Every once in a while, someone says something to me that is so simple and so profound that it stops me in my tracks. That happened yesterday when I was speaking to the class at UM.
I had told my story (small-town Montana boy, priest, ex-priest, counselor, addiction, MRSA, HIV, etc) and shared my counseling philosophy (primarily Gestalt) and my life philosophy (primarily Positive). I had a great time, but I could tell some people just didn’t know what to do with me.
Afterward, a student said, “How could you be so brutally honest like that in front of strangers? I’m so impressed, I could never talk about those things in front of people.”
I made some kind of “it’s no big deal” remark, thanked her and we all left. Later, as I was walking to my car, I thought, “It is kind of a big deal, I never could have done that four years ago, but today, I don’t think twice about it. Maybe that’s why some people don’t know what to do with me.”
I played my hunch and did what I usually do when I need a fresh perspective- I called Ken.
Ken and I have this psychic sort of symbiosis. When I’m crazed, he’s calm and vice versa. He can help me clarify my thinking like no one else I know. And when he makes me frustrated, I realize how silly it is to be frustrated. Hard to explain, it just works. We both hold the same values and share a similar vision of life. Our enjoyment in each others triumphs and foibles echoes something that I can only call shared respect. I look at him and I think “Wow- he’s been to hell and back and maybe not even back and is still so giving and generous and kind.”
I’m amazed. Really. And I think he feels the same about me, too. He tells me, and sometimes I even believe him. More importantly, because I work at being honest with him more than anyone else, I trust how he sees me. He reminds me of who I am when I forget.
Anyway, I called Ken and told him the story. And this is what I remember him saying: “Once you see the shit for what it is, you never want to go back- hiding is no longer an option.”
And that’s true. I’ve seen the pain and grief and sorrow that being ashamed and dishonest have brought to me, my family, my friends and even strangers. I’ve seen the joy and pleasure that my honesty and integrity have brought the same. Am I always completely honest? Sadly, no. Am I better at it? Definitely- but only because I was in too much pain to continue, and it also made complete sense for me to change. That pain and that sense keep me from going back to that place. That and honesty.
If I can let go of my attachment to my image or position or idea or anything- and just be real, as real as I can, as real as I felt in that classroom, life flows so easily for me. Flows so easily that sometimes I forget.
But it’s so nice to be reminded….