I am reading an excellent book called "What Dying People Want; Practical Wisdom for the End of Life." by David Kuhl.....yes, very entertaining, light reading. Not. But it is very very good. Very worthwhile reading for anyone who will be caring either professionally or personally for someone who is dying.
The chapter I am on right now is called Speaking Our Truth. The focus is on the end of life, but of course...I see so much further than that. There is a story of a terminally ill man named Ron, who had led a rough life and never had really looked at the events that made up the whole of his life. He had been a gang member and had witnessed many acts of violence and done nothing to stop them. The guilt was crushing him. He had his own relationships to look at and work through, his own emotional wounds and pain...but he knew time was running out. So he thought it all through, and he made the painful decision to really look at all that he could remember, to put it all together in some sort of chronological order. In beginning these steps, he realized that he had been living a "duplicitous" life by not acknowledging who he was, what his life had been filled with, and the consequences of those actions or non-actions.
I think a huge factor is that Ron intuitively knew that just acknowledging the truth to himself, wasn't enough. He needed to share his story. He needed to speak these events out and for someone to hear him and respond. He decided who he would share his burdens with. For three decades Ron's secrets had held him hostage....and it had finally become an intolerable way for him to live. The recipient of his stories, just listened. No judgements. He just let him vomit it all out and cleanse his system. He was speaking his truth. His perception of those times... his listening friend didn't tell him what was right or wrong....he just listened. Ron felt lighter, more free afterward, he had shed light on the darkness, his story had been heard.
"Individuals, families, groups, and organizations keep secrets. In turn, secrets keep individuals, secrets keep families, secrets isolate and hold their keepers hostage. Essentially, people keep secrets and secrets keep people. If those secrets are linked to guilt and shame, they are all the more powerful in their ability to isolate and silence the secret keeper, to prevent him from speaking the truth." pg. 172
How does the above quote apply to those of us who may not be at the end of our lives yet, but are working at living authentic and honest lives?
I know in my childhood, I kept my parents alcoholism and violent fighting a secret. I didn't have kids over and I didn't go to their houses either. I just managed the chaos of my life quietly and in secret, dreading if anyone would ever find out. (which they did.)
As an adult I worked so hard at being perfect, and when I couldn't pull it off, I kept it a secret, I hid, because I was ashamed. (everyone knew anyway.)
When my daughter began to show some troubling signs of mental health issues and substance abuse (the same issues my mom and my g-ma had shared....but I had kept that a secret too) I didn't let anyone know for a long time, because I was ashamed. I was afraid of the judgments. It only confirmed (in my thinking at that point) that I hadn't done the very job I wanted to do "perfectly," very well at all. I had failed. So I ran as fast as I could and I didn't tell anyone and I tried to fix it before anyone could find out. (but that didn't work and they knew anyway.)
When I went to my first Alanon meeting.....and that is where it happened for me. I believe it can happen anywhere when we are ready....when the student is ready, the teacher appears. When I went to my first Alanon meeting and I shared through my sobs, that my life was unmanageable in some really huge ways, that I was so terribly afraid for my daughter, that I felt like a failure, that I was behaving poorly trying to control the uncontrollable, and the most terrifying of all....that I didn't know what to do next, I felt the most tremendous relief.
It was out.
I had spoken my truth. It had become intolerable to live the way I was living for even another minute. I had to turn the lights on and shine it on the darkness that was surrounding me. And when I did.....the secrets lost their power. The problems were still there, but now I wasn't alone. Now I could begin to look for solutions outside of my limited scope. Because I had shared my truth with other people who had similar truths, who were farther along in the journey to healing than I was, who could share what had worked for them... in finally letting someone else inside, I was given a new set of tools.
Later in the chapter Ron said, "I'm fanatical about the truth, being honest with people, and I want them to be honest with me too."
Once you have come out of living in your lie, your illusion, denial....whatever we want to call it, you don't want to ever go back to that dark cave that you were hiding in. I should put that in the first person....I didn't want to ever go back to that dark place. To the best of my ability I work at living in the light, no secrets.
The truth will set you free.
Confession is good for the soul.
Steps 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
And 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Speaking our truth gives us our power back. It is the gentlest, most gut wrenching, loving thing we can do for ourselves. Painful... yes. Sets us free.....most definitely yes. I believe we all get brought to our knees at one time or another, and we get to decide what our next step will be. Speak our truth, or turn away from our stories that keep us locked up in those dark places.
Bless us all