I had a meeting with a life/career coach kinda friend, and she’s helping me try to distill what I write about, what I’m about, so that I can sell my wording, myself. It’s all very scary and dances all over my ego, but if I’m earnestly going to get my art out into the world, I have to understand what my art is. On first attempt, this is what I came up with…kindness and truth.
Why kindness? I think kindness is balm, and I aim to be a healer. I think being human hurts like hell and applying kindness to the hurt soothes and heals. I also think we mask-up, wall-up so routinely to protect ourselves from others, protect others from ourselves, and that kindness penetrates the shell and surprises us. It allows us to be tender, and that feels good, real, a relief.
Why truth? It’s basically the same- truth is surprising and penetrates the shell. It feels too vulnerable to admit how much we’re struggling to just survive the human experience, but TRUTHFULLY, we’re all insecure, uncertain, fearful, concerned that we’re doing it wrong…sharing that truth is like handing a link to someone, saying, “you want to join my chain and we can figure out how to person together?” It’s a gift to share truth because it gives others permission to share theirs. “Oh, thank God, me, too, I’m not alone here in this.”
When I write and am trying to protect myself from revealing too much truth, or I write and I’m trying to make a grand point or take someone down, and it’s not out of kindness…it never works. It doesn’t land. It feels weird and it reads badly.
The costs of not being kind and truthful: the immediate ones are to my body. If I tell a part-truth or don’t dig deep enough, it feels like gassy poison in the base of my abdomen, like fretting, like something I have forgotten to say, an unfinished to-do list, a thought that got trapped. I feel “mentally constipated” when I don’t write and reveal the truths as I discover them. I feel harmful and disingenuous if I don’t write in kindness- like an ache in my chest. The long-term consequences of not being/writing truth and kindness is I lose all credibility to myself and others. On my deathbed, if I don’t practice truth and kindness throughout my life, if I don’t reveal myself and show my version of personing to others, and accept and honor theirs, I will have failed.
The costs of being kind and truthful: often feels like I’m revealing too much about my mental health, my relationships, my observations of the world. I worry that I’ll expose things that will hurt the people I love, especially if it’s ways that they’ve hurt me. That’s a scary thing. I worry that I should keep it closer to my chest because it’s improper to share, to reveal the rawness. I didn’t come from a background where vulnerability and truth are encouraged, and kindness was good as long as it was safe.
The intersection of truth-kindness-boundaries is a complicated place to live. The more truthful I am about how I feel, the more clear I am about what I want and will accept, and why. It goes against my conditioning and training, but I’ve come to believe that clarity (clear boundaries, my truth) is kindness. It might not be the most ‘polite’ method, the quietest or most palatable to others, but consistently sharing who I am, to fully share my me and request that others share their full them, seems like a worthy goal.
So, my stock answer when someone (An agent? A publisher with a large unmarked sac of cash?) asks what I write will be, “I write honestly and humorously about the hard parts of life; marriage, sex, parenting, loss, mental illness,” and I will know that at the root of everything I’m trying to do is kindness and truth.