Yesterday, I said something to someone that I instantly regretted. Not because it wasn’t true but because it was uncomfortably true. As soon as I said it I knew they were going to leave me. Maybe not completely and forever, but it was going to change our relationship in a way that I didn’t want. I didn’t say it in anger. I said it because I didn’t understand why she was doing something. And as soon as I said it I knew I had broken my number one rule, “Never be honest with people.” If you’re honest they’ll go away.
Loneliness has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. The way I deal with it is by telling people what they want to hear. The intellectual part of my brain says this is not a good way to go through life. But the primal part of my brain says this is how you survive. If you want me to be honest with you, you’re going to have to wait a few years until I know you won’t bolt.
If you corner me for my opinion, I’ll say something funny to distract you. While you’re laughing, I’ll suddenly see someone across the room that I need to talk to immediately. Being honest means trusting people. I’m not so good at that. I’d rather have people around me for the wrong reasons than be alone for the right ones. That’s what happens when you can’t see past your pain. You reach out for the tiniest bit of relief even if you know it’ll hurt you more in the long run.
But then one day, if you’re lucky, you meet someone who knocks you upside the head with their honesty and strength and you start to question some core beliefs. That lady I said the thing to? She didn’t kick me out of the car. She got real quiet for a while. And then she said, “I hate you. I hate that you saw that in me. I hate that I can’t hide this stuff from you.”
We didn’t talk much until she pulled up at the airport to let me out. I was waiting for her to say, “I’ll call you sometime” which means they aren’t calling you sometime, anytime, or ever again. Instead, she said, “Thank you.”
I said, “For what?”
She said, “For showing me what I need to work on.”
I wanted to say, “You don’t have to work on anything. You’re great! I like you just the way you are.” That was the old me. The me from 10 minutes ago. The me that would bend any painful truth into a little ball he could hide away so no one got hurt.
Instead, I said, “I’m here no matter where this takes you.” Then I got on a plane and came home.
I don’t know why I didn’t try to patch things up right there in the departure lane at Oakland International. All I remember is that there was a sense of gratitude in her thank you I couldn’t avoid. It was the most courageous thank you I’ve ever heard. It made me want to match her courage with my own.
So now I’m going to try to be more honest with people. It’s probably going to hurt me more than anyone because love and connection are the things I value most. Until now, it didn’t matter how I got them. But that feeling on the sidewalk outside the airport, I want that back. I want to be surprised by people’s trust and willingness to forgive my poor timing and awkwardness. Tonight I’m going to write that lady in Oakland and thank her for showing me what I need to work on.
That’s the kind of story we’re looking for at the next Fresh Ground Stories. The theme is, “Transformations – Stories that changed you.”
Tell us about a time where you were transformed in some way. What happened to change the way you saw yourself or the world? Were you grateful when it happened? Did it change you in a way you wish it hadn’t? Are you a better person now because of how it all went down?
Here are the rules and guidelines for telling a story: https://freshgroundstories.com/2013/01/22/storytelling-rules-and-guidelines/
Make sure the story is clean, practiced, and under 8 minutes. We’re getting more names in Mr. Coffee and some folks aren’t getting to share their story because we run out of time. Your story can be as short as you want but not over 8 minutes. Thanks for understanding.