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HONESTY

Honesty is not always the best policy. Or is it?

I was taught that it was. I was taught that it was a sin to lie. But I also learned along the way that telling the truth didn’t always produce the outcome I expected.

Like a storm speaking its truth sometimes it left splintered trees in its wake.

When I was thirteen, I was left alone in my sister’s car for hours while she and another of my sisters went to hang out with some guys they met at a traveling circus that had come to town.

It was getting late, and I was invited to come along, but based on the looks I was getting from some of the men, I opted to stay put where I was.

The circus was set up on the periphery of a shopping center parking lot, so for the most part, I felt safe enough under the bright parking lot lights to not try and find them and make a fuss. Still, I remember looking at my watch and thinking to myself; they have until eleven o’clock, not a minute later, or else I’m calling home.

Eleven came and went. Then midnight, then one. It was then that I decided I would drive myself home.

My sister had allowed me to practice driving her car on the dirt roads surrounding the camp we all went to every summer, so I felt reasonably sure I could drive myself home that night, given that it was only about three miles away.

I was alone and afraid not only for myself but for my sisters and desperate enough to attempt it, but as I made my way across the parking lot I spotted a pay phone in front of the Kmart store, and suddenly found myself steering in its direction.

My father answered on the first ring. He was furious wanting to know where the hell we were, and I immediately burst into tears telling him. I have no memory of what happened after that as to how I (we) made it home, but I have a vivid memory of what happened the next day.

I was grounded. My sisters had somehow come up with a good enough excuse as to why they had left me alone for so long. They were admonished for breaking curfew but never punished for the part they both played.

I, however, was punished on the grounds of not having the good sense to call home sooner. Shame on me. I should have known better. Had I done the right thing and called home sooner none of it would have happened. It was all my fault. I was the one to blame. It was not the first time I was punished for my honesty and it would not be the last.

You might think this experience would discourage me from telling the truth ever again, but you’d be wrong. With so many people living under one roof, I learned early on that it was pointless to try and lie my way out of anything since eventually the lies would get tangled up with the truth and when the truth came out – which it always did – having lied about it first had the tendency to make things a lot worse.

I also didn’t like how lying made me feel. It attached itself to my body like a leech sucking the life out of me, replacing it with lead meant to weight me down. I was always left feeling heavy and burdened by it.

Of course, at times I would be terrified to tell the truth justifiably afraid of the repercussions I might face.

“The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties: all of us are afraid of loss, in all its forms, all of us, at times are haunted or overwhelmed by the possibility of disappearance, and all of us therefore, are one short step away from dishonesty.” – David Whyte Consolations

I didn’t relish the thought of having someone look into my eyes with profound disappointment or disgust, but I also couldn’t bear the thought of lying to them. I needed to tell the truth, to be true to myself; to not betray my own soul.

But there are other stories from my childhood that will probably never be told. Stories that involve me jumping out of windows while jumping through the lie loophole.

I figured it out around the same time I figured out that my honesty didn’t matter. If I didn’t leave tracks for anyone to follow then no one would discover the truth, so technically I didn’t feel like I was lying.

We’ve all done it as children, some of us still do it as adults. We’re all a work in progress learning as we go.

I have tried very hard to raise my kids with an awareness that the truth matters and that above all else they should be true to themselves. To teach them if or when confronted, there’s no point in lying as they would only be hurting themselves. Having said that, I am sure they have both jumped through the lie loophole, from time to time too.

I have a one-word tattoo on the back of my neck. It says, truth.

It reminds me to strive to speak my truth, no defense, no pretense, no hiding.

This doesn’t mean I’m honest to a fault. If someone asks me how they look, I’m certainly not going to tell them outright they’re looking terribly fat these days, or that the outfit they’re wearing looks hideous on them. Even if both statements might be true, I would never intentionally hurt someone like that. I have felt the sting from a sharp barb thrown my way more than once, and I would never want to inflict that kind of senseless pain on anyone.

“Honesty is not the revealing of some foundational truth that gives us power of life or another or even the self, but a robust incarnation into the unknown unfolding vulnerability of existence, where we acknowledge how powerless we feel, how little we actually know, how afraid we are of not knowing and how astonished we are by the generous measure of loss that is conferred upon even the most average life.” – David Whyte Consolations

When we’re honest with ourselves and others we see that we are all vulnerable to other people’s opinions of us, we all feel powerless at times, and we are all afraid of loss of any kind.

So if someone lies to me because they are afraid of losing my love or friendship if I knew their truth, I can appreciate how difficult it must be for them to do so. I believe them when they say they were only trying to protect me, to spare me from getting upset or otherwise.

But that doesn’t mean it sits well with me.

I try my best to tell the world how to treat me, believing perhaps foolishly that my honesty will inspire others to act the same.

So when it doesn’t, when I know I am being lied to, whether or not it feels justified in someone else’s eyes, I feel betrayed. I feel defeated and deflated like an empty balloon. It fucking hurts to be lied to especially by someone you love.

If I discover that someone has lied to me about something important, then makes the argument that it was done out of love or out of them wanting to “protect” me from the truth, it always hurts much, much worse. By the time it’s all hashed out, I am always left wondering why the hell wasn’t that person just honest with me to begin with.

But then I think about all the times I was dishonest to people I love in the past, and I know I am far from innocent.

In all honesty, I know I am flawed. I’m almost fifty years old, and in some ways still afraid. But I am confronting those fears. I am trying to be brutally honest with myself and the world through this blog. I am telling my truth despite my fears. It is where my courage lies.

 

NEXT WEEK: ISTANBUL

About Amy

I am many things to many people. Daughter, sister, wife, mother, aunt, friend. I am a worshiper of nature on a journey inward, rewriting my story one word at a time.

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