When I was 25 I had one of those skeleton-in-the-family-closet events (that you only see happen in soap operas or read about in books) happen to me and my life. It was, to use the standard metaphor, earth-shattering. Afterward, I had a hard time dealing with untruths or inauthenticities. I literally spouted every detail of my life from my mouth like a waterfall of diarrhea because I simply could not handle anything that did not fully resemble the truth. I created a motto for myself that I grasped onto with steeled hands: Always say the unsaid.
Over time, though, I came to understand that not all people want to hear the truth. Some people think too much truth is simply too much. Some people think truth means a lack of gratitude. Some people change the subject when truth comes out, or their eyes turn glassy, or they pour another drink. Some people literally prefer to numb themselves over hearing the truth.
Even when the truth was not about them. Even when the truth I was sharing was purely my own, the truth was just not what people wanted. It was kind of like Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson but in reverse: I want to give you the truth! I can’t handle the truth!
And I was young, and I definitely lacked confidence. I strongly believed in the truth, however I lacked the inner strength to share my truth with conviction. I was afraid – not of the truth, but of people. Of their opinions. Afraid that telling the truth would mean losing love, respect, goodwill, etc. My interest in telling the truth never went away, but rather than an externalized waterfall of diarrhea, I swallowed truths like candy, filling myself up with them until they started to hurt.
Over time, however, this acted like a poison. Keeping truth in only leads to a build up of resentment, and I found myself demonstrating passive-aggressiveness in the face of anyone whom I deemed a barrier between me and my ability to speak freely about truth. You could say that I felt victimized – whiny, even – “just because other people can’t handle the truth.”
But then I turned 40, and there’s a certain secret magic that occurs when a woman turns 40, when the layers melt away, and all she’s left with is herself. Layer one, the realization that I am not a victim. Layer two, awareness of my own behaviour, acknowledging that passive-aggressiveness is just another manifestation of inauthenticity. Layer three, the deep inner knowledge that no one can make me feel a certain way without my permission, that no one can “make me” behave inauthentically or hide my truth without my complicity. Layer four, removing expectations.
One after another– layer, layer – until I began to feel more nakedly me, speaking truth and fully okay with it. I’ve learned recently that this level of truth is referred to as integrity – being whole, being complete and without any cracks. This word has now become my talisman: my reminder to think before I speak, to not keep secrets from myself; my cue to apologize when I’ve split from myself, my inspiration to go within first, a symbol for seeking truth. I wear integrity like a ring on my finger and it tells me, This, this is the right decision, this is what is best.
This talisman speaks the language of bumper stickers:The truth is out there. The truth shall set you free. Truth is an inside job. The truth be with you, always. Always. Say the unsaid.