A few years ago, a nice looking man approached me in the shampoo aisle of Rite-Aid. He said he hated to bother me but he’d spent an hour in the hot seat at a charity pie throwing contest the night before and wondered if I knew the best way to get whipped cream out of his ears. (Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It’s not that kind of blog.)
He smiled and said that I just looked like someone who was kind and knew stuff. Laughing, he said not everyone could meet the circle of trust criteria when it came to whipped cream in one’s ear. Now there was a man comfortable in his own skin. He had a truth – kind of a gross one – but he recognized me as someone he could share it with. It was a beautiful moment. Two truth-telling strangers and an ear full of day old pie.
What if we were all that open and honest with each other? And what if those truths extended beyond philanthropy and cream pies?
Sadly, a lot of us aren’t there yet. Buttoned up, stifled by conformity and a need to fit in, there’s a subset of people who have a problem with authenticity… truth telling…the feels. The things that make us human, vulnerable, unique and interesting ain’t… their… thing. Shocking, I know.
Since beginning my blog, I’ve received a handful of private Facebook messages, texts and emails from friends who are clearly alarmed that I’m running around verbally naked.
“Hey – Did you read what you wrote last night?”
Even some of my family looks at me as if they’re trying to figure out exactly what kind of mass is pressing on this narrative portion of my brain and how it can be extracted at the next family gathering.
“Hey – when you take out the trash could you also take out Katie’s truth tumor? Thanks!”
The old me would have begged a million pardons.
“I must have lost my mind. It was the heat or too much champagne. I should really talk to my doctor about changing my medication.”
The new me? Screw it. Seriously. It’s okay if people want to keep things to themselves and live an unexamined life. But, it’s not for me. Not anymore. If me being myself and sharing my thoughts makes people uncomfortable then, as Melissa McCarthy said in the movie Bridesmaids as she was hovering butt naked over the sink at the bridal shop, “Look away! Look away!”
I’m not as evolved as you would think. It’s still a process. My 14-year-old self is dying inside, literally, gasping her last breath as she watches me, eyes rolled back in her permed little head. She’s screaming that I definitely won’t be Homecoming Queen or invited to the prom with crazy talk like this. She’s worried no one will sit with me at lunch. She wants me to be quiet. But the 52-year-old me is so frigging proud and doesn’t give credence to that fearful, zit-faced people-pleaser. This wise older woman whispers in my ear, “Good girl. What took you so long?” She encourages me to keep talking (and to use moisturizer on my decolletage. So important, truly.)
I get it. You’re scared. What will people think? How do you even begin?
I promise you this. Most people that are reticent to speak their truth and be themselves wish they could. They’re working up the courage and they’re paying close attention as people around them shed their inner workings. Inside, their hearts are rhythmically thumping,
“I feel it, too. Me, too. Me, too.”
I thought something dramatic would happen when I began telling the truth. Amazingly, the sun kept rising in the east, the mail kept coming late in the afternoon and my dog Griffin still farted every night at about 9:30. The only thing that changed was me.
Some people miss the girl that let everyone get the kind of pizza they wanted as she discreetly picked off the green peppers. Boy, was she easy-going! But, that wasn’t the real me. And the fake me grew so weary of picking shit off of her pizza.
Others have messaged me to tell me that I’m brave. I’m not brave. Policemen are brave. Nelson Mandela was brave. Our military is brave. All I did was just stop caring about what people think. Why let people mold and stamp you in their own image when your reflection is perfectly and uniquely beautiful the way it is? Because when you look in the mirror, the only person you should see looking back is yourself.
If you’re trying, but you aren’t there yet, I encourage you to tell one truth today that challenges you. Make it a real truth – one that defines you. Too much? Then start with a baby truth. Tell it to your spouse, to your kids, to a friend, or like the man in the drug store, confess it to a stranger who looks kind. Better yet, share it here. I’ll go first.
I spent an entire day last week thinking I had gained weight because my underwear felt tight. “Butt,” it turns out I’d been walking around all day with my waist through the leg hole instead. And I went to the bathroom six times before I noticed.
There. I feel a little bit more like me already.