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Monday, July 16, 2012

Fear or love?

Choose love or fear..."There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life." ~ John Lennon

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oasis Feature: Re-post Self-disclosure and Honesty

How do you react when someone "over" shares?

Though I no longer live in the country, I think this post invites relevant introspection about our sharing boundaries.
Yes, it's true, I have lots of it! Seriously...at least three bags in the bedroom. See, it's been raining on the weekends and I wash all of my dirty clothes outside in the sun. Why? Yes, I have had modern conveniences but whenever they break, I take a break from the 21st century. Washing clothes outside reminds me of women washing by the river; I feel connected to the past and linked to an unbroken chain of peasant womanhood. Of course, women still wash clothes outside by a water source in many countries. (And, yes, it seems to be gender specific.) I look at this washing as my karma yoga, for all of you (sparse!) yogi bloggers out there. I kind of imagine myself out in another country, say India, next to the spiritually renown and polluted Ganges or in Peru, next to the Parana infested mystical water of the Amazon. Or on a Caribbean island, Antigua say, where author Jamaica Kincaid describes her childhood as she was growing up in the 1950's and I see her mother's pile of bleaching stones. I also see myself: There I am washing, and lifting the wet clothes. I swat them at the stones, breaking the clinging mud from its hold on the once lovely soft fabric. Rinse in the cool flowing water. I carefully spread the white clothes on the pile of bleaching rocks and allow the sun to bear down into the fabric until it is white again. If you do feel inspired to wash clothes outside and do your bit to save the planet, you should keep the weather report close at hand! Still, I'm not talking about that kind of dirty laundry.

I'm talking about the kind of secrets that people are not suppose to say unless there is a significant degree of real intimacy in the relationship. I was trying to come up with a list of socially taboo subjects...

  • physical and mental disabilities

  • same-sex gender preferences

  • terminated pregnancies

  • a murder in the family

  • financial problems

  • unmarried parents

  • bodily functions

  • criminal record
I know these are not all of the potentially "forbidden" subjects, but I think the above list is enough. Notice when someone begins to reveal something personal from the above list there can be a kind of moral physical retraction and the accompanying emotional feeling, 'Oh no, over-share! Make-it-stop. We want to know secrets and we don't want to know secrets. Why else would we avidly read about celebrities infidelities, and other domestic and personal indiscretions? Why would office gossip be so popular? Maybe we just don't want direct contact with those who tell their own secrets? What makes something wrong to share? How did we make these rules?


I've been thinking about this disclosure issue because some of you know that my mother was murdered. Whenever, I share this fact, it's a risk. Some people just want to run from this sort of bare fact. I've noticed the same concern addressed in other confessional modes. Consider, the Twelve-step Program which is designed to help people confront the desire to deny and soften the truth by beginning every testimonial with, "Hello, I'm (insert name here) and I'm an (insert condition here)." Why would people judge you when you tell them the biographical detail of your life? I've read many autobiographies and several of the classics which are titled, Confessions. (Rousseau, Leo Tolstoy and St. Augustine.) I've noticed that what was private has changed over time.(The three "Confessions are from the more recent past and go back to the 1600's) Also, I have worked for a number of years in counselor type positions (military, prison, and college). From these various experiences, I can assure you of what you must already know, people are not really so different. Everyone has secrets. My own dear grandmother would not talk about her missing father. I don't know if he was really 'killed in the war.' Were her parents really married? Did she feel shame? I would like to know. I'm sure you also have some family secrets you would like to know. Many of our questions remain unanswered, either they are buried in silence or buried underground. We just have to accept the fact that we will never know. It's a secret.
We assert or reveal who we are or what our values are through 
personal sharing.
In our time, I think we should pave the way of connecting by honestly (and without pressure)sharing our own life experience. And if someone shares with us through our everyday interaction or through the blogosphere, I think we should say (or at least think) in a nod to the sixties:
Let it all hang out!
Right on, baby!

You tell it like it is!

We should let those brave people who risk self-disclosure know that what they have shared has been honorably received. We should embrace them in an accepting atmosphere. I say this because recently, I've read some confessions in blogland and the commenter(s) seem to be frightened away. Sigh. I wonder why? I think our lack of response is interpreted as society's voice echoing the familiar warning:
Don't go airing your dirty laundry out in public.
Here's a quirky little video, I thought you might enjoy. Also, it makes me think of my mom's positive vision. I see her on her motorcycle. (Like other trail blazing women of her day, she was a proud trophy carrying member of the Motor Maids, Inc.) This is for you, "Mama Sue."

More about my clean laundry:

If you would like to know more about my mother's story, click on the highlighted links. Also, there is a documentary film that is being made by Brian Alexander about the life and death of my mother and her partner, Christine, just click here.

 photo credit