I got a phone call the other night. I got a phone call I was not at all expecting. The election results were rolling in like tumbleweeds made out of steel wool and I left the TV off to pretend like I couldn’t see what was happening.
I got a phone call.
The phone call was from an ex, a man I saw briefly but fiercely in the midst of my divorce. In all my brokenness, all my confusion and pain, he was a flickering focus. Some days it seemed he’d drive miles for me. Other days I was hardly worth a text message. He came to take from my spirit what his spirit needed without much attempt at returning the favor; and I was perfectly ok with that. I never once disagreed with that logic, or really ever felt badly about it. Even today.
Removing myself from his life as I began to step over the Divorce Mountain into the valley of New World below was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. He’d become a safety rope for me while I climbed. I could always rely on him to not quite be there, making me stronger and stronger to climb alone.
But when I reached the top, I mourned. I felt such emptiness letting go of the rope I never even needed. That rope was my friend. My security blanket. I wanted to climb back down and get it.
My best friend gave me a chip, similar to one you’d get in an AA meeting. She told me that this was my Him Chip. She said that if I called him, texted him, or Facebooked him, I had to give her the chip back and start over.
I didn’t want to give her the chip back.
And I never did. Almost 3 years later I still had the chip up until a few weeks ago when I decided to pass it on to a girlfriend who, herself, needed a Him Chip.
The thoughts raced through my mind faster than I could click the answer button:
He wants me back and I’m happily married so HA!
He’s lonely and hopes we can be friends because he’s finally alienated everyone good in his life.
He needs money.
He is visiting Jacksonville and wants to know a good place to eat?!
I wasn’t sure if this counted as a chip-infraction to my best friend, but I answered the phone. I answered the phone out of curiosity for what he or his unwitting back pocket could possibly have to say to me. I wasn’t angry. I wasn’t scared. I was present.
After a few short pleasantries, my Truth Monster came out and blankly asked what in the world he wanted. His answer was something like this:
“I spent a lot of my life engaging in self-serving activities. I used and abused a lot of people in many different ways to get what I thought would make me feel good with no regard for how it made them feel. I focused solely on what I could get out of people, and I think that you may be a person in my past who fell into that category. I wanted to see if this might have been your experience with me and, if it was, I want to apologize.”
Have you ever felt the simultaneous rise of the consciousness in all people all at once, starting in your lower intestine and moving up through your chest and out of your body like rays of sunshine?
In that moment, I felt the rays of sunshine truth.
Having a quite human brain, I of course turned my thinking towards a less romantic motivation. I tried to understand why he was saying this, what he wanted. I dug and dug but couldn’t find any secret agenda other than the truest and sincerest of hearts. He spoke, he listened, he apologized. And just like that, the circle was complete.
It is intensely rare to have a moment of completion this complete. I’d stopped chasing completion years ago, and even forgave it for being open-ended. I allowed it to stay that way, all frayed and dirty at the ends, with my blessing. What I remembered during this conversation is that telling the truth, the real real real real real truth, can have dire consequences.
It can also spin a life on a dime. It can close the circle. It can heal where you didn’t even know you needed healing.
“The truth will set you free,” is the greatest cliche on the planet, sitting atop a giant pile of other discarded, over-used cliches that everyone is sick to death of hearing. We tossed it because in hearing the promise of freedom, many of us started spouting our truths. With a goal of freedom, we over-share, we share with an agenda, we share to make ourselves feel better. But sharing the real real real real real real truth isn’t something you can do in a Facebook rant or a single apology sticky note. The truth will only set you free if in so telling the truth you’re authentically ready to clean up your life and take responsibility for its direction. And that’s scary. So many of us (including myself) have tried to outsmart the truth by telling just enough of it to earn the accolades and the Truth Trophy, but not enough to actually achieve the freedom it promises.
Our conversation ended with a nebulous agreement to remain friends, and even an invitation extended towards my husband and me for dinner. When I hung up my phone I literally clung to the pillow and blanket respectively on each side of me and breathed, as if a mighty wind was blowing away beliefs I’d always held. If this broken man can change, literally anyone can change. No one is stuck being the same forever. But if you’re going to make the change, you have take responsibility, move forward, and tell the real real real real real truth. And sometimes fill up a great, big old bucket of full humility…and apologize.
No matter what is happening in your life, in our country, in your relationships, do not underestimate the human capacity for change.
It can happen.
Do your work.
Tell the truth.