Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Diminishment Dilemma of Honesty

May 17, 2015

Dear Friends,

Good news from the farm. Storm damage was surprisingly light. 

Snow was heavy and wet. New plants were bent almost to the ground and lost their most tender leaves; trees lost some limbs. The sun came out the day following the storm, however, and melted almost all the snow, so the “bent over” time for plants was minimal. Plants are still in shock but they appear to be recovering. None are yet standing “tall,” but they are “taller” each day.

A brief front moved through late afternoon the day after the storm, and brought a surprisingly heavy cloud cover by nine o’clock that evening, so, thankfully, the anticipated freezing temperatures failed to materialize.

Yesterday when I checked, all was well except the trumpet vine. On the trellis the trumpet vine is fully exposed and so was more damaged. Early new growth is now black and shriveling. However, this vine is not a new plant and has a well-established root system. I think that secondary growth will appear when night temperatures rise. There will not likely be much bloom this year.

I am grateful and educated by your comments in response to the diminishment material that I’m muddling through. Please continue to share.

I have been confronted this week by an aspect of diminishment in myself with which I am highly displeased, and—truth be told—embarrassed. I have unwittingly responded dishonestly to one aspect of the diminishment process.

This should not have been a surprise. Honesty has been a life-long challenge for me—much need to deny trauma I could not evade, and much motivation to use a vivid imagination to construct another more pleasant world in which to live. But conscious of these factors, I have paid attention to truth. This week, however, a good friend challenged me to be more honest in a discipleship group to which we both belong. 

She was a faithful friend in her challenge. And in responding to it, I have come to see something about diminishment more clearly. Whatever the issues that were difficult for us in our middle adulthood become more—more, not less—difficult in the aging process. Diminishment brings a problem in honesty to me.

The honesty issue emerges for me in a pattern of ambivalence that sends two paradoxical messages. In effect, I leave friends wondering whether when I say “yes” I am being truthful, or when later I say “No” to the same question is the “Yes” or the “No” the honest response? And why don’t I say “Yes” or “No” and stay consistent in my response?

The answer is one of those frustrating paradoxes—both are true, and both are honest reports from my inner world.

Diminishment is erratic—diminishment ebbs and flows, and our self-awareness of it ebbs and flows as well as we navigate the tides of change in ourselves and in our circumstances.

The specific issue around which this insight is being worked out in my life involves the discipleship group of which I am a part, and in which I have from time to time assumed some responsibility for leadership.

Do I want to be in the group?  Yes—and no. It depends. Do I want the group to change? Yes—and no. It depends. Do I want to assume some responsibility in the group? No—and yes. It depends. Do I want the group (and the necessity for choice) to go away?  No—and yes. It depends. 

Depends on what?

Be honest and say what is true is always good advice, but it is not always possible to follow easily.

What is true is many faceted, fluid, and often present in a sense that lacks language and is defined in part by the shifting context of life events.

When I sense the storm moving in, and the fragility of the life around me and in me, at that moment I see the truth of my diminished resources, and I have no desire to match strength with the storm. Do I want to garden? No—not even in the small inferno strip that borders the walk. 

But when in the sunlight I can still bend and prop a leaning plant, and watch it gradually resume its proud up-reach to the sky, do I want to garden? Yes.

Yes, of course—resilience bubbles like champagne through my system. At that moment, here is the truth I can say: Storms last only for a time. That which is bent can be straightened. Something is better than nothing.  Do what you can with what you have where you are. Choose life. Have a party.

Diminishment makes it difficult to say clearly who we are. Identity suffers. 

Diminishment alters unexpectedly the aspect of truth that we can see and say. 

With brutal immediacy diminishment juxtaposes what was, what we wish to be, and what is. All are real, all are true, but not all can be translated into language of reason or the reality of logical choice.

Be honest, my friend encourages me.  Good—and biblical—advice.  So . . .

Yes.  I will tell the truth—the truth that I can see in the moment and that I can fit into words. 

Is that truth enough?

I cannot promise that I will be unchanged tomorrow, or see truth this way in every day to come.  

See you next week.



No comments:

Post a Comment