Falsifying Strength

Mild-mannered meaningless

Timid betrayal of introspection

The forced security of mandated strength

Circumstance and need

Driving the willful avoidance of self analysis

Exploration of pain

The self proclaimed antithesis of progress

Admittance of burdens

A crippling foray into unknown darkness.

Time and wisdom offering shifted lens

Begrudging admittance of chosen ignorance

Real-time trauma the perpetual catalyst

Of simmering, painful personhood

Primed and ready to erupt

In a virtual fountain of brokenness and fear.

Is strength then truly measured

By a profound ability

To stubbornly fight for passionless pride?

Or simply a misplaced confidence

In a facade of ignorant self betrayal

A sham of self sufficiency

The hangman’s noose of forward progress.

 

 

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The [man] in the mirror

//I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change//

‘Tis the season for reflection as we enter the New Year, and I’m not one to avoid a little over-the-shoulder analysis.

2016 was a brutal and beautiful year. It was a year marked by passion, courage, change, growth, and friendship. It was also a year marked by loss, pain, lies, fear, and betrayal. 2016 may have been one of the most pivotal years of self-evolution for me.

Why? Perhaps because of:

  • Two major job transitions, complete with painful disillusionment and the heavy impact of standing up for what was right over what was best for my career path.
  • The death of a close family friend, with dark and sorrowful ripple effects of grief on everyone close to me.
  • Severe financial difficulty, leaving me struggling to stay afloat and far short of my goals for debt payoff this year.
  • Challenging health issues that made functioning as a mother and an employee exhausting, and resulted in some serious struggles with anxiety and fear.
  • The loss of a dear friend, after some deceitful and poor ethical decisions on their part left me in the position of bearing difficult news to others they had impacted with their selfishness.
  • Two roommate transitions, which repeatedly drained my savings account and left me scrambling to survive as a single mother.
  • Three weeks of a miserable and exhausting fight with a lice infestation at my son’s school and outrageously high payments to a professional company to facilitate removal, once again draining my small savings account.
  • One brutal betrayal of my closest female friend, resulting in the end of a lifeline for me and many weeks of grieving for a very deep loss.
  • Unnerving news about my health to finish off the year, leaving me uncertain of what’s to come for me in 2017.

Without a doubt, this has been a heavy year. But the silver lining lies simply in the fact that I am not who I was when this year began.

I am a little less vulnerable, a little more stable. A little less unsure, a little more secure. I am a lot less afraid, and a lot more confident in my ability to navigate the darkest of days with the relentlessly altruistic tenacity that’s defined the course of my life. 

This year I’ve learned an incredibly painful and valuable lesson: That the only thing in my control… is me. My emotions, my reactions, my thoughts, and my choices–these are the only things I can control. The rest is not up to me, the rest shouldn’t sway me–I am responsible for and secure in one reality: My own power to decide what I will make of myself.

The question has become not “why me?” or “how could this happen?” but “what will i do?” “how will i react?”. More and more, I’ve found peace in resorting to the overwhelmingly stabilizing epiphany of my own self-control. 

I am not who I was when this year began. Loss, pain, lies, fear, and betrayal have shaped me… in the best ways. I’ve become self-aware, community-driven, future-focused, and kinder, more thoughtful, more empathic, more understanding, more patient because of this year. Because of these struggles, because of the sudden realization that I am in control of nothing and no one but me. Because of this pain, because of this awareness, I am different. And for that, I am grateful. 

I pray that 2017 is a better year, for me and many others. I pray for less loss, less fear, less pain, less betrayal. I pray for more financial security, more ability to give to others, more time with my son, more stability. I pray for the strength to get through my boyfriend’s deployment with consistency and without fear, I pray to master new realities about myself and the world, I pray to meet people exactly where they are at and help them there. I pray for greater love, greater joy, greater inner peace, greater patience and kindness. But at the end of the day, I know I can give these things, create these things, BE these things, regardless of what others choose to do, regardless of the difficulty and stress that comes my way, because the only thing I can control, is ME. 

//I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It’s time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they’re not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody’s broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya’ see
‘Cause they got no place to be
That’s why I’m starting with me

I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change//

Eyes Wide Open

There comes a time in life
Where wisdom, not bitterness
Drives a relentless choosing
Mindful mechanisms
Instinct borne of experience
A deep and powerful panic
The child of pain
Forced awareness
Eyes wide open
Innocence robbed of naïveté
Joy, emptied of trust, turns a skeptic’s shoulder.
The battering repeat
Bitter rain
A wash cycle of torment
Automating flight
From shadows of bygone mistakes.
Calloused gestures
Selfish hearts
Using, abusing, discarding
On a moment’s whim
Cheap copies of love
Tearing apart the patient heart
Of a childlike lover
Wide eyed trust turned to
Bruised heart
And broken spirit.
Battle wounds of the past
Open, weeping
Seeping into present choices
Informing, empowering
A new voice
Eyes wide open
Insight unjaded,
Lucid
An unfaltering “no”
Spoken harsh and true
At the wavering shades of darkness
In troubled, angry hearts
Copies of past lovers
Denied in efforts
To reuse, reabuse, again discard
The sacrificial love
Of an innocent heart.
Wisdom
The currency of brokenness
Closed doors
Once open to all comers.
Patience
Insight
Independence
The children of experience
Blossoming into caution
Self respect
And newfound courage to walk alone.

Remembering

This morning I randomly decided to watch the music video for one of my favorite songs. Little did I know it would bring me to tears.

If you haven’t watched it, you may be surprised. Check it out:

It is so easy to forget. To compartmentalize in order to move on. To push your past into deep, dark corners of mental closets – safe from the light. It’s surprisingly easy, with time. Things you think you’ll never forget, never recover from, never erase from your memory… you simply do.

You would be surprised what time can do to erase your pain – this is both a blessing and a curse.

Coping requires some level of moving on. But learning, growing, changing, and channeling requires remembering.

This video shocked me back into memories I haven’t touched in forever. I held them in my mind and turned them over with fascinated repulsion as I watched it, felt it, relived it… a relentless montage in my head of the most devastating and debilitating experiences of my life.

I remember that animal-like fear. The absolute terror and pain and the mind-blowing disconnect between deeply loving someone and feeling and receiving what I did from them. I remember the intense physical effects of harsh words and threats and raised hands. I remember that indescribable feeling of being trapped, and alone. I remember the vivid nightmare of my days and the panic of restless nights. The deepest forms of betrayal. Confusion, terror, self-loathing, shame, hatred, insecurity, depression, and anger… all wrapped up into one shriveling life form that was ME. Me: deconstructed, devolving, destroyed. I was dying inside. Hidden from light and love and hope and community.

And I left. I left, I started over. I grew, I lived, I was reborn. I evolved. I strengthened. I stood up, hoped, smiled, connected, and was free. Am free. Am all of these things, and more.

In the midst of my freedom… in the midst of the intense joy I feel in living, loving, hoping, dreaming, connecting, thriving… I must not forget my pain. My pain is what brought me here. My pain is what deepened me, developed my soul, created my empathy for the world and for everyone who has been there, and who is still there.

I’m anxiously awaiting the day when I can get the IDECIDE program off the ground. When I can again connect with a community of oppressed souls and help walk them into the light of freedom – away from this pain and confusion and fear. When I can reach out and touch the abused and the destroyed and the defeated with everything I have to offer from the other side of pain. I cannot wait to begin this mission and to spend the rest of my life pursuing touching as many lives as I can. I cannot wait to give back – to find the balance between living free, and remembering pain.

I have so much to do. I do not want to forget.

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Closer to Love

Mat Kearney: Closer to Love

Oh it’s your light,
Oh it’s your way,
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin’ out now
From so far away…
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love

In the last 24 hours I’ve had two very thought-provoking things happen. The first was when a dear friend asked if I “missed being in a relationship,” after I mentioned the commitment I made to ride this year out single so I could focus on self-reflection and getting to know MYSELF through a variety of people and experiences. The second was when I ran across an incredibly dynamic and attractive individual – one of those people you just instantly connect with, that get you thinking intensely about what you want in life, somehow. You know those people – the game-changers. The “hail marys” of your life that skyrocket you into self-reflection and sometimes, powerful life changes.

Between those two incidents, I’ve been thinking deeply on how my approach to love has changed in the last decade. Thinking about the assumptions I now make about self and world, about how I’ve lost the romance along the way amidst the pain, and about the bigger picture of human relationships and connection.

I’ve been reading an amazing book lately called “Waking Up: a Guide to Spirituality without Religion” (available on amazon – highly recommend it!). In the beginning of the book, the author mentions that people tend to love one of two ways: first, for what you give them or how you make them feel, and second, for who you are. He calls the first “transactional love” and makes a firm point that this type of love exists in a vacuum – it cannot survive if practiced by one or either individual – in any type of relationship. Ironically, I’ve said this in my own way upon reflecting on my past this last few years. I say often that “it is possible to be loved selfishly, while loving selflessly.” 

My own experience of platonic and familial love has been powerful and life-changing. I have an incredibly, unconditionally loving family. Parents who love each other and their daughters with reckless, selfless abandon. I have friends who will be there for me at the drop of the hat – who truly love who I am, regardless of what I can do for them, or how I’ve changed. I’ve magnetized more and more of these people this last few years, and I am deeply grateful for them.

What has been painful for me is the romantic aspect of love. I have a deep, vested interest in the success and wellbeing of every stranger I meet. Truly, I care instantly for people, and want their best. If I only touch their lives briefly, I want to touch them powerfully, positively, and inspirationally. I want to help everyone. I’ve always been that way, and I passionately love this about myself.

This is, however, crippling for me in romantic relationships. In a culture where what we have – what we own – seems to determine our self-value, people seem to be just another commodity to acquire. Something entertaining, fulfilling, satisfying – to discard when the amusement has passed or the newer model becomes available. We’ve marginalized human relationships in our quenchless thirst for the next-best-thing.

I’ve never loved this way. I can honestly say that even in two long, emotional, deeply powerful, monogamous relationships, I’ve felt every day that I wanted the best of my partner first and foremost – even if their best was not me, or not what I wanted. I was more invested in their future, their health, their self-fulfillment, than in my selfishness on any level.

There is a fine line to walk here. I fully recognize that while selflessness is admirable, a martyr mentality is not a healthy approach to romantic love. What I’ve come to recognize the last few years is that love is at times, selfish. Love begins with self-love, and self-love INCLUDES a certain level of selfishness – the courage to say “I want this.” The commitment to speak up when we are hurt. The ability to ASK. 

Somewhere along the way, in the darkest places of my broken marriage, in the corners of my living room – as small as possible, hiding from the world and from my shattering reality – I learned that if I expected nothing, asked for nothing, dreamed of nothing – if I turned fear into open-handed coexistence, if I took away the romance… I was less brutally torn apart by rejection and sharp words and raised fists and a relentless verbal destruction of the things I had always found most beautiful about myself.

I learned not to ask, not to hope, because there is nothing more painful than loving selflessly, and being loved transactionally in return. There is nothing more painful than realizing that you love more deeply and powerfully than your significant other is capable of loving you. There is nothing worse than being loved intermittently, haphazardly, while loving someone with love like the ocean – vast, expansive, endless, deep, constantly moving and changing but always there. There is nothing sharper and more destructive than the careless wounds of someone you love wholly and completely for everything they are, and can be. 

I’ve swung to the opposite extreme these days – not to selfish love, but to the absence of romantic love. I expect nothing, hope for very little, and keep my hands open. I reassure people over and over that I’ll never ask anything of them – that I expect nothing of them – I don’t dream or read into things or romanticize anything, because it is much easier for me to accept the transience of human relationships than it is to hope that something powerful, purposeful, and earth-shattering could come into my life, and remain. 

This year of committing to be single is so very intentional. These are the revelations I need to make – the observations about my extremes that I need to master, to conquer – to find that middle ground. To find the balance between love and martyrdom. To practice discernment in avoiding transactional lovers, but investing fully where I find the possibility of something lasting.

Somewhere amidst the ashes of my former life, there are burning coals of romance and hope and passion and a curious desire to be loved the very same way I love everyone else in my life.

But if there is one, simple way to explain the evolution I am undergoing, it is this:

The more I love myself, the closer I feel to love. 

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CANDOR

Sometimes you sit, and you stare at the reality that is your life, and you reflect.

Today I’ve been all caught up in my head space. I spend way too much time overanalyzing my own progress or regression. I am easily devastated by the opinions of anyone I trust, if a negative criticism is suggested.

Today someone suggested I had PTSD from prior relationships. That’ I run from potential. That I have a lot of unresolved issues.

They said this when I suggested that things were moving too fast – that it was important to slow down and build something rationally, explore possibilities without making assumptions.

I sat there, and I wondered – am I damaged?

I’ve been severely ill, abused, and abandoned. What are the ramifications of those three separate life events?

Are we a product of our circumstances, or of our choices, or of our self-awareness? All three? Does my obsessive self-reflection and desire to understand my own psyche help me progress, or do I need to learn to live in the moment? Abandon all learned behaviors and defenses in favor of possibility? What is truly wise, and what is fear-driven?

Sometimes I am so confident that I know myself, and others, I wonder if I’m blind to my own inconsistencies.

My soul is a war of traditional with free spirit – on a regular basis. Reserve and caution and respect for the culture I grew up in, at war with my constant desire to be free and open to the world, to walk around without boundaries, to rebel against the idea that I could be owned or possessed or controlled in any way by another human.

I’ve changed dynamically and exponentially this last few years. I’ve become a person that I NEVER expected to be – but someone I truly love. I never stop growing, changing, evolving, learning.

The more I know myself, the more I realize how much I have to learn.

The problem with realizing how much you evolve and open up and change is that you realize you’re boundless – your limits are unknown. Apart from your moral and ethical code, you have no idea where your journey and self-development may take you. You’re unaware of who you may be in 6 months, a year, 5 years. You can hardly ever say “I wouldn’t”… because you know the “wouldn’ts” you’ve already done.

The older I get, the more I learn myself, the more I realize that being candid with myself and others means admitting that I am a constantly growing, changing, burning, fiercely alive human being. I am passionately and intensely and humanly both consistent and inconsistent. I am reliable where it matters, and transient and changing where life ebbs and flows. Harsh lessons and beautiful connections empower and compel me to change and evolve.

Candor means admitting that sometimes, I do not know what I want. Sometimes, that is purely because I understand my own capacity for evolution – and not because I’m damaged, broken, or unresolved in any way.

I am simply human.

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What Doesn’t Kill Me

If you look back on a brief synopsis of my life the last decade, you’d wonder how I am who I am today, how I am where I am – and where the hell I’m headed.

  • 7 years of chronic illness. Hospitals, dressing changes, PICC lines, never a normal life like all my friends had from 18-24… so much crying and so much fear. I went to bed wondering how much pain the next day would bring.
  • 3 years of intense emotional and physical pain in my marriage. Leaving and starting over as a single mother. Begging for money from strangers on my drive. Minimum wage, credit cards. The devil at my back, driving me to succeed because a Little Someone needed me to.
  • Moving for an opportunity that fell through 2 weeks after I had spent my entire, meager savings relocating and signing my first lease as a single mother. Getting a job two days later that fell through 2 months later when I was fired for reporting sexual harassment. Washing cars to make ends meet. Studying my ass off to recertify as a trainer. Never knowing every month if what I had would be enough. Eating rice cakes and peanut butter to survive. 11 things in collections… I simply couldn’t pay them.
  • Finally relocating for a better life, with someone I truly loved who treated me well, and MAKING it, first time in my life I wasn’t afraid of not surviving… breaking up 11 months later and facing my life head-on again, with a dramatic increase in living costs, and no help – once again, single mother, running from all of the possible failure at my back.

With the amount of fear and crying and that tight throat feeling I’ve had this last decade or more, I should be a bitter, jaded, angry, person. I should be cynical, fearful of change, living in anxiety and closed off to risks. I should be, but I am not.

“What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” – we have all heard it, but it’s not automatically true.

What doesn’t kill you can leave you broken. Your pain can debilitate you. Change you, degrade you, hurt you. Leave you alone in the darkness.

What doesn’t kill you can leave you destroyed – a shipwreck of humanity on the shores of broken dreams and one too many prayers for salvation.

Or…

It can make you stronger. But you know what the difference is in that “or”?

It’s just YOU. YOU are the difference. Your choice is the difference. Your determination, your ability to keep your chin up no matter how many times life throws a left hook and drops you. No matter how many times you’re beaten down and broken and hurt and afraid, no matter how many times you hit the “can’t” wall – no matter how many times life abuses your hopes and tarnishes the beauty of your optimism – YOU ARE THE DIFFERENCE.

You decide what you will make of your pain. You decide what will come of your past. YOU. YOU DECIDE.

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL TO ME. The little things are precious. Human connection is empowering. The ability to relate to others in pain I’ve experienced is priceless. Faith is a beacon. I don’t sweat the small stuff. I live hopeful, determined, progressive, disciplined, driven, strong. The world is bigger, more open, less limiting for the limitations I’ve experienced.

Life has never been easy for me, but my callouses are hard-earned, and impenetrable. I’m tough as nails, because I CHOSE TO BECOME STRONGER.

I am deeper, wiser, kinder, more hopeful, more loving, more outward-focused, more joyful, because life didn’t kill me. It didn’t break me. I pick myself up every damn time, and I FUCKING CHOOSE TO LIVE.

Here I am in sunny San Diego, surrounded by amazing friends, strapped again but LOVING the fact that I GOT MYSELF HERE. I toughened up, I CHOSE. I DECIDED TO BE STRONGER.

What didn’t kill me made me BEAUTIFUL.

Never forget that YOU are the determining factor in your life… who you become will be a result of what you choose to do with what COULD kill you. BE STRONGER. BE WISER, BE MORE FAITHFUL, DRIVEN, PASSIONATE, OPEN, LOVING, KIND, POWERFUL, CAPABLE…

Be STRONGER.

I believe in you.

smile

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Fear and Regret

Fear is no true motivator.

Have you ever been chased by something? When you are being chased by something you are afraid of – something you are running from, there is very little direction as to where you are running to. Your gut instinct is simply to get away, to escape.

If you are running through the woods and being chased by a bear, you may have some idea of a direction in which you want to go, but at the root you are only focused on getting away. You want to be ANYWHERE but there. 

You will never realize your full potential in life if you spend it running from fears. 

People who work, live, love, and act out of fear are crippled by the inability to set a straight course. They run a zigzag pattern through life because they just want to get away. 

When you are motivated from fear, there is no true course, no steady hand, no real grip on the helm. There is only a frenzied and impassioned desire to escape.

Fears can drive you, but they will not make you. 

“We all walk in the dark – each of us must learn to turn on his or her own light.” – E. Nightingale

If you’re looking for passion, joy, fulfillment, success, and completion in life, you must first stop running. 

Face your past. Face your insecurities. Face your fears: of failure, of loss, of pain, of being alone, of repeating mistakes your parents made, or mistakes you’ve made before. Face fears that seem rational, or irrational. Put them in their place. Turn them away with a steady hand. Set your course, and stop running FROM something. 

If you want to realize your full potential, you must instead learn to run TO something. 

When you stop allowing your fears and past regrets to chase you, you have the ability to press on powerfully and purposefully TOWARD your goal. Your vision becomes clear. Your course, straight. You pass milestone after milestone with steady steps, a consistent pace. There is no zigzagging away from what is behind you, there is only pressing on toward what is in front of you. 

You will never fully illuminate your present path until you’ve exposed the darkest corners of your soul to the light. 

Deal with your fears, deal with your regrets, and leave fear behind.

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But Who Are You…REALLY?

My time in Arizona has been brief, but it’s been a culture shock nonetheless. There are some AMAZING people here (cheers to the few I’ve found!), but there is also a prominent culture that thrives on IMAGE: pretext, possessions, and a best-face-forward approach to relationships that is ingenuine at the least and duplicitous at the worst.

If you’re as self-analytical as I am, you’ve probably noticed patterns in your past relationships at some point. Doesn’t it always seem that things are golden and peachy and marshmallows and rainbows – UNTIL shit hits the fan… until push comes to shove, and outside or inside circumstances put some heat on the relationship… and that facade melts away like dross?

The truth is, if you want to know who someone REALLY is, or if you want to truly know YOURSELF, you need to look at their/your weakest moments.

Who are you in the broken places? The in-betweens in life? When things are uncomfortable, or painful, what do you do, what do you say? Who are you when you’re being hurt, maligned, slandered, attacked? Who are you when you suffer job loss or breakups or put-downs or rejection or neglect? Who are you alone, who are you with others, who are you when things aren’t going your way? Who are they? And who are you… REALLY?

You’ll learn quickly in life – if you choose to observe – that people will be what they want you to THINK they are… until they’re in life’s pressure cooker – with or without you – and their true self comes out.

The same is true for you. When shit hits the fan, all of your insecurities and fears and confusion and uncertainty will, too. So how do you make sure that the you that you are is the you that you want to be?

You prepare NOW for life’s inevitable tempests. You hone your mind, you direct your thoughts, you invest in your passions, you pursue the things that matter. You figure out your weaknesses, you attack them with vigor, and you hone your strengths. You surround yourself with people who make you recognize and realize the best parts of who you are. You make sure you’re in tune with the deepest parts of you, so there are no surprises. You choose to let the right people into that, so they can shine light on the good and help chase out the evil. You never. Fucking. Coast.

Don’t settle. Don’t go with the flow. Don’t live in your comfort zone. Don’t abdicate responsibility over the importance of sharpening body and mind to prepare your soul for battle in the rough places. Act, and act NOW. 

If you want to love yourself, and be loved for who you are – if you want to survive the toughest storms, you need to know – you need to explore and invest in understanding who you are… really.

“Your own Self-Realization is the greatest service you can render the world.”
Ramana Maharshi

“I have realized; it is during the times I am far outside my element that I experience myself the most. That I see and feel who I really am, the most! I think that’s what a comet is like, you see, a comet is born in the outer realms of the universe! But it’s only when it ventures too close to our sun or to other stars that it releases the blazing “tail” behind it and shoots brazen through the heavens! And meteors become sucked into our atmosphere before they burst like firecrackers and realize that they’re shooting stars! That’s why I enjoy taking myself out of my own element, my own comfort zone, and hurling myself out into the unknown. Because it’s during those scary moments, those unsure steps taken, that I am able to see that I’m like a comet hitting a new atmosphere: suddenly I illuminate magnificently and fire dusts begin to fall off of me! I discover a smile I didn’t know I had, I uncover a feeling that I didn’t know existed in me… I see myself. I’m a shooting star. A meteor shower. But I’m not going to die out. I guess I’m more like a comet then. I’m just going to keep on coming back.”
C. JoyBell C.

The Importance of Being Earnest

If you haven’t seen the iconic “Importance of Being Earnest” movie, it’s a fluffy, cute romantic comedy starring some fan favorites. You can check it out here. The movie is based on a book by Oscar Wilde, and stars two men pretending to be something they are not… and remembering this film sparked some thoughts for me today.

Our culture is increasingly driven by two powerful “I” words: Ignorance and Image. It feeds off of those who can pretend to be what they are not, and those who believe them. Problem? I think so.

This generation is more belabored by bull shit than any previous generation. We’re surrounded by photoshopping, inflation, exaggeration, comparison, greed, and lies. We’re inundated with it. We live and breathe it.. and most likely as a result, we think it.

When you’re constantly exposed to small amounts of toxic chemicals, they can kill you. In the same way, the constant barrage from a culture based on things that are FAKE (Image) can promote similar tendencies in our own behavior if we are not keen to ascertain them (Ignorance).

Some people are clearly and maliciously fake. They pretend (and pretend very well) to be something or someone they are not. To want things they don’t want, to be what they think you want them to be for whatever end they are serving. Others of us, like myself, may slip into these habits from ignorance – from a lack of alertness to this common cultural bias toward being fake.

I see this in how I present myself to people. I may cater my words, retract a perspective, suggest something that is slightly untrue but not entirely false in order to gain approval or commendation. I may not do this maliciously, or often, but I may still do it. When I do it – or when I catch myself doing it – I hate it. I hate everything about it.

I’m from the old-school society that things that your value depends heavily on how much Integrity you have – another “I” word that is a million times more powerful than Ignorance and Image. When you have integrity to what you believe, who you are, what you stand for – and additionally, to the good and respect of others… you can do amazing things, and you can live with yourself.

It’s so easy to cave to this culture, to forget that we so quickly cater to the people around us in small ways. It’s so easy to let your guard down and be what someone wants you to be because you love them or because you simply want them to like you. But it is so, so detrimental to your character, and your relationships.

This can play out in some odd ways you might not expect. Someone asked me once if I regretted anything from my relationship with my ex-husband. I had to think about it pretty heavily. I finally realized I did have one regret – I regretted lying to him for years. Sound appalling? It is, but it was more subtle than you think.

These were lies of omission – of omitting how I really felt and thought about things. How I felt about him yelling at me, about porn affecting our relationship. How I felt about never seeing him, never getting time together. About his hours and hours on the computer and me crawling into bed alone every night. About sexuality when he wanted it, but only when he did… and always when he did, and how he wanted it. I lied about who I was by not saying how I felt. By not standing up for myself. By not being honest when things hurt me. By the time I did, he was genuinely shocked that I remembered every single hurt, abuse, and neglect. Every single malicious word. Every put-down. Every time I paid for his bad days. I remembered Every. Single. One.

My dear friend Josh was the unfortunate beast of burden right after I left my ex and drove in the middle of the night many hours away. He had to listen as I poured my heart out, brokenly, about finally leaving. About fear and pain and loss and hurt. We talked about a lot of things and he called me out when I said that my ex forgetting every little thing about me every day – likes and dislikes and holidays and birthdays and anniversaries – never hurt me. He said “when did the romantic Jen die? You know, it is okay to be a woman.” I burst into tears.

Have you ever heard the phrase “We accept the love we believe we deserve?” Neither had I until this year. But that is so damn true.

The more you lie to yourself, the more you omit things in your relationships, the less you say when things hurt, when they break you down – the less you listen to your gut instincts, the less you are honest with others about who you are, what you want, and where you’re headed – the more you cater and cave and conform… the more you will find yourself playing right into a culture of Ignorance and Image.

You’re losing your Integrity.

The little things that bother you. The repeated hurtful words. The distance or the disregard. Those things will destroy you – they will destroy your relationships if you do not speak up.

Have the integrity to operate outside of a culture of lies. Be earnestly, completely, fully yourself. Fully honest with yourself, and with others. If you do love someone and you do care about them, be honest now. Speak up now. Be real – NOW. Before it is too late and one day you break, and you’re real and raw with them and everything falls apart because it was based on lies.

The truth will either make your relationship stronger, or it will break you apart – and if the truth breaks you apart, you never would have made it. Wouldn’t you rather know now?

Be honest with yourself. Be honest with others.

Be real, and true, and raw with the world.

Be you.

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