Sunday, October 16, 2011

Houses of Glass

     On Tuesday evening, my life will be the focus of a two hour discussion on the internet. While there are nooks and crannies too personal or involving others that will not be voiced, most everything about my inner heart and soul is on the table.

     Uncomfortable with braggadocio and self-importance, I have spent much of these past years examining my motives for writing this blog and book, singing songs and telling such personal stories, even speaking out on national public radio about the loss of my home due to a sub-prime mortgage. The airing of such laundry can be humiliating and embarrassing to me, mortifying and shockingly inappropriate to others who are somehow related, and a red-flag for friends and lovers who might want to get closer.

     The subject of this conversation ostensibly is about joy, the pursuit of happiness and love conquering all. I am fascinated by the dynamic between dreams and expectations, looking at the way I have lived my own life in alignment with or deviation from the passion of my heart and am moved to share my story as one humble example in the way of the world.

     The real matter of interest to me, however, is the deeper topic of truth and honesty and the suspicion that glossing over certain details blocks energy that holds us back from the dreams that drive us forward. Some people are more comfortable with their dirt under beautiful carpets, but I find the joy rings falsely without acknowledgment of the effort it takes daily to sweep a life clean.

     Given my external state of affairs, and the trail of hurt bodies and flimsy finances in my wake, my burning desire is to understand how such a strong intention of love could create so much pain and frustration. More importantly, I am petrified that not facing the reality condemns me to awful repetitions.

     Perhaps a result of growing up in a home where floor to ceiling windows stretched across the entire expanse of the living area, exposing our family at night to the gaze of any passer-by, and often displayed in home design magazines, I have always been more comfortable than most with exhibiting very personal aspects of my life, cringing only a little when boundaries have been crossed. Strong enough to take responsibility for my actions, I am also willing to take the risk of wearing my heart on my sleeve, making fun of my foibles even more than celebrating my worthy traits.

     As a bonus, the more I wrestle with my own emotions—both appropriate and unseemly—and expose them to the judgment of others, the more hearts open in response and share themselves with me. In many blessed and beautiful relationships, we are both the better for the exposure.

     The scientific definition of inertia works perfectly here where once set in motion, a much larger force is required to bring an object back to rest. People yearning for connection welcome and admire one’s willingness to take a risk and step a little further out themselves onto that scary platform of their choice.  
     I am comfortable to bear my own soul with humility, to take those first bold steps in trust that I will not be abused, in confidence that my truth is honest for being my very own--if not always exactly aligned with another in (or out of) the room--and in honor of the sacred act of healing.

     This attitude, which may be fine for me, is clearly not acceptable to everyone. The consequences of being too honest sometimes can shatter the appropriate boundaries as easily as a dog bone launched from a lawn-mower once broke the twelve foot span of glass in our home. Simply confessing, “I meant no harm,” may aide the healing of an emotional scar, but does not get the glass back into the opening any more quickly. When two separate lives are inter-mixed, the danger increases fourfold.  Damage can easily be done that cannot always be repaired. 

     The actual details of my individual and very personal circumstances are much less relevant to this story than is the more universal characterization of one man’s journey across very slippery slopes that so many of us in our own stories might have to navigate. Beyond a little voyeuristic entertainment, what is valuable to you, I hope, would be your own particular path, the similarities or differences more  than any particular left or right turn I might have taken or person with whom I might have danced along the way.

     As an individual, how I personally have been affected by my interactions with others who contracted to be a part of my life is what interests me here. Each step together changes the direction and moderates the tempo of how I dance and all the dances together add up to one beautifully sweet and sometimes bitter song.

    No matter the impact, however, having once danced together, I will forever tread lightly for fear of stepping clumsily.  I trust that others in my life will understand that in telling my own tall tales, I usually consider my words carefully, having no cause or willingness to crush your tender toes or throw stones into your own very private and precious home.

     And to whom it may concern, when the glass feels broken anyway, I extend my sincerest wish that we may embrace the misunderstanding as an avenue of truth that leads to healing, no matter how careless I at first may seem. Where I have truly been awkward, I am now better able to own it and say simply, "I am sorry." without attempting to justify my clean carpet with the excuse underneath that I meant no harm.
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Carol Woodliff said...


I think many of us are trying to navigate this new world of being more open, transparent and vulnerable. One of the things many of us have been taught is that our humanness is something we need to hide. I'm like you, I'd rather sweep out what is under the carpet but how we do that and be loving to those who would prefer us not to is an interesting challenge. Good luck on Kate's show. I suspect it will be a great conversation! I'll have to catch it on replay as I have clients scheduled when it airs live.

kate loving shenk said...

Hi Kip-- honesty is the word and action of the day. I know we are up to the challenge!