The wind whispered to me…
Acknowledging what’s real can be complicated.
Not because the situation is complicated. Maybe it is, but generally the reality of it is not.
Not because we don’t know what’s real. I’ve found that I usually do know what’s going on, even when I don’t want to acknowledge or accept it.
I saw this through my dad’s decline with dementia – surely it isn’t possible that he lost the ability overnight to understand how a TV remote works… is it? – and through the precipitous change in communication with a man I was dating – surely he’s just overwhelmed, because who goes from communicating daily to once a week or less for no apparent reason? – among many other circumstances.
(Hint: “surely” is one of my canary words that tells
a truth if only I’ll listen. Almost without exception, when I
think something “surely” can’t happen, it’s a sign
that it not only can happen… it’s already has happened.)
No… Acknowledging what’s real can be complicated because we deeply want to believe in a more appealing falsehood.
I’ve felt heavy for the last few days. I don’t mean the usual holiday physical heaviness from eating all the once-a-year goodies at party after party – 2020 isn’t the year for that, anyway. And I don’t mean even the heaviness of 2020, with its pandemic and political pain.
I woke up feeling weighted down with knowledge that I’d tried to deny but needed to face. A relationship that had been precious to me needed to end.
Actually, since I’m facing reality: a relationship that had been precious to me had ended, and I needed to catch up.
And here’s the thing about our inner knowings: once we know, once we feel the truth of a situation in our bones, we can’t not know anymore.
We may pretend not to know, but the truth always seeps out, and denying what’s true only draws out the pain.
So what do we do when we know and wish we didn’t? Surely there’s an easier way. (There’s that canary word again.)
The only way out, as the saying goes, is through. Through the knowing, through the deciding to act in accord with the knowing or consciously deciding to deny that knowledge.
And conscious disregard brings a heavy price. Though we like to believe that maybe, just maybe, everything will work out this time, the truth is that disavowing the truth always has consequences. The question is whether we’re willing to risk those consequences.
I knew my marriage would not survive within a few months after the wedding. I didn’t think it was doomed; I knew it was.
And yet I consciously decided not to know. To live in the possibility that things could change. To insist on marriage counseling again, hoping that the “right” counselor could turn things around. To “earn my way out of the marriage” by trying absolutely everything for as long as I could stand it.
I said repeatedly that I wanted to be able to look back and know that I’d tried every possible avenue to save the marriage. I said my vow deserved that respect. I said I’d be willing to pay the price that would come due if I (note: not we but I) couldn’t save the marriage.
I paid for that decision with six years of my life. Most truths don’t come with consequences that weighty, fortunately, but denying them always costs something.
And so today, I face the decision again: do I choose to accept an unpalatable truth, or will I take the pretty lie instead?
There’s a cost to acknowledging the truth I wish I didn’t know, but that cost is certain; the cost of exercising my choice to pretend is unknown and therefore it seems less clear. Thanks to that cost calculation, acknowledging what’s true can be complicated.
But when I listen to the wind, the message is clear: You know. You cannot pretend you don’t know. Your choice is whether to act on your knowledge and the price you’ll pay. That’s all.