I didn't mean to spend New Year's Eve staying up all night, counting down till midnight and reflecting on my goals for the coming year ... but Miriam's teeth kept her and me awake, and so that is exactly what I did. In my exhausted and half-asleep reflections, one word kept coming back to me:
It's not an active word, which is good, because I don't know how active I will be able to be this year. But it's not a passive word either -- if it turns out that I pull out of the tired phase and am able to accomplish stuff, there are things I can do to seek truth.
The other day I was talking to a friend about truth, beauty, and goodness, and I admitted I have often succumbed to the temptation to choose beauty that isn't good or isn't truthful. There are beautiful things that aren't good -- for instance, I love novels with premarital sex in them, and they often portray beautiful relationships, but most of my readers would probably say that's not good. Even goodness itself can be the wrong goal, because if you don't have the facts, you can find yourself adamantly pursuing goodness that isn't the real deal. That's exactly what I did in Regnum Christi -- I felt the important thing was to Do the Right Thing, but I spent no time really discerning what the right thing was. As a result, I did more harm than good.
I learned this year that you can't be good if you don't know the truth, and so truth ought to be the first thing I pursue, even before beauty and goodness, even though I prefer both of those. Pursuing the truth is difficult and requires humility (to admit you may have been wrong in the past) and persistence (to refuse to settle for the obvious answer). You have to learn to stop taking easy answers, blindly following feelings and hunches, or just tagging along with what your heroes think. I don't mean to say that your heroes or your hunches are necessarily wrong, but that you don't know they're right until you've looked into them.
Our ability, as humans, to know the truth is limited. For awhile I saw that as a reason to give up, to just admit I don't know anything so I could just do whatever seemed like a good idea. But obviously you can know more or less of the truth. Some ideas have more or less justification for them. And given the choice between blindly guessing (and having a high chance of being wrong) and using all the available tools to get my best grasp on the truth to lower my risk of being wrong, I know which the smart and moral option is. I mean, if you were sick, would you rather go to a shaman who said he had no idea what would cure you but he may as well try leeches, or a doctor who said the available treatment was not completely tested, but had been promising in initial trials? There are never any guarantees in this life, but there are better and worse choices.
Beyond that philosophical side of the word, there's also a very practical issue I have with truthfulness. I hate lying and try hard to avoid it, but I tend to omit a lot. If a conversation will be emotionally-charged, I move heaven and earth to avoid having it. If I think a friend might reject me -- if there's even an off-chance they might -- I hold back as much as possible of myself so that they won't. Heck, even the way I dress is a bit untruthful. I don't wear the clothes I like, because I'm afraid others won't like them and they'll reject me. But isn't that hiding a truth about myself -- my actual personality and taste -- so that I can be a bland generic person that no one will reject, but no one will actually like either?
I suppose I'll have to ease into this. Too much honesty can be a bad thing, and no one has the right to know everything about me. But maybe it's time to buy a few pieces of clothing I actually like. To put the colored streak in my hair I've wanted for years. Admit to my friends that I disagree with their opinions once in awhile. Tell my husband what I really want instead of saying "oh, I'm fine, I want nothing" -- an answer that's frustrated him for years, which I struggle very hard to stop giving.
And yeah, maybe start admitting to a larger circle of people that I don't believe. I thought coming out on this blog would be the hard part, and everything after that would come naturally. Instead, the only real-life friends who know are the ones who also read this blog, because I can't find it in me to bring it up.
I was afraid to choose this word because I am NOT ready for a big Facebook reveal and the reactions I know some people will have. But I don't have to start there. I could tell a few of my best friends and see how it goes. No one has a right to know. But on the other hand, I think I'm letting my fear keep me in a prison of others' expectations, and that I'll feel a lot better when I master that fear. I also feel morally conflicted by the inherent dishonesty of letting people assume I'm on their team when I'm not. I have coped with that all this year by continuing to go to church and saying, "Well, I still count as Catholic even though I believe none of it, because I practice." But that's not entirely true anymore either, and so there's really no sense in which admitting to being Catholic is honest.
A couple of weeks ago we had a Catholic friend over. We had a conversation about the Faith and I just went along with it, saying the sort of things that fit in with that conversation, even though I don't believe those things. It felt safer than the alternative, at the time, but afterward I felt terrible. I deceived my friend because I didn't trust his friendship far enough to admit the reality about myself. How would I feel if someone did that to me? Pretty crummy. I have to do better, even if I'm still trying to figure out how.
So -- 2016 is the Year of Truth. We'll see how I do. At any rate, this blog has given me lots of practice -- I am honest here in a way I rarely am elsewhere. (Though don't kid yourself -- I keep some stuff back. I mean, it's the internet.) Wish me luck.
Do you pick a word for the year? What's yours?