relentless beauty you made