Transparency

I’m a little sad most of the time and I’m not up to much of anything.

Great conversation starter, huh?

But if I’m honest, that’s my in-the-moment answer to the question of how am I doing these days, and what am I up to. It’s winter, it’s dark, my body wants to hibernate, I’m tired a lot, and the background mood is one of melancholy. I’m integrating a lot of big shifts. I’m letting go of a lot emotionally. I haven’t gotten much done. AND nothing’s wrong.

However, “what’s wrong?” is the first thing most well-meaning people ask. Goodness knows it’s probably what I’d ask if someone I cared about gave the above report. Our culture is so allergic to sadness or anything like it. Sorrow is a cause for alarm – or at the very least an explanation.

So, instead of a genuine response, I often downshift into a more neutral, expected, less sincere answer of, “oh, I’m great. Just getting over a cold, looking forward to holiday travels, blah blah …” In other words, contorting myself slightly (or not so slightly) so that others aren’t uncomfortable. So they don’t worry or—heaven forbid—try to fix me.

(I realize what a “first-world” problem this is: having to lie and say I’m great when I’m not. There’s so much that’s genuinely tragic going on. In part I hesitate to admit that I’m low so as not to contribute to the emotional sinkhole that seems to be growing by miles every day, threatening to consume the entire planet.

But a topcoat of cheer isn’t necessarily useful, in this case or any other.)

Anyway, last week I was talking to my coach about this. I had shared how I was really doing while he held space for me to really feel this sadness that had no explicable origin or meaning. It felt exquisite, like a warm bath I wanted to stay in forever. I outlined my conundrum: I can’t be this way with everyone. They worry.

He reminded me that this is one of the values of community and tribe. He called my attention to the people who are in my life – and actually there are quite a few – whom I don’t have to worry about worrying with my sadness (an emotion, by the way, that signals a necessary letting go, which I learned from Karla McLaren). Turns out I am very close to several people who can relate to this space, who will be responsible for their own reaction, and who won’t try to change a damn thing. I found myself freed from the notion that I’m tragically adrift in a sea of “be happy or else!” facebook memes. My community is a raft on which I can let go and relax into authenticity.

We can’t expect the whole world to know and hold our genuineness. It’s not necessary to be 100% honest with everyone, all the time. Not everyone can handle that, and truthfully, few people care since they’re paying far more attention to their own lives. But wisdom and attunement can help us to discern others’ capacity to be with the wholeness of our experience. It is helpful (not to mention time-saving) to make this discernment.

But it’s also great to gather folks around us with whom we can be more transparent, and, with them, be as open as we can. If we’re lucky, if we listen, if we keep searching and seeking, we’ll discover more and more places where we can luxuriate in the truth of our experience. And nobody has to worry.

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