I can’t type. I spell out each word as if I am back in high school, learning where my fingers go on the keys. (I learned on a real typewriter, not a keyboard. Whoa.) Sometimes I detach my mind from typing, to see if the words will come out of my fingers. They never do. It’s gobbledy-gook. A real mess.
I begin every essay, every poem, every new thought or idea with a black Pilot pen scratching across a blank sheet of paper. Notebook paper, journal page, notepad, sticky note, receipt. My mind is focused completely where the pen hits the page. The thoughts flow freely and effortlessly. Not perfectly. Editing is always necessary. But the truth of a feeling is only fully realized for me when I commit it to paper. And I don’t have to think about how to spell anything.
Conversely, when I am writing something that doesn’t feel true or right, my pen sticks and grabs the paper. It drags. Like an extension of my body, my brain, and my heart, there is hesitation. A tension. A pregnant pause in which the real Truth is revealed, not the hoped-for truth, which is really a wish.
I can speak a lie into being. “Sure. That’s fine. Not a problem. I would love to.” Those untruths have been conditioned into me since I was a little girl. But ask me to write out my true response, and the pen simply will not lie. I trust it. I pay attention to it. It surprises me- often.
Every January for the past fifteen years, I forego a New Year’s Resolution in favor of a word or mantra to guide me. Something I would like to focus on, improve on, or a quality I want to add to my life. In past years I have used “Focus + Finish,” “No More Sarcasm,” and “Quality over Quantity.” This past January I chose the word “Truth.” Seems simple enough. We all think we know The Truth, are living Our Truth. But The Truth often lies hidden. It can be too ugly to acknowledge, too painful to bring to light.
I realized I had not known The Truth on the morning of November 9, 2016, the morning after our presidential election. I woke up to a reality that I could not comprehend and for which I did not prepare. I had had my head in the sand. I had been living in a bubble. A warm, comfortable bubble where everyone thought like me. Believed in the same basic things as me. Or at least that was the only truth I could understand. I knew people had different beliefs, but I didn’t know, you know?
What has been revealed to me- rather, what I have sought out- is The Truth. Of America, of my past, of life on this planet in this moment in history. It feels like a Band-Aid has been ripped off and I am staring at a gaping, bloody, infected wound. The wound of my country. The wound of my heart. Of injustice. Of racism. Of unabashed hatred. It is so painful to see. But I cannot look away.
In recognizing this Truth, I can see the alternate Truth as well. The Truth of a group of Americans (almost 63 million strong) that feels undervalued, under-represented, overlooked. Hard-working people. People of faith. People who are my friends and neighbors, not in a hokey, detached way, but really and truly. People who share the same core values as me, but who embody them or act on them in different ways. Values like love and generosity and commitment. Ending suffering, promoting life.
This has been one of the most difficult years of my life. (I probably say that at the end of every year!) I didn’t know that by choosing the word Truth as my mantra, I would be choosing the words Pain, Hurt, Astonishment, and Disbelief as well. I had to put on some awfully big girl panties to find The Truth this year. But I also realized how liberating it is. It takes a lot of mental energy (subconscious) to run, to hide, to cover up The Truth. Ripping off that Band-Aid has led me to greater clarity and healing than I have ever known before.
After 11 months of commitment to Truth, here is what I have learned:
There is no Truth, only perception.
Belief can and does override facts, science, and data.
It all matters. Everything you do or don’t do. Say or don’t say. It all adds up to a life. So make it count. Or don’t. But don’t say it doesn’t matter. It does.
Leaning into Truth feels a lot like standing too close to a bonfire. But it will burn away artifice, ego, and insincerity- if you let it.
The not-knowing is okay too. It feels scary and unsettling, but it is part of the path that leads to Truth.
Sharing your Truth makes you brave. Listening to another’s Truth makes you braver.
The Truth really will set you free.
As this year winds down, I feel a great sense of accomplishment. I have incorporated Truth into every area of my life. I will not abandon this practice when the calendar flips over to the new year. (I still try to avoid sarcasm.) Rather, the search for Truth will become another filter I see through, another layer over how I interact with others and the world.
What are the Truths you have been burying? What would it take for you to unearth them? What could you lose? What might you gain?
I am already thinking of my word for 2018. I would love to pick one that evokes a little more ease and comfort. I am thinking of Beauty, Devotion, Play… and Chocolate. Chocolate would be a GREAT word to focus on for a year!