The Truth

On wanting to be real on paper. On wanting to include all the messy bits.

Aug 27 · 5 min read
Photo by Jeanne Blanche on Unsplash

I search for writing from flawed individuals. Or at least writing that doesn’t shy away from including all the flaws of the individual, of the individual’s life, of life itself.

I want to write stories and articles that will inspire others. But, the truth is, I find life rather more messy than that.

Is it just my age (51)? Or, is it a desire to be honest? A need to be honest? I want that from other writers now. And I want to be as honest as I can when writing.

Why is this important?

I know why. It’s terribly important. Because, otherwise, we feel so much more alone. When I read writing from authors that have it all together, I wince, feeling acutely how much I… don’t.

A few years ago when we were getting in the car, running late for school, I am sure, my daughter said, “Mom, you’re so not on top of things.”

It stung. I knew she was right.

Of course I want to be on top of things.

Of course I want to be more organized.

Of course I can do better.

But the journey, or my journey, anyway, is… something else. It’s still unfolding.

And these things are of course relative. Sure, I’m less organized than many. It’s true. I know that.

But it can’t be that bad. I still own my house. I haven’t lost it to the bank or anyone else. I have my dear retriever at my feet at the moment, her dear wet black nose turned toward my toe, where she can sniff to her heart’s delight. I have the jazz station on, the Jazz Oasis show on 91.1 (San Francisco Bay Area) playing a particularly pretty ballad. I have chicken sizzling on the stove, ready to be turned two minutes ago.

My son taking a coding test on the computer in the living room. My daughter upstairs in her bedroom with her best friend. The light in the late summer sky fading. The mountain through my living room window suffused with rosy light. The front door open, the screen door shut, and latched, to let in the cooler evening air. The weather, ideal, as it usually (still) is in this part of the world, one of the things that makes the Bay Area such a desirable place to live.

I have my neighbors across the street and all around me, a panoply of interesting folks, mycologists, musicians, teachers, air traffic controllers, artists, and writers. And two fiddlers to boot. Three if you include my son.

I have the ear I’ve developed over the years that tells me when the chicken needs to be turned. So, I don’t need to set a timer. And that turning needs to happen… now.

What I’m trying to say, it’s never going to be right. And yet, it’s also all so right. It’s all a matter of perspective, really. And that’s what I’m finally learning, maybe.

I’ve had some anxiety lately.

I’ve become addicted to my phone. Like the rest of us. I thought it wouldn’t happen to me. It did.

So, I now leave my phone at home whenever I can. I turn it off at night when I remember to do so. It’s helping a little. I’m aware I have a problem. I’m aware that instead of letting the world impact me, instead of experiencing the world head-on, fully, with presence, with courage, I’m shying away.

What I was trying to say is, it’s never right. I’m having anxiety. I’m having anxiety because I’m addicted to my phone AND my anxiety is making me turn to the phone for distraction, for relief, in an endless cycle.

The problem is, the relief it provides is the same feeling I get when I eat 1/3 of my daughter’s freshly baked chocolate-chip cookies. Or just go at the cake on the pedestal, not bothering to cut a piece, until I’ve dug a cave into the cake, and I know half is gone, and I know in ten minutes I’m going to feel like shit. And that it’s going to last hours. Maybe even into the next day.

What’s my point, though?

Right. Anxiety.

I have finally recognized that I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life. In fact, it’s gotten a lot better, for the most part. In fact, I wrote earlier this summer about how I had a couple of experiences (shingles and a colonoscopy during which they administered fentanyl) where I was suddenly bright and shiny, cleaned of my anxiety. Free of my anxiety. And how amazing it felt.

I think being free of it is what showed me, told me, how acute it really is, and what a problem it really is.

What I’m trying to say though, is that, even with my struggles with my nemesis (anxiety), my life is… incredibly great. When I remember to look at it that way. It’s a matter of perspective. And if I can’t summon the wherewithal to focus on the positive (as I know we all should do, and it really is great when you can), I now know to remind myself of this all-important phrase: “IT WILL PASS. YOU WILL NOT ALWAYS FEEL THIS WAY.”

That sentence is a life-saver.

Knowing the desperate feeling, that clawing, knife-edged feeling of unworthiness, of pain, of shame, of fear, guilt, terror, knowing that IT WILL PASS is crucial.

If only all of us could know and understand, and believe, this to be true.

I know only because I’ve experienced it. I have gotten through. I have noticed, two days out, when I think to be a bit reflective… ah. On Monday, I wasn’t sure life was worth living. Today, the Dutch blue cornflowers springing from the sidewalk crack have me captivated. As if this is all it takes to be happy.

My point is, I know I could do better, be better.

Yes, I have/had dreams like the rest of us.

Yes, I am in the second half of my life.

No, I have not worked hard to realize my dreams. In fact, when I’ve been given opportunities (and I have), I have shied away from them. Run pell-mell, in fact.

Away.

The opposite direction.

That’s the truth.

I saw a new movie last night, playing in theaters now. It’s called “Where’d You Go, Bernadette?” and it’s really lovely. I loved it. I was elated when I left the theater. Yes, I realize Bernadette was rich, and so intensely talented that all she had to do was make the decision, and her life took a fantastic new turn. But, still. Yes, it’s a fantasy, but it inspired me.

I thought, we can be crazy. We can be shooting ourselves in the foot right and left. All it takes is a little turn, a little turn in the right direction, a little fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude, for things to change. And, sure, we may not be famous, we may not stumble into massive wealth. But maybe just a little bit more of the dream is enough. Maybe just being in an environment where we feel seen, where we feel proud, where the shame can be abated, is enough. Maybe just a little more money, earned through a channel we can be proud of, is enough.

Since my life is already perfect, it won’t hurt to turn a little more in the direction of my dream.

Just maybe.

Christiana White

Written by

I write personal essays about food, travel, love, loss — the viscera of life. Currently at work on a memoir. Visit me at ChristianaWhite.com.

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