“The truth.” Dumbledore sighed. “It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution.”
― J.K. Rowling,
The age old question of what is Truth rolls around in my head from time to time. On the base level, I get it. “I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God.” That part’s easy.
The truth that I struggle with is the kind that comes dressed up in different clothes. It’s the one who sidles up to you, gets into your subconscious thought process and then brings the nasty stuff to the forefront of your mind. You know the one, the voice who nags you, “Who are you kidding? You’re not cut out for this. You don’t have the skills.” THAT truth. The one which, if I am not careful and mindful, creeps into my daily living, slows down my mojo, makes me furrow my brow and look for a fight.
Many days, I am pretty good at shutting that voice down. I tell myself a number of things: “I am worthwhile. I have value. I am a beautiful masterpiece. I am a miracle. I am a child of God.” This usually helps warm me up inside to just the right temperature that I have a sense of balance and a calm. I remind myself that I will not allow those toxic thoughts to knock me off my square or to impede my happiness.
But sometimes, it doesn’t come as a voice. Sometimes, it’s someone else. Last night after the meeting I chair, a woman with whom I am not very close told me this: “I am challenging you to two weeks to NOT talk about your daughter in your shares. You’ll grow so much more and so will she. Two weeks!”
Something you should know about me is that on-the-spot-responses-when feeling-backed-into-a corner do not suit me. If I am asked about literature I’ve read, fire away. But myself? No, answers do not come easily or naturally. I felt immediately the blood in my face pulsate in every direction. I was very aware that my heart rate increased rapidly. I honestly do not recall what I said in response, but it was something along the lines of “What?” spewing out in a sharp tone with my face telling all of my innermost secrets of what I thought about her in that moment.
“Yep,” she continued. “Two weeks.”
I turned around and walked away. She may have still been talking; I don’t know. What I do know is that for THREE hours I was pissed off beyond what is normal. So I called my sponsor and detailed what happened. I don’t share about my daughter every time and quite frankly, even if I did, it’s none of her business. My sponsor told me to ignore her, stay away from her and continue to work my own program. Sage advice which I tried to heed. Really. I did.
But something came roaring out in me that I couldn’t ignore. What was at the bottom of my button being pushed? I don’t care what her intention was; she was inappropriate. One thing we pride ourselves on in AA is working on keeping our own side of the street clean. Offering unsolicited advice (unless it’s your sponsor or someone with whom you’re really close) is off limits. Suggest ideas but don’t demand that other people do what you tell them to do. What I did want to explore was my reaction. Why was I so angry? What button was going off inside me? But in order to do that, I had to first turn off the voices that were telling me I “should have” handled it better. I “should have” taken a deep breath, smiled, and calmly said, “Thank you. I’ll take it under consideration.” and then let it go and be done. But that isn’t how I handled it. I fumed; I shamed myself; I wanted to rip someone’s head off. An hour later, I wished I had her number because I had some pretty good comebacks (Ain’t that always the way…).
So what I learned is that I felt like I was being told what to do. I don’t respond well to that. Being the youngest of nine, I played that role for far too long; in fact, I still have to remind my siblings that calling me Lala is a little ridiculous. I had to dig deeper though. What was the Truth?
The Truth is I felt small and I felt less than. I felt someone else was calling me inadequate. I believed I was being told that someone else had a better way of taking care of me and that I wasn’t doing it right. If I didn’t still believe that deep inside on some level, I would not have cared, and I could have responded differently. Yet even after working for 28 months daily on my sobriety, I still have inner cleaning to do. I still have to find new messages to play so when the 8 track tape comes out of hiding, I can dismiss it and say, “Wow, I don’t even own a tape player anymore, so I can’t play that message.”
To take a look at this today and to discover this Truth was a little disconcerting. I wanted to believe I was further along in my self talk and subsequently, my self love. I had hoped that I could dismiss her comments. I wanted to be the duck for crap’s sake and let it roll off my back like water droplets! <insert stomping of the foot here> But I am not a duck. YET.
The good news is I get to look at myself today and have an honest talk with my inner self. The old me would have lashed out and gone for the jugular. I would have been flippant and rude and probably would have made sure she never opened her mouth to me ever again. But I didn’t do any of that. Other than the disgusted look I gave her, I was restrained and I am going to give myself credit for that.
Today, I do know that other people have their own Truth and I don’t have to share that with them. We can be different in that way. So while the truth (little “t”) hurts, I need to be careful with it and discern what is true, truth and Truth and really let the rest go. The best part is that life has a way of handing me lessons. Since I haven’t mastered this one, I can be sure it will reemerge in another way and then I’ll have another chance to be a duck.