I came across this quote doing some reading this week. I’m trying to ascertain my theoretical orientation with regard to counseling (harder than it sounds), and this quote stood out to me:
Isn’t that the, well, truth?
For years (14 to be exact), I lied to myself about my desires, my purpose and, ultimately, my values. It was a lie of omission more than a lie of outright falsity, or maybe it was a lie bred from lack of introspection; likely, I knew that I’d find something undesirable if I dug too deep.
But there is a bit of internal torment when we lie to ourselves. I’ve quoted Dostoyevsky on that before, who says it better than anyone else.
I lied to myself because the lie was better than the truth. That is, I told my self that my top priority in life was being a mother, that I found my ultimate sense of purpose and joy in that role. How could I say anything else, even to myself, because I had two beautiful children? I was raised in a religion/culture that values family and motherhood as the pinnacle for women, for all women. And, if the 1980s taught us anything, it was that when women ran off and got divorced, careers and new boyfriends, kids got left in the dust, latch-key, forlorn creatures eating processed food and watching dodgy television to fill the void.
I mean, that might be dramatic.
The point is, motherhood is a top priority for me, but above just about anything else is learning. That sounds a little wacky and maybe as if I’m trying to be intellectual or high-minded, but the reality is that when I’m not learning, when I’m coasting, I just kind of shut down and want to get back in bed. With my shoes on.
Learning is when I feel alive. My brain feels all lit up. I feel like I have a sense of purpose, even if it’s just to finish a book or write an article or post a class discussion. I rode horses for years because it filled this void. I was learning and overwhelmed by the learning and humbled by it, too. I take ballet now for the exact same reason.
For me, the purpose or meaning in life is the learning.
For someone else, the purpose or meaning will be different.
It might be mothering.
It might be connecting with your community.
It might be neurosurgery, digging water wells in Africa, cooking, music or visiting every country on the planet before you turn 30.
Whatever it is, there are two things I think are important: First, don’t lie to yourself about it. Be honest because the truth is the truth, even if it isn’t desirable. Second, realize that it will likely change, so embrace it in the now and live it as honestly as you can, knowing that through the living, the purpose changes.
I felt a lot of relief when I got real about my values, when I told myself the truth. And then I began to realize that if learning is what I value, if that’s what lights my socks on fire, I can add that to whatever else I do to do it all better and to feel more alive.
I can read parenting books or look at my domestic life as a way to challenge myself. I can learn new recipes. I can learn new parenting techniques. I can learn how to better fold the laundry. I’m serious about this. It sounds silly, but bringing that element into my home life makes a huge difference in my happiness here.
I can learn in just about any role, and identifying that as a key ingredient in what I do has been a paradigm shift for me.
The truth isn’t always desirable.
But desirable or not, we can’t escape it.
Anyone else told themselves any lies in an attempt to get to desirable?
It’s absolutely gorgeous outside. I feel bolstered by these blue skies, a light breeze and the coffee sitting here beside me.