Honesty

Let’s be honest.
Because there is no use, really, is there?
In anything else.
This, I feel, increasingly, as I get older.

The man in the pool agrees.
“After thirty years of busting my ass working…”
I joke with him: “Yes, those strategies grow thin over time;
they cease to deliver.”
We laugh.
The price of dishonesty grows.

Let’s be honest about the territories we mark out
to avoid
the ones we find a thousand ways to convince ourselves
don’t exist
that we cover over with
chocolate, muffins, lattes, and frothy, micro-brewed beers.

They are substitutes for a mother we longed for,
a vitality we once had that we crave.

Over time, the territory we live in
is anywhere but the territory our bodies occupy.
Alone, in ourselves, is the price we pay.

“I am on day 8 of my vacation,” he continues in the pool,
(and I can recognize a tilt of slurring in his voice though it is before noon, and it makes me wonder if he is not a drinker.)
“I realize, it’s the first day I don’t want a drink, I just want to go to the yoga class every morning.”
He continues saying this is the longest vacation he’s taken in years,
and I wonder if he knows how much he drinks,
or what sense he makes of the yoga difference.
He jokes, “Well, we’ll see how I feel about the drinking tonight.”

I laud him on slowing down. A big step.
(Yes, these are well-off, white people problems,
related, because of that, to the problems wealthy, white people create.)
I see the beauty in this not-particularly-attractive man reflecting
on his 50 years
and on the ‘something-that-is-no-longer-working-in-his-life.’
(“Do not tell anyone, but I think I drink too much”
he is telling me and not telling me.)

There is a stage in addiction recovery called ‘pre-contemplation.’
It speaks to the first inklings that something is wrong,
that beyond the reaches of denial, a glimmer of honesty is beginning to wake up.
Here, at the frontier of this nagging,
is a dreaded sense
of-something-one-does-not-want-to-be-true-but-fears-so,
the beginning of a whole new order of reckoning:
Reckoning with the tragedies and beauties of life,
territories that, in the end, cannot be separated from one another.

Let’s be honest
I say to myself
because there is really no use, is there,
in anything else?

I turn away from the task at hand that calls on my creativity.
I check the news on my computer.
Just *one* more time, right?
Just one more headline that might offer hope…

But let’s be honest.
My attention drifts back from the screen
into my body
back, more deeply,
down and into the threads of grief
hurt
rage
tears.
That territory.

There
with my breath
the truth beneath the story waits
held deeper still in my honest attention.

Love.
How many years has it taken to be willing to come here?
To be able to tolerate the pain?
To be able to discern
with curiosity
the next delicate layer of a now familiar story
of ogres and witches
brutal fathers and mothers who claimed not to know better?

There, a childhood is waiting to be saved,
moments of play once captured and caged,
beckon for release.
So, let’s be honest
here, together,
on this page.

Territories collide
becoming older yet younger
in the same breath.

We touch each other.
Something new is born.
This moment.

This poem.
This honesty.
This taste of Truth.

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