Honesty. I love honesty. Not the false honesty of someone trying to impress and not that hideous “This is just how it is so deal with it” stuff that people bludgeon others with. Honesty is the one quality in writing and in people that I treasure above all others; it’s what makes people real to me.
I love the honesty that says, ‘I cried when I saw that hummingbird. I don’t really know why. It was just so beautiful.’ Or ‘I was so angry that I thought my soul would quiver out of my chest with rage. But you know, he didn’t deserve that.’
It’s the kind of honesty I see in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking that I just started reading this weekend. Her experience of loss and of grief and of confusion and pain and fear and anger is raw and untempered. As her words reach my spirit, I feel myself sigh with relief – ah, finally, someone is real about this pain.
Our society, particularly our American Christian society, does not do well with pain and grief. It’s too messy, too lengthy, too varied. We like answers and solutions and concrete ways that we can “help” by doing things – make a casserole, serve a dinner, say we’ll pray. We don’t like pain that takes months and years to heal, that requires us to care for our friends in hard ways like listening or simply stopping by. We would rather people just buck up and bear it – the whole “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.
This does not work with grief. Grief is mornings spent watching women’s lacrosse because it’s too painful to sit in your chair with hers empty. It is sobbing so loudly when you see a woman with silver hair in the store. It is being haggard and lost for months, staring out windows and having people you love keep looking to see what you see . . . and there’s nothing there.
This is the honest truth, and we would do well by each other to see it and honor it. If we could relish each other for our honest selves – messy, broken, mean, angry, gorgeous, powerful, strong, compassionate beings – well, then we would learn to see that there is not real danger in being honest. Instead, it’s like giving someone a mirror and saying, “See, it’s okay. I’m a beautiful mess, too.”