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.

Painting a New Portrait

picture to burn

For the longest time I carried this old book with words in faded black and grey. Oh I know the words to this book by heart. The words would tightly wind around me like they could somehow become the essence of me. And maybe they did. After all if you carry something long enough, it subconsciously colors more and more of you than you’d like realize.

Somewhere amidst years of relationships, perfectionism, and a culture that breeds shame & fear I had accidentally begun to wear the words to this old book. Garments strung together with words and thoughts of my person not being truly likeable or loveable. Or deserving of it for that matter. Specifically, that if someone really knew me (and saw all the things I don’t say) they would back pedal so fast that heads would spin. The idea that I looked good at first glance to people – smart, a bit sassy, and cute – but that the underneath wasn’t really that great after all. No reason to really stick around. That my path boasts of too many jagged corners and questions. That my faith is too doubtful and hopeful all at once. That I have carried too much for too long to put it in the hands of someone else. The ever lethal dichotomy of somehow being too much and not enough all at once.

My spirit isn’t really dark, but those words would color it in all the darkest shades. Dark and smudged like an old photograph touched too soon. No, on a few occasions I’ve had people off handedly mention how they perceive me, and I’m embarrassed to say it’s usually all I can do not to stare at them with my mouth awkwardly gaping because their words are heartbreakingly kinder than the ones I internally hold onto. Their words are softer, filled with life, and are actually a better depiction of how I really am.

Too many of us are walking around with the ugliest of pictures of ourselves in our frayed back pockets. Pictures drawn with lies and overly critical pens. Honest introspection is valuable, but you are worthy of loving regardless of where you find yourself.

I said out loud my own lies the other day in the most off hand manner I could muster. I sat there silent, afraid my face would give away how petrified I actually was to hear the response. And someone who knows me better than most looked me straight in the eye and quietly told me that my words were absolutely heartbreaking, and that it was maybe even a bit messed up to believe those things about myself. I was caught off guard and felt a bit unnerved in my vulnerability. But I know I’m not the only person who needs to ask these fears out loud. Or the only person who needs to take a lighter to that picture in their pocket and replace it with one in the colors of kindness, truth, and grace.

So what are the words you can’t quite imagine uttering out loud to another set of eyes staring back at you? The words iced with fear and coated in shame. The words you’re desperately afraid someone will someday say out loud and finally solidify the crushing weight of doubt and worthlessness you’ve been carrying like some hidden gem.

Maybe you don’t have someone in your corner that you can whisper to the words and fears that press in all around you. We’re all alone sometimes and that’s okay, but I don’t want you to be alone in this. It’s too important and so are you. I’m in your corner as much as someone possibly can be from the other side of a glowing screen. I want to hold your doubts and fears so they don’t feel so heavy and you can watch them fade. I want to reach across the sticky coffee table and grab your hand and tell you how everyone really sees you: brave, lovely, capable, and fiercely wonderful. You are all the good things even if that’s not the message etched into your being yet. Keep learning to love yourself; it will take you so many places.

*my inbox is always open and I would love to hear from you ❤  someonetoldmetousemywords@gmail.com