“I hate that phrase — ‘to be completely honest.’ Why do people say that? As if I want you to lie to me.”
My friend was saying this as he and I were sitting at an outdoor bar that has swings instead of seats. We were trying to solve the problems of the world over beer and french fries. So why do people start off this way when they are about to admit something difficult about their lives?
It does seem like a silly caveat, but of course there is a reason we feel the need to ramp up like that. We live in a culture where someone says how are you and the other person says I’m fine. It’s an automatic exchange. We live in a world of the thoroughly filtered selfie, the cherry-picked Facebook photo, the emotions boiled down to emojis.
It feels safe and easy to wade in these tepid, shallow relationship waters in which we risk nothing. We learn nothing. We are never vulnerable and we miss the opportunity to create a more meaningful relationship.
My dog, Grace, passed away two weeks ago. She was my best friend, my writing partner and my muse – and I am struggling to put words to my heartbreak.
But I want to put a better spin on it. I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable. I don’t want them to think they need to do anything for me. I don’t want them to worry.
But to be completely honest, my anxiety is acting up.
To be completely honest, I find it hard to focus.
To be completely honest, I cry a lot.
And this is the part where I’m supposed to pretty up my sadness and say things about how lucky we were to have Grace and how much she taught me and how someday I’ll learn how to work and walk and breathe without her. I’ll be okay.
It’s all true.
But to be completely honest, I just miss my best friend.
When we are finally open about how we really feel, it’s tempting to follow up with an apology because it feels too vulnerable, too honest. We feel guilty about having those not-so positive emotions – but that is just part of the human experience. Sadness, disappointment and loss are inevitable. I look around at the things that are going on in the world and every morning it seems there is news of more brokenness. There are real, massive, deeply troubling problems. Many of us are struggling and many of us are not talking about it. But talking about it is what we need most.
When another friend asked me how I was doing – she really asked, looking deeply into my eyes – I fell into her arms and sobbed in a yoga change room. Afterwards, I was tempted to apologize for my public melt-down, the open display of my true emotions.
But I wasn’t sorry.
So I sent her this. And with that show of gratitude and a heart emoji, I healed my own heart a little bit.
All while being completely honest.