They can’t all be lying. Right?
Updated: Dec 30, 2022
I've been thinking a lot about the changes I've experienced the past few years. Thinking about how back in 2018, I felt like I would never be well again after 3 scary bouts of diverticulitis. How in 2019, I felt like I'd never recover from the surgeries I had as a result of that illness. How in 2020 and 2021 I felt like I'd never rebound from the depression that came about as a result of making a life-changing decision that I thought would be a relief (not to mention the pandemic).
That decision was a relief in many ways in my day-to-day life, while still taking a deep toll on my heart and my mental health. I couldn't understand how making what I knew was the right decision for me could feel so bad.
It took those 2 years to wade through the pain, the confusion and the sense of being deeply rejected and shunned. It took those 2 years to heal. For the relief to seep all the way into my bones.
2022 revealed itself to be quite different early on. I started and completed a manuscript after I talked to dozens of people who had experienced situations similar to mine. I wrote every day, I shared my writing with trusted confidantes who urged me to keep going, who validated my feelings and experiences. They called me brave, complimented me on my writing and my perseverance. And I listened and nodded, all the while thinking "they're only being nice".
Just recently, I've begun to question that message: "they're only being nice". I had this moment when suddenly I realized that if people are only being nice about some things, they are probably are only being nice about other things, too. So that makes them liars. And as I carried that thought through, I realized THAT could not possibly be true. Why would I choose to surround myself with people who lie just to make me feel good?
And then I started thinking:
Maybe I am a good (if unpolished) writer?
This is something I've never really doubted, and I've always felt good about it, but having my very personal story seen and understood made me feel more vulnerable than I am generally comfortable with. But my words not only helped me feel better, they helped others. And they told me so. Which means I must be pretty good at conveying emotions and information. So, no. I do not think these people are liars.
Maybe the work I did actually really helped people?
What if all the time and energy I invested in my career actually helped people (and their dogs) live more happily together? Do I think the random people who found my work on the internet and told me it helped them are liars? Of course not, that would be ridiculous. But that teeny voice in my brain wouldn't let me believe it for a long time. That time is over. They were not lying and I was good at what I did.
Maybe my lasagna, soup, roasted chicken and hummus are actually good and my husband isn't lying to me to protect my feelings? Maybe he just eats the terrible food I make so he doesn't starve? That's crazy. Maybe when I bring corn dip to parties and people lap it up it's not because they don't want me to feel like a loser? Maybe they actually like it and they appreciate me for bringing a tasty snack?
Maybe my house is cozy and cute and welcoming? Maybe the people who come over and say "you have such a good eye" are telling the truth and my brain that tells me that my house is a hodge podge of junk is the liar?
You get the point. 2022 is the year I stopped believing my brain when it told me that everything I did was wrong. And started believing people I know I can believe. Like the person who wrote a glowing recommendation letter for grad school for me, which was so important after 2.5 years of wondering what the hell comes next, finally seeing a path forward and having someone believe in me enough to open the door. I believed my friends who came over for a little impromptu holiday cheer when they said they were so happy we could make it work. I started to believe me. And in me again.
I realize now that picking and choosing what I believe is not fair. Not to me or to anyone else. If I trust you and you tell me something is good, I should be able to believe you. If I trust you and you tell me something needs improvement or isn't so great, I should be able to believe you. And as I get better at refining my relationships and trusting myself in them, believing that little voice in the back of my head that wants me to think I suck gets smaller and smaller. So, thanks 2022.
As for that manuscript, it's still a work in progress. Much has changed internally for me since my initial rush of writing and learning, talking to and working with people (in both professional and personal capacities) and I want my final work to reflect that. To say that it's done, and that I'm done with it would be lying to myself. (And to say that it's going to happen any time soon would be an even bigger lie. 😬)
Quote in graphic attributed to Patti Smyth.