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Honesty…is such a lonely word

You will often hear me talk about being in “darkness,” and almost always those posts happily wrap up with a light at the end of the tunnel, a glimmer of hope, a shimmer of the Spirit. Something. Anything. But lately, to be perfectly honest, it’s just been darkness. I know that from the outside — and even from the inside — I clearly have nothing in the world to feel dark about. But there it is. Enveloping. Suffocating. Punishing. Frightening.

Maybe it was a perfect storm, a combination of stress over work, unhappiness over physical stuff, craziness with the kids’ schedules, dryness in the spiritual realm, and then, the icing on the cake, the death of my grandmother in the midst of the holiday season. So perhaps there is a reason for the darkness, but, even so, it shouldn’t be quite so lights-out dark over here. Really. I can recognize that objectively, but, boy, is it hard to shake it off from where I’m standing.

I told someone yesterday that if you were ask people who know me (or think they know me) how I am, they’d probably offer you a fairly upbeat litany: very chatty, mostly smiley, sometimes funny, usually sarcastic, often goofy, but overall happy. That is the armor I put on to go out into the world, whether it’s at a school meeting, in the coffee shop, over the phone, or on Facebook. But what lives under the armor here in the basement office is an entirely different scenario. And I know I’m not alone, so I thought it was time to talk about it, put it all out there, because this place, this blog, is totally worthless if it’s not completely honest. But, as the song says, “Honesty is such a lonely word.” And a hard word, and a hard practice, because being honest means being vulnerable and being vulnerable means allowing your heart to be broken or at least a little scarred and your ego to be buffeted and your sense of self to be hung out to dry, depending on the reaction.

At just about this point in writing my blog post today, I signed onto Facebook and found another friend writing a similar post but with a different twist over at The Glass House Retreat. Some of it sounded so familiar I felt like she must have been taking transcription, right from my brain to her hands. She wrote:

For me, I cope with humor. I cope with eating entirely too much of the “wrong” foods. I cope with hiding in my basement for hours on end. I cope with sleeping. I cope with writing. I cope with meditation. I cope with yoga. I cope with the help of a gifted therapist. I cope with the help of not one, but two psychics. I cope with my dearest of friends who get me and don’t judge me. I cope with listening to same song on repeat for as long as it takes.

We ALL put on award worthy performances for the public. We smile, though our heart is breaking. We get dressed and put one foot in front of the other even when the very last thing we want to do is leave the cocoon of our blankets. We put on mascara, even though we will cry. We go out for meals with friends. We toast each other because we have gotten through another day.

Yes, much of life is a performance. Dare I say almost ALL of Facebook is a performance, not just for me but for everyone out there. Best foot — photo, video, life news, vacation — forward almost all the time, with only rare glimpses into our pain and struggle. Sometimes I verge on leaving Facebook for that very reason, too much surface and not enough depth, too much pizazz and not enough honesty. I like deep. I like honest. I like real. But I stay because of the virtual connections that have given me real friends — like Maggie, the blogger I mentioned above, whom I’ve never met but feel like I know — or have renewed old friendships with people who are so dear to me that I can’t imagine not seeing their smiling faces scrolling across my computer screen each day.

On dark days, sometimes those little blips of light flashing from my laptop are enough to chase away the shadows. Of course, on other days, some comments on my thread — even if they are painfully honest, or maybe because they are painfully honest — are enough to kick me right back down into the pit. So I think there has to be balance and awareness. Know when to hold ’em; know when to fold ’em, I guess. I’m holding ’em for now, although I always keep the possibility of folding and disappearing for a while as a back-up plan. And that’s okay. Sometimes we all need to disappear for a while. Well, at least those of us cut from this particular cloth.

When I commented over on Maggie’s post today, I said this:

I have not been able to write because I have been frozen by a grief that really has no direct or obvious source. That’s why my blog has been dry for a while. I usually cope through writing, so to find myself without words is a grief all of its own.

Honestly. I have been aching to write here, to share with you, but if I can’t be totally honest, I’d rather not be here at all. So there you have it. I can’t write, can’t pray, can’t do yoga, can’t eat right, can’t sleep, can’t laugh, can’t anything, and yet life requires me to find a way to do all those things in spite of myself. Maybe showing up here again is a first step in doing just that, a leap toward the light even when I can’t see the other side.

And now, here is the song, which I especially love because it is a raspier, rougher, realer version than the original:

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19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kari #

    Love you.

    January 9, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      xo

      January 9, 2014
  2. Irina #

    You are not alone. I’ve been feeling the same way. It is the valleys that define our character.

    January 9, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you!

      January 9, 2014
  3. Sasha #

    Mary,

    I appreciate your honesty, and your thoughts about Facebook. I struggle with how honest to be there. I try to put my failings out for people to see, but not necessarily my doubts – so that is a sanitized version.

    I want to share something in hopes that it will resonate. If not, forgive me. You may not know this but I’m a convert. One of the things I love most about being Catholic are the changing physical postures we adopt during Mass. On hard days, I rely on the fact that even when my heart and mind think they don’t know what to do, my body does. I tell God “my presence is my prayer” and then just stop trying, kneel and trust that He will sort it out.

    And to get even deeper & weirder, I believe that since God created the universe and thanks to Einstein we understand that time is a physical construct of the universe, that God exists outside of time and that somehow all times are present to Him at once. So even though we experience time as linear, it isn’t really. And I often think at Mass that all the saints are praying with us – those who have been and those who have yet to be. As are all the people I have been, myself as an inquirer and as a newly confirmed adult and myself as an old lady sometime in the future – also praying along with me. (I told you this was going to get weird.) And it gives me great comfort to know that although I am usually an active participant in praying the Mass, that there are times when I simply cannot be – and to trust that the web of prayers woven by all the saints and all the prayers I have ever said and ever will say in the future, is strong enough to hold me up until I can find my footing again.

    I guess what I mean to say is, sometimes it is not just okay but right to simply ache and grieve.

    You will be in my prayers. I hope these comments are not too personal, but felt moved to share. If they ARE too personal, feel free not to publish or to remove them.

    Sasha

    January 9, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Sasha,

      I LOVE weird. 😉

      Your comment is perfect. I love the idea of timelessness and our future selves praying for our current selves. How cool is that? Thanks for sharing that thought.

      And thank you for your honesty. Hugs from here,
      Mary

      January 9, 2014
      • Sasha #

        OK, whew.

        So often when I talk about that theory, I get blank stares. Or worse, I get that look like I have three heads and need to be committed.

        But I love it and it feels so very true to me. It is nice to find someone else who ‘gets’ it, too.

        January 9, 2014
  4. Maria Evans #

    My eyes widened as I read and I thought: “This is what I’m like.” I avoid putting anything about myself, and certainly about my feelings, on Facebook, when the mists descend. Or, I only mention things for which I’m grateful. Away from FB, like you, I wear a smile. You may have answered a question I have been asking myself about why much that is posted here has been leaving me feeling unsettled. It is something about what you call performance. I want to shout “Get real.” or “Stop posturing.”. Life is much more basic than some writers (me included, I’m sure) would have us believe. The world is full of courageous people struggling daily with a myriad of difficulties and, in the spiritual realm, we can become so airy-fairy. Sorry. I won’t go on but I will thank you for liberating something in me with this post and with your honesty. Thank you again.

    January 9, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Maria,

      Thank you for writing — and for being honest.

      I think we have to be very careful with Facebook because, while it is a wonderful place to connect and reconnect with friends, it is also a place where we can get caught up in the comparison game. And, if we forget that everyone is posting only the very best of their lives, we can start to think we don’t measure up or we’re failing or we’re flawed beyond hope. Meanwhile, others are probably feeling the exact same way due to the fun and positive stuff we’re posting.

      We’re all just trying to get through this life, and we can’t forget that what we see is not always reality but a highly polished version of the truth.

      Thanks again.
      Peace,
      Mary

      January 9, 2014
  5. Maria Evans #

    That is very true, too. Thank you.

    January 9, 2014
  6. Oh Mary ~

    I am SO honored and touched that you shared my words with your always incredible words. YOURS made me weep. Mine were cathartic.

    Funny how that works, right?

    I loved Sasha’s thoughts about time, “even though we experience time as linear, it isn’t really.” So true. As you can imagine, I loved the use of the word weird.

    Pain is universal. As my oft quoted prior therapist said to me years ago, “Feelings just are.”

    And isn’t that just so freaking special… (written in pure SNL tone)

    From my Magic Basement to yours I send you all the love and light I have.

    xoxo to you my friend.

    <3

    January 10, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you, Maggie. I hope to get to the Magic Basement to meet you in person some day soon!
      Peace, love, and hugs,
      Mary

      January 10, 2014
  7. Theresa #

    I feel you.

    January 10, 2014
  8. Oh Mary, I did not get to read your blog yesterday, yet I had a feeling that you might not be feeling your best, just an intuition. When I clicked in today, I was both surprised and not surprised.

    Mary, all I can offer are the prayers and concern for you to be both patient and gentle with yourself right now. What a combination, post-holidays, your grandmother’s passing, a zillion other things, and the horrible cold, dark, days we have been having.

    Peace, I wish you, consolation, healing, rest and hope. Love you Mary!

    January 10, 2014
  9. Actually I think DIShonesty is lonely because it cuts other people off from your true thoughts and feelings. Lying–“performing” a self that isn’t true–may be more social in a facebook kind of way, but it’s lonelier. When I share truth and people hear it and respond with truth that’s the most connected and together with others I ever feel.

    January 10, 2014
  10. Totally agree about the Facebook stuff. Sometimes I feel like posting picture of myself with a grumpy frown because if you’re judging me by my profile pic, you’d assume I was relentlessly happy.
    I don’t know you, but… hugs!!

    January 10, 2014
    • Mary DeTurris Poust #

      Thank you! Any friend of Maggie’s is a friend of mine. 🙂

      January 10, 2014

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  1. The lighter side of darkness | Not Strictly Spiritual
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