“To be completely honest…”

“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.

I’m sad.

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.


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28 Replies to ““To be completely honest…””

  1. Once again, your writing has touched my heart. Thank you for sharing yourself in this way–honestly!

  2. Reading that made me tear up for two reasons. One, I remembered the day I had to tell the vet it’s time, and I stood there and watched as the needle was injected into my friend, and as I caressed his body and watched his eyes slowly close, I felt a part of me slip away. Two, I’m dreading the day when I have to go through that pain again with my current best friend, whose been more faithful and devoted to me than any person I have ever known. The worst part is feeling that overwhelming need to just let go, to let all of the sadness out, but being afraid to do it in front of other people, and having to go into a room by myself and express my grief alone.

  3. Lisa,
    I, too, have lost too many “best friends”…little four-legged (or three-legged) soul mates. And still, I cannot talk about their loss without crying. After a time (maybe, because I still struggle with this), you won’t remember the end so much, but more of what made you laugh. I really don’t have any words of wisdom or any special cure for grief, except to say that is part of loving.

  4. I hate this statement, too, in the wrong context, but SOMETIMES it is the perfect expression. Maybe it would be better said as “To be completely open” or “To be completely defenseless” or “Let’s just drop the masks for a minute”, but, since we CAN’T just express ourselves fully in every conversation, I don’t think it’s wrong to stipulate that most of the time we simply cannot be fully honest.

    That said, most of the time when we say “To be completely honest”, it’s just filler. THAT is when I hate to catch myself saying it. Idiot 🙂

  5. I have to stop reading these while I am at work. They always make me cry because I can always relate to them.

    Warm thoughts sent your way.

    Wendy B

  6. Indeed. After my kids were born, I learned there are the parents who will always say that parenting is wonderful and beautiful and their kids are a blessing and perfect and … well, it’s all just Great! And then there are the parents who are honest about the whole situation. I much preferred sitting and talking with the latter group. And it’s much the same with other aspects of modern life. I grow tired of the shallowness of the every day exchanges and the inauthentic “relationships” we now have because of social media.

    Sorry to hear about Grace, but I’m glad you have found some ways to vent your grief.

  7. Your grief is honest. I lost my soul mate 3 years ago. I rarely cry any more but brandy is with me always. She helped me when no one else could reach me. I rescued her and she turned around and resourced me. If I was your friend we could just sit and you could cry to your hearts content with someone who completely understands.

  8. As you said, it´s a human feeling. Nothing more to say….just feel and remember those crazy and funny days with Grace. It´s not a solution but…what else we can do???….that´s what i´m trying to do too.

  9. To be completely honest, you are one of the most remarkable, extraordinary people I’ve ever met. May all of us always have people around us who we can cry on. ❤

  10. I too find the figure of speech annoying, along with its variants “to tell the truth”, “if truth be known”, etc.

    The previous comment about openness as what’s meant by “to be honest” is bang on. Emotional transparency is a delicate matter. As I read YLLTG, I was struck by Lisa’s emotional transparency which presumes an advanced state of self-awareness and also takes courage to express – particularly for introverts like us.

    As we used to hear on Perry Mason, telling the truth (or merely refraining from telling a lie) is different from telling the whole truth. The whole truth is, or can be, holy ground. We don’t step there often. Whether we should step there more often, and when to, and how to decide to… those are interesting and important questions.

  11. Thank you for sharing this post it was so beautifully written. No am so sorry you have lost your best friend and I wish you peace, in time. How wonderful to have such a genuinely good friend you can cry with. ❤️

  12. Lisa, as usual, you pierce right through to the heart of the matter. We are so afraid of exposing ourselves we spend far too much time and effort in dissembling, and thus miss an opportunity to share both pain and hope.

  13. I was recently diagnosed with depression and I have had a hard time handling it. I hadn’t told anyone until this morning. A dear friend did exactly the same thing to me. She truly, deeply looked me in the eyes when I said “fine” about how I was feeling and said “No, no you’re not. Your eyes are too flat. So I ask again, how are you?” I hate putting my crap on other people but that moment of genuine concern cut through my BS like a knife. I will treasure that woman until the day I die for that one act of authentic kindness. It taught me to reach out.

  14. Lisa. Thank you for just, writing. Really. I can’t express how real it is to me when you write from your own experiences. It’s the most real writing I have found yet.

  15. It might be silly, but that’s exactly why I like that Pixar movie “Inside Out”: it finally shows that you don’t have to pretend to be happy all the time. You need to give voice to your sadness, not be ashamed of it, because otherwise how will people with the power to actually help you out, know that you really need them to be there? The key to tranquility is acknowledging all your feelings, not just the happy ones but the sad ones too, and the angry ones.

  16. Love, love this! I’m a new blogger, and I found your blog. .. I agree with your perspective. We don’t need to be sorry for our emotions, but we need to embrace the fact that we can feel pain but also happiness. Pain isn’t always a bad thing. ❤

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