I have been thinking about my last post about honesty and self-forgiveness and I realized something.
It would actually be wrong to answer every question with full honesty. Some things are not to be shared with anyone who asks. Some things are private. Some pieces of information should be withheld to keep us safe.
I'm focusing on the privacy issue for the moment. When I was explaining my hangups about honesty to Donald, I realized that my goal is not to answer every question honestly. A balance must be struck between honesty and privacy.
I think my worries about how honest I am somewhat related to how we are going to protect our privacy when we have children and also how to avoid justifying our choices to others. I think these things are very linked.
Here's a scenario. Donald and I visit his parents and one of them notices that I'm not drinking alcohol at cocktail hour. Questions are asked and avoided (or met with lies), assumptions are made, and information we wanted to have kept private is out in the open. How do we navigate these types of social situations with straightforward communication that doesn't alienate people and preserves our privacy? Do we have to just stay home to avoid awkward questions?
I think it's funny that these are the questions that keep me up at night when I think about having kids. It's not about money or danger or how to raise them or worries about birth, it's about how to handle questions without feeling stressed, how to only share the information we want to share and how to feel secure in the decisions we are making together.
Luckily, this means that my struggle with honesty is not as scary as I thought last week and I can now move on to self-forgiveness, decidedly the harder piece of all of this.
Forgiving myself is one of the hardest things for me to do. I am very hard on myself, very critical; I hold very high standards for myself.
For example, I'm volunteering with a local no-kill animal shelter as a dog walker. Many of the animals they receive have had rough lives and part of their mission is to rehabilitate these dogs and then give them to loving families who will want them forever. I believe strongly in this mission, and I know how important my time will be in walking these dogs and showing them affection.
However, I still feel inadequate. I feel like I should be solving the cause of this problem, not simply cleaning up the mess of consequences. I want to get to the root, eliminate the cause so that we don't have to keep cleaning up messes.
Donald just shakes his head and smiles at me. He admires my passion and my interest in solving world problems. He also worries that my standards for myself undermine any sense of accomplishment I might feel in the level of effort I can give. I don't want to accept it when he says that eliminating the cause is impossible for one person.
I often rail against the big problems that I want to solve and cannot. I'm trying to train myself to see the small steps as progress rather than futility. I get frustrated when I spend a lot of time on something that will continue to be a problem because we haven't eliminated the cause. Sometimes this is helpful and sometimes it means that I end my involvement in the process, which doesn't help anyone.
Do I believe that I have more power than I really have? Do I need to stop trying to change the world and simply lower my aim? If I have the power I think I have, how do I harness it and get to the place I want to be?
Passion without action is nothing. This means that even the smallest actions are better than no action. Small actions can become big actions. I simply have to remember that the short term does not equal the long term, that sustained small changes over time are often the way big changes occur.
It's about patience. It's about faith.
If this doesn't look connected to self-forgiveness, it is:
If I can accept what I have just written, then I can forgive myself for only taking small actions and not changing the world immediately.
I can forgive myself for making mistakes, for being human, for hurting other people's feelings, for abandoning things I have cared about.
I can forgive myself for doubting myself. I can forgive myself for a lack of patience and faith.
I can forgive myself for getting carried away and sometimes being selfish and misguided.
I can forgive myself for leading myself astray, for believing things I knew were not true.
I have two difficult stories that I want to share in my journey towards self-forgiveness. They will come soon. Thank you for accompanying me on this path.