I consider myself quite the fortunate one in many ways, but I got especially lucky when my baby sister Debbie came into the world.
Debbie at a year old, I was two
If you currently do not have a baby sister, I suggest you go and find one.
Debs as I affectionately call her, was born one year and 10 days after me. I can’t say I remember the day she was brought home, but I know for certain I was happy. I had two older sisters who were taking good care of me, but I needed a playmate and Debs fit the bill. I know most brothers and sisters have a unique bond, however, what made ours different was the hostile environment we were raised in and how we supported one another . . . and still do. Having one another as an anchor has served us well throughout our lives.
As a toddler, I enjoyed dolls and cooktop toys more than baseballs and bats; Debs had no problem sharing. She was easy going and doughy eyed. I think the thumb sucking calmed her down. She was teased a lot for it, especially by our mom. That part still makes me angry.
Our elementary school classrooms were next to one another for several years. I witnessed her teacher verbally abusing her and I told my mom about it. My mother was a lot of things I did not appreciate, but she was fiercely protective of her children. She went down to the school and reported the teacher and had my sister’s classroom changed. I was proud of her for that.
We were so close growing up that people would mistake us for fraternal twins. As her older brother, it was my responsibility to keep the boys away. Debs never resented me for it; she knew I wanted the best for her. She was shy during her teenage years and sensitive about all things personal. I loved the way she looked up to me.
I was in a very bad car accident when I was 18 years old. When my mom brought me home from hospital, Debbie walked into the house, saw me and wept hysterically. I believe she was imagining what it might have been like if she’d lost me. I sometimes wake up in a bad state from nightmares where something terrible happens to her; I guess we have similar fears of loss. Allow me to stress the happy times.
When she met her husband Lynn, she struck gold. The guy (pictured with sunglasses below) is a gosh darned saint. Together they had two beautiful children: Nicole and James. They’ve been nurturing and loving parents and they have always included Uncle Chris in all of their kids’ milestones. Nicole now has twins, Stella and Ben, and it’s been a joy to watch them grow. As a gay single man, having a family that I consider my own, is a true gift. It’s been fun observing my sister with her grandchildren; she’s affectionate and sweet. And her best quality, she’s always laughing.
Debbie, Lynn and my nephew James are very close. James is a career officer in the Air Force. James is also a talented musician; I suspect this is where his passion lies. Being an uncle is a privileged position in a family. It allows you to experience all the good bits without the inner family drama. I love my sister and her family dearly; however, this is often drama. My guess is that all of the trials and tribulations and relationship dynamics, add up to a very deep bond. As an outsider, that’s the part I don’t get to be a part of. That reality has it’s upside.
One Beautiful Memory
Debbie had just given birth to Nicole. It was her first and the whole family was excited. I had returned home from University to meet my new niece. I walked into my mother’s house and Debbie handed Nicole to me without saying a word. She was only days old and wrapped in a snuggly blanket. I brought her into another room to privately marvel at her beauty. I thought, this magnificent child is a part of me and she will be until I die. I must have had some insight into the roles Nicole and James would play in my life; how family is the most important thing we have and how the intimacy of family is everything.
[Subscribing is free folks! And not all of my blogs are sappy.]
Debbie and her husband Lynn came to see me in Portugal a few months ago; we had a blast. Appropriate “spicy” sign to her left.
Fort Lauderdale (Deerfield Beach) next week, then Nantes and Pornic, France, Liverpool, England, and Marseilles — Nantes and Pornic are happening on the same trip, over a four day period. Other holidays planned later in the year. Biggest trip of 2023 will be Dubai, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Hong Kong — end of October to mid-November.
I was raised in a home where you said what you had to say; you got it off your chest and then you let it go. By the time I got to kindergarten, I learned that the rest of the world didn’t operate that way.
Along the way, I received lots of reactions to my “Brooklyn” bravado. I had to hide my sexuality, therefore, it was act tough and survive or whimper and be bullied. I developed a thick skin and a look that said, be real with me or get out of my face.
And then this happened . . .
I was a candidate for a really great position on campus at the University of South Carolina. It was my second year of a two-year Master’s degree program and I had spent the first year validating my candidacy for a coveted position. At the end of my second semester, I met with the director of the Living & Learning Program and discussed my future. I remember a smirk on his face I didn’t appreciate. He told me that there had been a couple of complaints about my direct nature — an interesting way to put it. He further went on to tell me he had observed it himself. What he said in not so many words:
I appreciate that you’re from New York and that New Yorkers are known for speaking their mind. It’s not how we conduct ourselves in the south. We tend to start with some small talk and then we sugar coat our words a bit. That’s how we succeed in getting what we want. You might want to consider changing your communication style while you’re in South Carolina; maybe tone it down a bit (source is now deceased, 1983). I guess I might have been reliving this horror in the middle of the night last night, because I also recalled that he said that I was a “primadonna.” At the time, I didn’t even know what that meant.
To say that I was devastated is a gross understatement. I spent the next two months questioning everything about the way in which I conducted myself. I cried a lot, I was angry, I hated that creep, and I went from deciding I would change everything about myself to being determined I would stay true to who I am.
At the end of a long and tortured summer, the director called me into his office; I almost refused to take the meeting, but I knew he had a lot of influence at the University. He asked me if I’d thought about what he’d said in May. I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that I was tormented by his feedback. I responded:
I thought about what you said and I agree with some of it. I went on to tell him that I could be a bit less crass and a bit more tactful. I also stared him straight in his eyes and told him that I liked my own sincerity and direct approach; bullshit was not my style and being all nice nice without feeling it, wasn’t ever going to happen.
He listened with what seemed like an open mind. I asked him if there was anything else and he said,
“The position is yours if you want it. There are a lot of people on campus who are rooting for you, don’t let them down.”
He shared his own reservations and I sat there acting all smug and self-satisfied. I wanted that job more than anything and I was determined to prove him wrong.
So what is the point of my telling you this tale of woe? There are a few reasons actually:
His words stuck with me more than any others that I have heard in my life. I didn’t like him, but I respected him and I came to believe he was sincerely trying to teach me something.
In many ways he was right. I was overly confident and way too direct.
Had he not shared his observations with me, I may never have been told that I needed to lower the volume. I still resent his harsh and hurtful approach, however, he managed to get me thinking about how I communicate with people and that is never a bad thing.
I have mentored several young people throughout my career. I have been in the position to share my thoughts about character flaws I thought could be altered or corrected. I am thoughtful about the way in which I phrase my criticism or feedback. I can always tell when I may have pushed too hard or said too much. I recall how much I learned from my critic and I accept the anger directed toward me. My own saboteur reminds me that I am vulnerable and imperfect.
And Another Thing . . .
My neighbor has decided to make his condo an Airbnb; it’s his place, I guess it’s his business. Personally, I think it’s an ugly dump and I’m not sure why anyone would rent it. It’s probably cheap, so it’s attracting young party people.
Yesterday, my new, not-so-friendly Airbnb neighbors were getting on the elevator to go to the beach and I introduced myself:
“Hi, I’m Chris, if you need anything please knock.”
They looked at me like deer in headlights and I very gently said:
“Do me a favor, when you close your door, please do it slowly. When your door slams my apartment shakes.”
Seriously, it sounds like a bomb has hit the building when the wind is strong.
You would have thought I was asking them to go to bed earlier. The look I got was of utter disgust and resentment. I promise you, I was pleasant.
What I said to them was not even criticism mind you. Would a big ugly sign outside my door asking for consideration be better?
Things I Keep In Mind When Offering Criticism/Feedback
Will I ever see this person again?
Will my words make a difference?
How am I being impacted by their approach or style?
What words can I use to make a difference?
Am I being honest or mean?
Do I really know better?
Is my honesty a way to sabotage a relationship?
Will they hear me?
Are they open to feedback?
Why am I doing it?
I know that I don’t know anything about most things, but I sure do know a little about some things. Keeping my opinion to myself isn’t easy, so listen up:
Men of Portugal (you know who you are), stop dousing yourself with buckets of cheap cologne, you stink and you’re making me sick! People, when you’re in line at the supermarket you need to stay in line; continuing to shop and expecting to keep your place in line, isn’t cool. And to the young men who own motorbikes in my neighborhood: I know that having a small penis makes life difficult; however, taking your muffler off of your motorcycle or moped won’t make that little penis any larger. You’re just making people angry and the girls don’t think it’s cool. Spend more time on your hair, it’s quieter. And I’m sorry to judge, but young gay men are not driving their loud motorbikes all around Faro.
Note: I’m just guessing about penis size.
When people are not willing to speak out for fear of repercussion or alienation, they become angry, resentful, and complacent. Keep this in mind when someone around you is feeling stifled or worse, gagged.
Travel: Time on the Spanish/Portuguese border in a Pousada next week; they can’t cancel that on me. I’m pretty sure I’ll get to go on my trip to Stockholm in August. And maybe even a booked trip to Lyon, France in September. I don’t count on travel anymore, I just have to wait and see.
Castles, Palaces, Monasteries, Halls of kings and Rooms of Queens… The Pestana Pousadas de Portugal offers the ultimate immersive Portuguese experience in some of the country’s most historical and iconic properties.
Note: Check out Wanda Sykes who is hosting for Jimmy Kimmel this week. She’s doing some kick ass truth tellin’.
Is there someone else? When did it start? I should have known you’d cheat, you bastard; who is he? How did I not see it. I didn’t want to see it, I was blindsided . . . or so I thought. The truth is, there were weeks and weeks of deafening exchanges, changes in patterns, and forced smiles. Back then I thought I was the cat’s pajamas, the guy who could pick and choose. Why would anyone walk away from a guy who can cook?
In total, we broke-up nine torturous times. Each time I swore to the gods that I would never go back. How many times can you smash your head against the wall before you realize it may cause permanent damage?
When you force a conversation, please talk to me, tell me what you’re feeling, tell me what’s wrong, and this is what he tells you:
“I don’t know.”
You don’t know? I ask.
“I don’t know.”
Time to walk away, except for some reason you will never fully understand, you stay. You stay and allow yourself a daily dose of torture; sometimes two or three doses. That’s called low self-esteem and it’s time to build it back up, but not there, not with him. It took a good deal of heartache and losing a couple of friends, before I had finally had enough. I was fortunate that the tipping point arrived before I’d hit rock bottom. I know too many people who stay and regret it years later. Sound familiar?
Side note: When someone says, “I don’t know why I treat you so badly,” it’s because they are afraid of saying the one thing that might make you say, “Fuck you, get out and don’t come back.” As hard as we might try, we cannot change people.
What’s Your Story
Many of us have ended relationships. For some, it’s as easy as snapping your fingers; for others, it feels more like passing a kidney stone. For me, I’d have to say it depends on who it is and the circumstances.
We never really know what another person is thinking or feeling. They can tell us or we can guess; however, the truth can be elusive or distorted. Here’s what I mean:
You’re dating an individual who may have very few faults or imperfections. If you’re like me, the tiniest issues reveal themselves very early on. You find yourself tormented by the idea of ending the relationship because you might not see it going anywhere. Sabotage is alive and well in my world. Communication is essential, without it, you have a wobbly foundation. With a solid foundation, you can address nearly any issue. Still, some problems are insurmountable and if your eyes are wide open, you’ll see it.
The Kinds of Endings You Might Contemplate:
Love Relationships — I am the last person to comment on ending love relationships. There are only two things that I know for certain: 1) Sex after a break-up will not make you feel better or help you get over him, and 2) Until you decide it’s over, it will not truly be over. If your gut tells you it’s not working, listen to your gut.
Friendships — Ending a friendship, long or short, is not easy. However, not unlike a love relationship, once a friendship becomes toxic or unpleasant, it’s time to consider cutting your losses. In the end, it’s about what you think of yourself. If you value your self-worth and quality of life, walking away from a friendship — as difficult as it might be — may be the best thing you can do. I think this rule applies to any friendship, long or short.
Many of us view the end of a friendship as failure; for some of us, failure is not an option. So we remain and allow it to slowly rot bits and pieces of our core. I had a 25 year friendship that ended about 10 years ago. I contacted this former friend on her birthday a few years back and she was very angry; she hadn’t let go of the bitterness that tore us apart. I realized that nothing and changed. In some ways that revelation can be a good thing, it helps gives you closure and affirmation. We reach out to one another on our birthdays now, that’s about all the contact either of us can tolerate. Not going to lie, every once in a while I find myself missing this person, but then I recall why it went south and I am relieved that I called it quits when I did. At the end of the day, your integrity is all that matters; and your sanity, that matters as well.
There are those who believe that when you end something it’s best not to revisit it. I’ve had situations when I can’t recall why it ended in the first place and some people do evolve, don’t they?
Business Partnerships — I have a friend that hated his business partner. It got so bad he’d drink himself to sleep at night. If have to ask yourself if it’s worth the pain and suffering, your answer is right there in front of you. Talk to anyone who ended a business relationship that was poisonous; nine out of ten times they’ll tell you they bounced back and came back stronger. When you take care of yourself, you not only fix the problem at hand, but you also end up mending a lot of other broken parts happening simultaneously. Your courage and strength carries over to all other aspects of your life.
Family — This is kind of break-up has hit close to home recently and it is still somewhat raw. If I write about it, I’ll get a bit of backlash and it’s not worth it. I will say that as difficult as it might be to walk away, there are situations that are so distressing, remaining in touch can do physical and emotional harm. In the end, your choice should be to protect yourself. Exhaust every avenue to fix what is broken before you say goodbye. The harder you know you have tried, the less you will regret your decision.
If you don’t end up sad and hurt by the loss, you are either uncaring or way too guarded. Having an open and loving heart has its pitfalls, but I’d rather be sad and hurt than live through life feeling nothing. Or even worse, being angry all the time.
Employment — This break-up variety is every bit as onerous as any other. You add money and fear of failure to this equation and you have quite a lot to consider. One of the things I did that I found helpful, was to make a list of the pros and cons. I also played the worst case scenario game, which I always find helpful. When you’re going through the hardship, you’re thinking I will never survive if this ended. In truth, we always survive. On the other side of abuse and unappreciative supervisors/owners is something better. Remember there is only one direction you can go when things get that bad. If you’re dreading going to the office or meeting with your boss, that’s a pretty clear sign that it’s time to move on. When my doctor prescribed Xanax so that I could sit in the same room with my ex-boss, I knew it was time to go. Don’t let it get to that point.
One of my favorite ending a relationship quotes:
“I thought I was strong, holding on to you, but I was stronger when I was letting you go.”
Cuba postponed to April 22. I will hopefully get to finally go. Back to the States to see friends and family in May (we’ll see). I’m accustomed to the uncertainty.
I’m still in lockdown here in Portugal. The police are out checking for face masks, ID, and for those who might be illegally leaving their municipality. I’m not sure how much more surreal this whole experience could be. It seems like there may be a light at the end of this tunnel — stay strong and healthy.
Question of the Week:
Do you have a successful break-up story to share or advice you might like to convey?
It is the end of 2020 and the start of a new year. I seldom allow my imagination to take over; it’s a control issue. Considering my sudden willingness to play this little game with myself, I thought I’d see where it goes and I’m hoping you’ll join me:
A Little Background Information
I’m 61 years old, single, gay, living abroad, Ph.D.in Higher Ed. Admin., sort of retired (I blog), childless, divorced (married to a woman for five years), mostly male, 6′ tall, 195 pounds, healthy, and well-traveled. I share these facts more as a reminder to myself. If I am to play this game, it’s important that I am acutely familiar with myself. I know, get to the darned fantasy.
1.the faculty or activity of imagining impossible or improbable things (Google dictionary).
This exercise is more about stretching the mind without too much concern for where it might take me — it is fantasy after all. There are all sorts of restraints and rules we impose upon ourselves; for today at least, I am ignoring all of them.
I am healthier than I was at age 60, 50, 40 even. My mind is sharp. Although not religious, I am spiritual. I do believe we possess a soul. My conscience guides me. Human beings are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for, and so, I allow myself to dream big. My strength and determination are powerful traits I consider personal commodities. I am loving. I am sentimental. I feel tremendous disappointment. I am often angry. I am not superior. I am not always honest with myself and others — that’s about love and self-preservation. Laziness has prevented me from realizing my potential accumulative intelligence. I am silly at times. I am often humorless. I am overly cautious to the point of suffocation. I get in my own way. My perceived flaws are my obstacles. In other words, I am human.
For the purpose of this exercise, only my strengths, skills, and positivity, prevail.
Plunging Right In
Sorry this took so long, many powerful inner voices urging me not to go further. Here goes:
The year is 2021 and I am standing at a river’s edge in a beautiful French city. The clouds are white and fluffy, the sun is shining, it is warm, but not hot. There is little to no humidity. A slight, pleasant breeze makes the leaves flutter and drowns out the sound of cars and dogs barking.
My mind is free of all thoughts, save for admiration for the beauty I am witnessing. My breathing is slow and purposeful and I feel very much alive.
A man approaches. He is smiling; you know the ear-to-ear smile that is real and conveys common sense wisdom. He looks straight into my eyes and says, “Bon jour.” He radiates maturity, yet he seems young at heart. I don’t know why I trust him, but I do.
I smile back and say, “Good morning.”
“You are American,” he remarks without judgment.
“I am. Is that a bad thing?”
He laughs and tells me his name, “I’m Peter.”
“Not Pierre?” I’m schoolboy nervous and I sound silly. “I’m Chris.”
He subtly lets me know that he is trying to make me more comfortable. We chat for a bit. Each of us trying hard not to seem too eager or stupid (me). Peter is in his late 40s, about four inches shorter than me, thick salt & pepper hair, fit, and handsome; not classically handsome, but confident, impeccably groomed handsome. I am smitten and I cannot hide it.
Pierre asks me if he can walk with me for a bit. I suddenly have no plans for my immediate future and I boldly respond, “Yes, please.”
There are two things I notice immediately: the first is that he always waits for me to finish a sentence; he is a great listener, and second, he sees me. I try my best to be just as courteous and present. After about 30 minutes of getting to know one another better, Pierre asks me if I’d like to join him for a coffee at nearby café. He is taking the lead, I like that. He tells me that this particular café has the best croissants in all of Toulouse. And now I know that he understands the importance of excellent food. Pierre chooses a table on the end, a bit removed from the rest; I like that too. He is soft spoken, but his English is good and I understand him perfectly. I am no longer nervous. I am also not self-conscious or cautious. I feel comfortable and content.
I decide that I need to somehow let him know that I do not want this day to end just yet. I ask him to join me for dinner at a restaurant known for its Bouillabaisse. Of course he knows the restaurant and agrees. Before we part, he asks me if I would join him for a pre-dinner cocktail at 6:00 p.m. I’m thinking something must be wrong because that’s early for a Frenchman.
He sees the quizzical look on my face and laughs, “I know that’s early, but I’m usually in bed by 10:00 p.m.”
This seems too good to be true. I don’t tell him that 10:00 p.m. is also my bedtime, instead I say, “Perfect.”
Saying goodbye to Pierre is strange. I feel as if I’d known him my entire life. Perhaps that’s what happens when you meet your soulmate. Perhaps I dreamt of him a thousand times. Perhaps it was written that at this time, on this date, our paths would cross. We both very naturally go in for a hug and hold each other longer than customary. We agree on the bar and Pierre tells me how much he is looking forward to it. I just smile and nod.
As I’m walking away from Pierre I have this feeling of complete security. There are no doubts that his intentions are good and that he will show up. I know the next few hours will feel like an eternity, but I am giddy with anticipation. I decide to indulge in an afternoon of pampering; I want my skin to glow and I want to smell fresh and clean. I feel younger than my years. I also feel taller and leaner. Of course I know that these things are not true, but I don’t really care.
I wear a crisp white shirt and navy trousers. I have my black shoes shined, I shave as closely as possible, and I imagine all sorts of possibilities. Feelings that are foreign wash over me and it feels right.
When I walk into the bar Pierre is sitting there waiting. He takes my breath away. He is happy to see me and says so. He orders two Belvedere martinis with olives. I don’t even second guess how he knows what I drink. We toast our chance meeting. He leans in to say something. The power of his whisper almost knocks me off my barstool.
“You’re making me crazy,” he says.
Before he can move away I take in his scent. He is not wearing cologne, but he has a fresh scent with a hint of jasmine. Pierre asks a lot of questions; they are not probing or offensive. More than anything he is interested in my hopes and dreams for the future. He takes in everything I say, nods and smiles. When I try to ask him questions, he tells me that we will get to him later. He quest to know me is insatiable.
We slowly walk to the restaurant where we will be dining. He frequently points out architecture and everyday things I might not have noticed. At one point he grabs hold of my hand and comments on them.
“Big strong hands, I like that.”
I thank him and offer him the other hand as well. He laughs and accepts my offer. I’m tempted to ask him if he’d prefer to skip dinner and go straight to my hotel room. But don’t go with my impulse, instead, I tell him that I am excited to dine with him. I want to watch him, see how he orders,drinks and eats. I am thrilled that he seems to love food and drink as much as I do. I can tell that I can learn from Pierre and I want to learn.
After dinner Pierre tells me that my restaurant choice was excellent and thanks me for one of the most delightful evenings he’s had in a long time. He asks me if he can pick me up in front of my hotel in the morning. I wonder out loud what he is proposing and he suggests that I wait and see. I am surprised that I am not disappointed about parting until morning. I retire to my hotel room feeling excited with anticipation; anticipation about morning, about the future.
Come morning I am standing on the sidewalk expecting him to walk up to me. Moments later a Mercedes convertible, pulls up in front of me. It is classic navy blue with tan leather seats. He pats the seat beside him and I smile and jump in. I am youthful and dizzy with excitement. He drives off and tells me that he slept better than he had in years; I say the same. Pierre seems to know what I want, when I want it. He speaks and listens. He occasionally gently lays a hand on my thigh. Nothing matters save for this moment.
We come to a field covered in lavender. There are mountains all around us and I no idea where I am. He tells me the name of this small town; it is his birthplace. He reaches in to the back seat of the Mercedes and pulls out a covered basket and a blanket. He lays the blanket on a patch of lavender and motions for me to join him. “Pierre, are you courting me?” He just smiles and opens the basket. He covers the blanket with all of my favorite French delicacies. The night before he got me to share my favorites without my noticing.
While we devour lunch, Pierre tells me that he’s never met anyone like me and that he wants to know everything about me. I tell him I feel the same way about him. He occasionally goes from being very attentive and serious to revealing his more humorous side. His stories tell me more about who he is. Pierre is open; he has clearly seen and done enough to know the ways of the world. There is a soft, unjaded presence that I find refreshing and rare. The more I see of him, the more I want him. We occasionally reach out for one another, it is tender and sweet.
Pierre clears off the blanket and rests his head on my chest. He says nothing for a long time and I relish the silence. Words are not always necessary, volumes are shared without them.
Our second day is coming to an end; I propose a way for us to spend more time together. As I am getting out of Pierre’s car, I suggest we fly to The Maldives. He agrees, however, he has one stipulation: we are to purchase one way tickets.
The following morning when we arrive at the airport, Pierre lets me know that there is something he’d like to say:
“Christopher, I haven’t known you very long, but I know that I have waited a long time for us. Let’s enjoy our time. We can decide today, that today is all that matters, and that tomorrow will present itself to us tomorrow.”
I squeeze his hand and reach over to kiss his sweet and tender lips. It is our first kiss, the first of many.
I know this fantasy is very cliché, but it is my fantasy after all. I have learned so much about what I want and who I am from this exercise. I don’t know where or when I heard the following, but I believe it can be manifested:
“If you can see it, you can have it.” I can see it.
By the way, when he pulls up in a car, it doesn’t have to be a Mercedes. Play along, create your fantasy.
Happy New Year. Let’s make 2021 phenomenal.
Realistic Fantasy, Or Fantastic Reality?
I reach to grasp, my hands pass through. The words evade, they are but smoke. Thought has escaped, it is far gone, My witless mind can work no more.
Past is slowly slipping away, Future melts into the present. I cannot know what this may mean For reason wanes as does my mind.
Reality fades, disappears, As fantasy takes brutal hold Of weakened state, then recreates The world which I will know no more.
Colors replace the sordid grays That stood so long in des’prate hope This day would come, to whisk away The mind which held me prisoner.
I vaguely recall a Jim Carey film where he actually says what he is thinking everytime he opens his mouth. I can’t tell you the title of the film or the outcome, however, what I do know is that it was a disaster. We live in a society where many people choose to stay in the dark because the truth is just too painful and that’s fair.
This isn’t the first time I am writing about truth and it won’t be the last. It’s front and center in my life and I grapple with it on a daily basis. I feel terribly self-righteous and I don’t like it. I’m finding middle ground through discussion and writing. The political untruths hurled at us on a daily basis are disgusting and getting worse. As an individual I feel powerless to change the direction humanity seems to be going in. The best I can do and will do, is allow truth to lead the way in my own life and to be truthful with others.
When People Say, “Tell Me The Truth,” Beware
I’m often asked what I think about this or that. Having had all kinds of different reactions to my candor, I find myself choosing my words very carefully. I’ve noticed that people say they want to hear the truth, what they really mean is: “Tell me the truth-light, water it down a bit, sugar coat it, couch it in praise, make it so it doesn’t hurt, tell me a white lie, don’t damage my ego, and what I don’t know won’t hurt me.” That’s a lot to sift through.
For example, I recently had a friend speak to me about a girl he’s seeing from overseas. He wanted my approval. Sometimes I want to crawl into a hole and put up a sign that says, “Leave me the fuck alone. What I think doesn’t matter and even if it did, you don’t really want to know.” The truth is, in this case I don’t think it’s a good idea to keep seeing this girl. I see a my friend as a ticket out of her country, a golden ticket. Trust me, he doesn’t want to hear what I think and I don’t want to lose a friend.
Here’s what I said, “How do you feel about the relationship? If you’re enjoying seeing this woman and she makes you happy, how can anyone tell you to stop seeing her.”
Fortunately, that satisfied him and I came away unharmed; eardrums and peaceful day still intact.
I once introduced a friend to a boyfriend of mine who was 20 years my junior. I asked her what she thought of him. She politely suggested that he might be a little young for me. This happened over 20 years ago and I’m still angry with her. The truth is, that is what she believed and she thought it might cause a problem in my relationship with him. She was right, it did cause a problem. At the time I knew she was right, but I never expected her to share her truth. I wanted her to tell me he was handsome and exotic and smart and that we were perfect for one another and that she was happy for me. In reality, she might have believed some of those things to be true, but she cared about me and thought that somebody had to tell me the obvious truth. The problem is that the truth seldom initiates a change. Instead, it causes resentment and sometimes pain. So why do we keep asking for it? Are human beings truth seekers?
I love the Housewives of (fill in the blank) franchise for so many reasons. I believe the producers tell the reality stars to share their truth as much as possible. That’s all we need for good, honest entertainment. Watch people get hurt and angry because they are being told things they don’t want to hear. And it’s their supposed friends telling them these things.
“I can’t believe you shared that with Betthany.”
“Who are you to go around telling people things I’ve shared with you in confidence.”
“What makes you think you know what really happened?”
“You’re doing this to destroy me because your jealous of my life.”
The beauty of it is that it’s all real. They are shedding real tears. These women are truly angry, feeling betrayed, and honestly scorned. I’m always surprised when any of them kiss and make up. How do you ever forgive some of what’s been put out there for all the world to hear?
Ask Yourself Whether or Not You Want the Truth
Just because I believe it to be true, does not actually make it true. That is my barometer; it’s a mantra I repeat over and over again.
I only ask for a person’s opinion or thoughts when I know I can handle what they have to say. There are a handful of people in my life that I can count on to be real and honest: really honest. I know that when I ask these people to share their thoughts, their response will come from love and kindness. It may be difficult to process, but it will be honest and said in the most compassionate way; empathy and sympathy are so important when a person is in this position. We’ve all been there; don’t beat me up when I’m already broken. Don’t say it in a way that will sting worse than the actual truth. Always be kind and save the painful stuff for when the person is in a good place and they can handle it.
If you’re one of these people that says, “You can’t be angry with me because you asked for the truth,” you are not a nice person. Consider the reason you choose to suddenly be 100% honest; whom did it benefit.
Who Can You Really Trust?
This is so important. Take an inventory of the people you know and decide who among your friends and family you can go to for the absolute truth. These are people who care about you, your feelings, your well-being, your best interest. They will be thoughtful about what they say without hurting you. These cherished few will find a way to get the message across without sending you to therapy or to a medical doctor for Xanax.
No doubt most people in your life would like to think that they are “that” person — the one you can confide in. In truth, it’s not an easy position to be in. It’s like walking a tightrope without holding a pole for balance. If and when it’s done correctly and with compassion, it can change a life forever. I can count on one hand, the number of times this kind of honesty has come my way. I remember the time, the place, and every word said to me. I love and respect the person who delivered those words and I repeat those words whenever possible. The impact cannot be measured. Consider the weight of this role.
Leaving out some of the details, can be just as effective when you are providing feedback. It doesn’t make you a liar, it makes you a compassionate person.
If someone you care about asks you if you love them, why not just say, “yes I do.” Saying, “Yes, but you make me angry when you . . ., or I have been questioning my love lately,” is unnecessary. There is a time and place for absolute candor, never when a person is vulnerable or in pain.
Growing Up & Growing Wiser
Just because we get older, doesn’t necessarily mean we become wiser; like anything in life you have to work at it. We also have to accept that because we are human, we might occasionally mess up. For me it’s all about intention. If someone intentionally lies to me, I have little or no tolerance. Tell me a white lie to protect me from the truth, and I am a whole lot more forgiving.
Knowing when to share the truth, how much truth to share, and with whom you can be truthful, is all part of maturing and knowing yourself and others better. “The truth will set you free,” because truth liberates your heart and mind. You learn to trust what’s in your heart when your thoughts have been validated. It feels great when the heart and mind are in sync. The strength and confidence that comes from truth cannot be underestimated. So why do people lie?
There is so much lying these days, sometimes it’s difficult to sort through it all. Consider the source, consider the intention, and consider the weight of the truth. No lie is a good lie and most liars are not worth your time or energy. It’s okay to rely on your gut because your instincts are so often correct, when when there is a lot at stake, it’s better to check the facts and side with truth.
I have spend the last few years sorting considering how and with whom I spend my time. I made the conscious decision to rid my life of toxic liars and people who bring me pain. The result has validated the process; the friends and family I currently hold dear enrich my life. I have a whole lot less drama to deal with and life is fulfilling. Trusting yourself, treating yourself with love and respect, are all keys to honest exchanges with others. Two steps forward, one step back, the dance of life.
Headed to Madeira next Saturday (5th). Will be reposting a blog before I leave and then the following Blog, September 12 will be about Madeira. With all that is going on with the virus and travel changes, I won’t believe it until I’m on the plane. Adults-only hotel with a seaview room; very excited.