We all have rules about what we’ll say and what we won’t. Some people feel that withholding any thought or feeling is the same thing as lying. Others live by radical honesty. Even if it hurts or offends someone else, they will always speak their truth.
Then there are those who subscribe to the power of the little white lie: the half-truths or carefully held tongues that smooth over social interactions. The ones who feel that if you can’t say anything nice you shouldn’t say anything at all. The ones who agree with Abraham Lincoln (or was it Mark Twain?) who advised “It’s better to remain quiet and be a thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
The result is that in an average day there is a whole lot we don’t say.
We say everything is fine when it isn’t.
We don’t tell people about the fantasy we just had about them.
We pretend to pay attention in a meeting but inside we are in a full-on anxiety attack.
We don’t tell you how your butt really looks in those jeans.
We don’t share the despair/rage/giddiness/confusion that is clawing at our soul.
What makes it worse? If we keep on doing it, we stop speaking the truth even to ourselves. We start to believe our own lies. We ignore what we refuse to say until the day comes when it cannot be held in any longer… or we stop feeling at all.
Speaking the unvarnished truth, even just to ourselves, is no easy thing. In fact, it can be downright terrifying. When the truth is that you stopped believing in God, or that you’re no longer in love with the person you married or that the children you raised turned out to be kind of awful, it’s no wonder that we shy away from speaking it, even to ourselves.
Families, business relationships, and maybe even all of society operate smoothly because we all agree on the things not to say. But what can be comfortable in the short run is toxic in the long run. When we pretend things are right when they are not, we wound ourselves and all those around us. When we refuse to speak up because it could get awkward, we are condoning the other person’s behavior. If it’s talking with their mouth full, it might not be such a big deal. But if it’s a racist or homophobic remark that we leave unchecked, we become complicit in the other person’s bigotry.
This blog has languished for several months, mostly because I’ve been not-saying so many things that I find myself overwhelmed when I try. It has become easier to assume no one wants to hear what I have to say anyway. The sheer number of thoughts to unpack is daunting.
Even as I’ve been busy decluttering my possessions this summer, I’ve been cramming my mental closets full of things to think about later.
It is time for an airing out. It’s time to test out ideas and take them for a test drive. Some may need to be discarded. Some might not fit anymore. Many will make me sad and wistful. Others will make me angry with bitter regret.
Most of it won’t ever be spoken aloud, let alone published on this little piece of internet real estate. But it’s time they are said.
What haven’t you been saying?
Picture taken by me with a Nikon D3400.
I picked a photo of the Oregon Coast
because it is both beautiful and deadly…
like my brain feels much of the time.