- The root cause of a huge amount of trouble in life and in relationships is that we’re not completely honest. We try generously to protect others’ feelings, or to protect ourselves from others’ reactions to our own thoughts and feelings, and in so doing, we paradoxically end up in a place that is, in effect, selfish and perilous—as humans actually are incapable of not being entirely honest forever. Eventually, it all comes out anyway—but the longer it’s been hiding, the more damage it does.
- The problem with honesty is that honesty takes time. Feelings and thoughts are nuanced and complicated things. In the modern world of long workdays, busy family lives, social media and texts, there is a practical limit to what can be conveyed. It may be implausible to be completely honest; simple time means that you have to prioritize what gets said. Being “as honest as possible” thus becomes a skill, not just of courage, but also of judgment, to be learned over the course of a lifetime.
Okay, stop. Maybe not just “things,” like so many other posts before. Maybe I am about to make a stupid list when I should have an equally stupid but real ramble.
— § —
Yes, I need to start a ramble. May whatever god exists and whatever people I love forgive me for an uncontrolled ramble. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, and that feels dangerous. But I’ll be damned if I couldn’t do with more rambling and less parsing in my life.
This blog has been here for an awfully, awfully long time, only it hasn’t at the same time, because for a long time, I fragmented it—spread it across many domains, kept parts of it offline, hid some entires from search engines, and so on—to try to protect myself from consequences—to manipulate the world, in a sense. But the fact is, everything that’s here is something I’ve thought or felt at some time, and there are many things I’ve thought or felt at some time that aren’t even here, which, if I’m totally honest, is a kind of sin against myself (even if posting something counterproductive to other goals in my life on a given day would also have been a kind of sin against myself—hinting at complexities in this ramble that are likely yet to come).
Unifying the blog and putting it all online were huge steps for me, enabled only by the personal recklessness that deep sadness at my separation from my wife inspired. But I’ll go a step further—the fact is that right now at least, I do think that I need to say more here, not less, and to say some of the things that I say here in real life, not just in writing.
The temptation to walk backward is always there. Just earlier today, I had a moment of terror thinking about the consequences of putting this all online finally in one easily accessible, searchable place for all to finally see without obfuscation or effort. What if so-and-so reads it? What if my employer finds out? Future employers?
For a brief moment, I actually contemplated rushing back to The Machine (the oversized personal computer that is my own personal form of phallic overcompensation) and taking it all back offline again.
Can you imagine?
I’m forty years old. My life is half over. My wife veers between hating me and being at best vaguely fond of me right now. My career trajectory is entirely off track. Most of all, I am struggling to keep my head above water because it feels as if I am getting nowhere.
And the reason I so often feel as if I am getting nowhere is because if you can’t be honest about things then in fact you do not exist. Nobody knows who you are, least of all yourself . Any attention, any accolades, any relationships that you have do not reach your heart at all, because in fact they are attention given to, accolades for, or relationships with, someone that is not, in actuality, you. I knew this once, and then—sadly—I forgot. And that is the most fundamental truth in my life right now. As some point, I forgot.
The only way to get love out of the universe is to, first, be yourself. If the universe then hates you, so be it. But maybe, just maybe, some part of the universe will love you. If you aren’t yourself, if you aren’t honest about everything, about who you are, what you think, what you’ve thought, who you’ve been, what you want, what you’re doing—then you are catastrophically alone; the reality of you is cut off from the rest of the universe and nothing at all, positive or negative, can reach the actual you. So it all becomes academic anyway.
Footnote : Fact is, I was much healthier, and knew much better, in 2006, when I was (not coincidentally) much more open and honest with myself and the world about what I thought and felt. Getting married and having kids can cause you to do stupid things like get conservative and try to protect things by putting up a “do the right thing always” front. Mistake.
— § —
Right now in my life I am caught between all sorts of forces (let’s be honest, all sorts of internal allegiances to external things and ideas) that are pulling me in a million different directions. Marriage and wife. Kids. Career. Job. Self (let’s not forget loyalty to self). World. Time. Friends. Family. And on and on. A million different ways to try to “do the right thing” and a million different risks of “doing the wrong thing” by and for myself and in fact, I am having trouble sorting them all out.
What do I want? For real?
Not that this is a failure on my part. Everyone lives with this, even in much more boring circumstances. Every fucking person.
The heroes are people who manage to approximate something retrospectively akin, in the post-hoc analysis, to “listening to themselves, exposing themselves completely, and taking action toward what they want.” But this is deceptively difficult to achieve; it is a learned skill, and it is not straightforward because (as my own life demonstrates) what can seem entirely clear one moment can seem terribly incorrect the next.
This blog isn’t here because it’s “my therapist” but because it’s the closest I’ve ever achieved to being cumulatively and retrospectively honest with myself and the world, an ongoing project, but a worthwhile one in any life. Gotta start somewhere. Gotta take the steps where you can. These are my best steps so far.
— § —
Right now I spend a lot of time feeling catastrophic sorrow and regret over the decisions that I made and the actions that I took last year.
I spend less time, but still some time, feeling a kind of opposite thing—as though I have let myself down many times in the past and feeling—not resentment or anger or indignation, exactly, but a kind of frustration that somehow at the end of the day the larger, very sorry and regretful part of me always beats other part of me into submission. Well things don’t just come out of nowhere. Do they? There is a part of me that wants me to take better care of me and my needs than I have done in recent years. Maybe that’s a good way to put it.
In fact, like everyone else on earth, I spend some of my time conflicted and life is tough and sometimes you seriously fuck up but people are fucking complicated beings and love is pure, but it is also complex in its effects and it is rarely, if ever, entirely innocent in them. Perhaps tiny infants can love in entirely and always harmless ways. I don’t believe that anyone else can. No, for the adults love does both good and bad to all, usually more good than bad, and it is what it is, beautiful, pure, and also unpredictable and vaguely dangerous.
That is, in fact, what life is. Beautiful, pure, but also unpredictable and vaguely dangerous.
There is no way around it.
Trying to find a way around it is folly.
And yet that’s what we all do, day after day—following rules, being polite, protecting others, protecting ourselves—all euphemisms for trying to affect reality, to achieve some sort of control in the interest of “good,” but of course it’s always our good because we live inside our own skin and our judgements are ours, and any attempt to deny this is simply deflection.
— § —
- That if I keep typing, I end up at nihilism.
- That if I keep typing, I end up at facile, adolescent embarrassment, if I’m not there already.
I’d like to say that I resolve to tell the truth all the time, but in fact the truth of any human self is more subject to daily variation than we like to admit.
The “in the moment” people will say that telling the truth is as easy as living in the moment—say what you feel now. If you love something now, say so. If you don’t love something now, say so. That works well enough for things, but it’s harsh to people.
Most people have had the experience of living the yo-yo somewhere in their dating life. You love me! I’m in heaven! Oh, you hate me. I’m not. Wait, you love me again, I’m in heaven! Is that any way to treat people? I don’t like it when it happens to me and I don’t like the idea of doing it to other people. Plus, I do tend to believe the wisdom which says that if you hate someone, then the fact is that you love them in some way, as love is the prerequisite of hate.
Some families of wisdom say that you shouldn’t feel affected by others’ feelings, that everyone should own their own feelings without regard to others’ feelings. “What does it matter if they love you? If you love them, live in your truth and tell them!” But of course if you love them, and telling you love them is going to hurt them, isn’t that an unresolvable paradox, since love implies the desire not to hurt?
Moreover, if love is purely a function of the giver alone, then what is the purpose of giving it in the first place? Just to express yourself before you die, with no greater purpose than that? Isn’t that the definition of nihilism?
I suppose I have to end here.
— § —
But I should make more posts like this one. More like some of the posts that I used to make. More, in fact, like some of the posts that just a bit earlier today I very mistakenly thought about deleting.
Because nihilism or not, what is the point of even being in the world if you’re just going to keep it all inside yourself forever until you die, nobody to know you and you to share nothing with anyone? Maybe it’s late at night, but in fact right now repression sounds rather the same as suicide—if you’re going to do it, your existence is, in fact, null.
— § —
One thing is certain, as a weird and mostly unrelated but not entirely unrelated aside—no matter how I feel at the moment, whether I’m in the sorrow-and-deep-regret phase or the less common indignation phase—there is no time that I have felt strongly that I want my marriage to end, and in fact almost all of my time has been dedicated to the very strong feeling that I want it to survive and thrive, and that I miss the person with whom I used to share my days.
Perhaps that gives a bit of an opening—the truth can change, yes—but you can tell something by the range of truth that you feel, and the bases that it covers.
I may think one day that I am a photographer at heart and another day that I am an academic at heart and another day that my mission in life is to flee to South America and open a dive bar under a new name, but I never think of myself as a born salesman or as a natural ballroom dance instructor. That, at least, hints at another level of truth that I am still struggling to figure out.
Maybe that’s where a word like “honesty” can begin to make some coherent sense. Who knows.