Many years ago, when I was at University, I had joined Varsity Christian Fellowship and as part of that joined a Bible study. At one of the meetings, we'd chosen 'Lamentations,' which was, predictably, somber, I was asked to say the prayer before the meeting got going. So I did. Afterwards I got some odd looks from people but never thought much about it. A couple days later I was asked for coffee by one of the Bible study members. He wanted to tell me that I had said a graceless prayer and obviously had never been taught to art of praying out loud. I remember feeling shock at the conversation, I felt shamed too, so I leapt to defend myself saying that I had meant every word of the prayer. He just shook his head and said that I didn't understand. He was right.
But I learned from this that performance was more important than truth in the minds of many.
So as it is New Years, and I do want to write a New Year's blog. I have decided to stay away from anything to do with resolutions. Oh, I do make resolutions, I like them so much I can make them over cereal in the morning, I don't need anything so big as a brand new year, I just don't tell anyone. Because, one year I did, and learned to my shock that I had made the wrong resolutions. Several people told me that I needed to make a different set of resolutions. Their wishes for the changes I made were at the top of the list - but the things they suggested were the resolutions that I heard everyone around me making - losing weight, exercising regularly, eating right, spending more time with family - all perfectly good and quiet serviceable should you need a resolution at the last minute when the question is sprung on you.
But I learned from this that acceptable answers are more important than truthful ones in the minds of many.
So, I've learned not to share my resolutions, partly for fear of more criticism, but partly because, now I'm older, I see that they are incredibly personal. They give a glimpse into how I see myself, the failings that I'm a bit shy to share, they are the things that lurk in the dark corners of my temper and in the hot corners of my fear. So, I'm staying away from that.
Like a lot of people I am stung when the authentic me pokes my face out from behind the mask and gets a solid punch in the face. Like a lot of people I long for the authentic me to be more present in my life. The older I get the heavier the mask is that I carry. I long to set it down, even for a moment. I long for a place of safety where with the mask off, I can speak in my authentic voice and simply be who I am and think what I think and tell the truth that I experience.
I have looked over the last year on this blog and have found that you all, as readers, have pretty much created that place for me. I've written and published things here that are highly personal, that expose myself and my truths to the world. The discussion that follows is often supportive and even when it's critical, it's only seldom unkind.
While I'm shy to tell you my resolutions for me, I want to say that I aim for this blog to continue to be a place where performance is worth less than truth and that acceptable answers are challenged by truthful experiences. Other bloggers have enthused to me about those of you who leave comments here on the blog, they tell me that I'm lucky to have people who disagree with gentleness and who encourage with enthusiasm, I'm lucky to have people who share their own story as they react to mine.
I am lucky.
And I thank you.
I wish for all of you what you have given me. A place where authenticity is honoured and truthful expression of experiences are welcomed. A place where it's safe, in a world that loves appearance and performance and acceptable answers, to simply be who you are. This is the gift you've given me, I know how precious it is, may we all strive to offer these spaces to each other.