Honesty: A Journey

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Last week I gave a small glimpse into my actual world. Small, but solid all at once. I learned that authenticity and vulnerability seem to grab hold of your hearts, which I should have known. It’s scary and a bit unpleasant, but it’s the only thing I look for in my own favorite writers. The willingness to lay it out there. Tell the world what we normally hide away.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I poured out my insides upon the feet of some stranger. Why she could see through me and call out where I have been and where I am now. How she knew that I’ve been holding onto so many things for other people that I’ve forgotten to look at my own hands. Or really… why I finally was asking someone else to hold my own broken things. The things I didn’t want anymore – the things I didn’t want to keep packed down any longer, but hadn’t know how to timidly press into the palms of anyone around me. I’ve walked around holding so many other people’s pain in my hands without letting it free that I never took the time to look at what was already clenched tightly and long forgotten.

Right now I’m sitting at my desk, and my gaze drifted to a copy of Eat Pray Love sitting on my windowsill. A reminder of sorts. I was originally gifted with this book my freshman year of college where I read a few chapters and closed it. The words fell empty on my ears. Almost of a different language. Fast forward to the month after I graduated college and depression still hung heavy with step by step. I clung to every word in those pages. Authenticity and Liz Gilbert’s trademark humor marking each page. The soft paper pages are now bent and worn. It’s become my go to book in times when life isn’t fitting quite right, and now as I thumb through the pages I can see why.

Gilbert might as well have wrote that book in her own blood – that’s how damn honest it was. I can’t help but wonder how many times she hit the delete key, and erased paragraphs only to rewrite them because she knew in her gut they needed to stay.

How does transparency become our filter? How do we trace back our footprints and then glance ahead to where they’re pointed, and discern whether we are still pointed true?

I’m sitting here struggling because honestly, I don’t know how to master this being honest in our journey thing. I just don’t. I don’t have five easy steps either. But what I do know is it takes time. Time to learn your own inner map and run down those streets hands wild and free because god it feels amazing to be happy and okay with who you are. And to learn what it feels like to act out of who you are not who your family or friends or anyone else has told you to be. To know who you are is perfectly enough.

Who I am doesn’t match where I’m from, and for a really long time I’ve struggled because it isn’t easy to not match your tribe, people you love, your culture. I’ve been called the black sheep liberal in my family (giggles), naive (good way to ruffle my feathers right there zero to sixty), uneducated (totally I mean it’s not like I study this stuff -_-), unbiblical (i would LOVE to point you to theological resources to how I got here, but we all know you won’t read them), and the list goes on. And you know what? So fucking what. Because I am finally letting go of their ideals and letting myself be happy to grow into who I actually am.

And once you know this – who you are and who you want to be. And you let your roots grow deep into the satisfaction of living out of who you are. The honesty will flow. I know this something fierce because I am slowly, slowly able to be more honest with the people who cross my path the more I accept who I am and where I’m going.

Caitlynhummel.com

Old Wine & New Skins

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I’ve put off writing this fine piece. You might have noticed that it’s coming out late, and I really don’t have an excuse other than I’ve been muddling, processing, and attempting to make sense of a strange encounter I recently had. I’m going to do my best to tell this true, honest, and well, but I won’t lie the idea already makes me quake.

Because last week I basically had someone hold up a mirror to my insides and tell me to take a good hard look. She saw through me over and over and over. In the course of two hours I had a perfect stranger lay my shit bare. I suppose you could call this a unique experience. Especially, when this is person is a writer you have fawned over and followed since they first started publishing words to a page. And god. It was good, and hard, and I cried a lot. And I’m not the crier in my groups. You know the one I’m talking about. The one who cries at commercials, and puppies, and lifetime movies. I’m not that girl.

But when a stranger is filling up your computer screen and you’re supposed to be talking writing and strategy, and instead you find her gently ripping off every band-aid on your heart, only to reveal gaping holes you thought no one could find – well, you cry. And wonder what is even happening because you’re pretty sure this wasn’t what you signed up for. And before what now feels like a therapy session even ends you feel yourself rapidly replacing the tiny little blocks she had just broken down because you don’t have the faintest clue how to process what just happened.

Let me back track.

The writer in question is Hannah Brencher (HB). If you follow her words, then you know HB has worked tirelessly to grow in authenticity and candor in her writing. What appears like effortless authenticity and vulnerability is repeated bravery put down on paper.

HB skimmed my most recent post, failure is not a four letter word, started to smile a few paragraphs in, and tapped her fingers against her face as she spoke, “I see what you’re doing.” Her words told me something I already knew. I have never known how to be the open one, but I am damn good at appearing like I do. I write to capture what it is to be human, but refuse to give you all anything of mine. I hold my fists tightly on the details of my own experience, and say it’s because I want you to be able to picture yourself in my words. I could scroll back through these pages and probably find not even one time I genuinely shared myself.

I never told you that I can write about heartbreak because I fell for a blue eyed sharp mouthed boy who was every kind of wrong for me and I for him. Or that I can sit over a steaming cup of coffee and talk about grief because I’ve lived in the dark place they call depression and anxiety. Or the gaping holes I mentioned earlier? Most of those come from deconstructing the conservative fundamental Christian worldview I grew up into and which then spiraled me into that dark place. That I’m just now admitting that even though I’ve come so far I need to open those wounds back up. I didn’t even tell you last week, when I was hurrahing on and on about failure that I was drowning in stress and controlling coping methods because I didn’t get a graduate assistantship I was counting on, and now I have no idea how I’m paying for graduate school. Or how about that I’m now in a better relationship than I ever imagined I could receive.

I hide away because all of this was mine to know, not yours. And even now. There are a thousand stories inside these tiny words I’ve just handed to you.

HB somehow saw and found all of these tender spots I just splashed out on this page. We talked about things I haven’t talked to anyone about because I’d prefer to act like they aren’t a part of me, or how I got to where I am. But she helped me to know something I’ve been purposely avoiding for awhile.

I need to put myself back into my writing. All of me. And that isn’t easy, but it’s real.

And so, I will be taking baby step after baby step toward allowing my own voice and experience to scribe these words. As someone who loves words, it is by far easier to hide behind them than to use them to put myself on the line, but that’s the new goal.

Knowing Each Other’s Hearts

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Ever sit back watching those around you and want to reach in and rearrange their life a little bit like it’s just some Ikea furniture you can shove around? This chair would look much better over here, and good heavens, why did you pick that color! I’m pretty sure this is called being a control freak. Not that I would know.

It’s always so easy from the outside looking in though. I shoot off criticism veiled as helpful advice like confetti:

She keeps latching onto the same mistake. Watch how she’ll go do it again.

I wish she could just learn to value herself. You can tell she doesn’t by what she keeps running back to.

That one’s afraid nothing as perfect will ever come along again so she just keeps hiding in memories.

Oh she’s just pretending to be someone else right now because being herself seems a little bit too difficult at the moment.

Don’t mind me calling it out from over here in my glass house. As if someone couldn’t look into my life and do the same damn thing. You totally want me to be your best friend right now don’t you? Form a line people.

While most people have chunks of calcium called vertebrae running down their back, I’m fused together with equal parts honesty and an ability to see through people for the most part. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes I hurt feelings. At the ripe age of twenty-two I like to think I’ve started to get a little better, holding my razor of a tongue, and waiting for friends to actually ask what I think. And then carefully stumbling my way through response, which is hopefully as loving as it is honest.

Maybe that’s why we need people who know our hearts as well as they know the latest stupid decision we’ve made. People who know when to sit back and let us trip and scrape our knees, and when to gently ask if we’re ready to hear some truth. Both have a time and place, but it sure is a dance learning what time it is with those we love.

After all, it’s hard to see, when you’re in the middle. The middle of realizing you’re trying to solve an old relationship through new versions of it. The middle of accepting the person you’ve loved with a passion didn’t actually treat you decent at all, and now you don’t know how to accept someone who does. The middle of learning to be brave enough to meet someone new, when you thought you had it figured out. The middle of accepting who you are, and learning it’s actually okay, or even better it’s good.

We’re all in the middle of something. Five steps ahead of each other or trailing behind. Seeking advice laced in love, or practicing compassion as the one who’s been there. Sometimes being both people in one day if we’re honest. We need to learn to give each other room to grow. Create spaces where it’s safe to fall down and limp for awhile. We need to let each other be human.