Jun 13, 2010

honesty's strange bedfellows

I was raised to tell the truth.

I think of this now and then, how very clear my parents were that they would not tolerate lying, How very often life lessons, punishments, arguments were rooted in the desire for me to become an honest person.

Very honorable sentiment, very respectable goal.

And it is always not just a pleasure, but a relief, when someone says exactly what they mean.
With their words I mean.

But those are words.
Words words words.
Things we think we mean and so we say them.

But lately it's come to my attention all the other manners of communication that fall by the wayside as we attempt to make our words foolproof.
All those shades of gray presented with varying levels of authenticity that can be found in the subtleties of our interactions, in the prioritizations of our passions, in the things we choose to do and not to do.

I have a friend. We'll say for the sake of conversation that she is a good friend. Not, necessarily a close friend, because there are definitely things we wouldn't talk about, but you know, she is an old dear friend.

And she has never been to my house. Not ever. I don't even know that she knows where I live.

Now this could be attributed to a variety of factors: frantic lifestyles, strange coincidence, you name it.
But there is more to it than this.
First off. I have been to her house. Repeatedly. I run around town to meet her. Rearrange my schedule to spend time. I travel. And I enjoy, for the most part doing it. And she isn't disabled. She doesn't have children or sick pets. She goes to OTHER people's houses. But she doesn't go to mine.
Complicating this is the pressure *I* get to visit. How nice it would be to see me. How much she misses me. Would there be any reason I would be in her hood? And yes. and sure. And I will try. And hey, I tell her, you are always welcome to stop by as well.
This goes without response.
And then we tell the lie that is not a lie in words but is evidently false when backed by our actions: I care about you. I miss you.
And I find myself thinking of how they care about me. They care about me in their space but are not really concerned about my life and space. They are, in fact, not even curious enough to get in a car and make the long trip over to my side of the river. They, quite actually, avoid references to my side of the world, my end of the social spectrum, to reasons and opportunities to come see me. And I begin to feel awkward when I mention working on the kitchen they have never seen. Resting on the couch they have never sat on. Saving money for a mortgage on a home that does not, in their mind's eye, really exist.
It is as i my private life and and the space I inhabit are...not extant.
This is how they miss me, this is how they care about me.

And then I start to tell the same lie: that I am busy, I don't have the time or money or whatever to participate in their life. But I miss them. We should hang out soon.


And the irony is that I DO miss them. I DO care about them. I want to have a phone or email conversation about the latest big news or their newest favorite song. I do not wish to create space, I do not wish to severe contact. I believe they feel the same. But over time one thing has become very clear: I am not a priority. I am not even really curiosity. And perhaps what they miss has more to do with what I occasionally symbolize or on occasion provide, then the actual me that exists in my home, with my pets, with my partner. Their absolute lack of wonderment about how I live my life honestly communicates something we could never politely communicate with words. And I am learning to return the sentiment.

It's these...variances, shall we say, in ninth commandment that get to me sometimes.

Because most children are taught that honesty is the best policy, but then, over time, they learn, like the rest of us, to develop less than totally forthcoming communication, and relationships with big holes in what should be candid interaction. They attend family reunions in which you hug an aunt you barely know and tell them you love them. They call grandma and make sure to tell her absolutely nothing really relevant or thought provoking about their lives.
They create palpable distance with their actions, and mutter the same words that mean something very different when said to a close partner or friend "I miss you, I love you"

I don't know. Maybe there should be different words. Better words. Or maybe we should be trained with different expectations around polite interaction, intimate expectations and the almighty search for the truth.

Lest we grow up saying a bunch of words that sound true, and should be true, but are in all actuality, as far from the truth as we can imagine. Lest we grow up to be ghosts of intension, and shadows of actual sincerity.

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