This I Believe

Eileen - Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico
Entered on September 5, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in letting the truth inside tell you who you are, how you feel, and what you ought to be doing, and then, if you follow that light, I believe the truth will set you free.

In the first half of my life, I distrusted the truth that lived inside me because of the reactions of the people closest to me. I was sent to my room for being angry at my father; I was grounded for sneaking out with a boy I really liked whose family was leaving for the whole summer. The truth got me in trouble.

I decided to figure out what people wanted to hear and what they wanted me to do. I wouldn’t disappoint anyone anymore. I would just deliver the right goods. Clearly, what was wrong with me was something inside that I couldn’t see, but I knew it had to do with how I felt and what I thought and especially what I wanted.

If I could just get rid of all that, I’d be okay. People would like me. Everything would be fine.

On a dinner date, I would spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the menu. What did he want me to order? What did he want me to like?

It got increasingly complicated, the older I got. What did my students want me to teach them? What political opinion did people at this party want me to voice? What did my husband want me to like about sex?

Then my father died, and my daughter was born, and suddenly, I was in the throes of huge life experiences — grieving and birthing and mothering – all of which were beyond my control. No code of acceptable behavior could distance me from the storms within my own body and my own heart.

The truth won out over all my ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughtas.’

I started to cry and couldn’t stop without weekly therapy sessions. I found that my husband didn’t love the real me, which was exactly what I thought would happen if I opened up. But it was too lonely, lying to be loved. Who did he love, anyway? Just some fake person I had conjured up.

“Where is the woman I married?” he asked me.

“Oh, she’s gone, and she’s not coming back,” I said.

We divorced after eleven years. I started the work of building my own life from the inside out. It’s taken me fifteen years to trust myself not to sell out again for the quick fix of easy acceptance gained by pretending to be just like you.

But you know what? Today I have my freedom, and a life that is truly mine. And I believe that the truth is what gave it all to me…first by dismantling all that was false, and then, very slowly, by surrounding me with what is real.