Pretty Lies and Ugly Truths

Dear Nora,
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I knew we came into each other’s virtual lives for a reason. It is funny to me that we’ve never met in “real” life. But I am sure we will remedy that some day. In the meantime, thank you for your letter.

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We took a road trip to beautiful Montana for Valentine’s Day.

I finished The Book of Unknown Americans (Cristina Henríquez) this week, and there was a line that reminded me of what you said, that everything sounds better in Spanish: “English was such a dense, tight language. So many hard letters, like miniature walls. Not open with vowels the way Spanish was. Our throats open, our hearts open.” The book was moving, about Latinos moving to the US from all over South and Central America, pursuing the “American Dream”. It’s fiction, but I suspect there was a lot of truth in the stories it told.

In all of this worrying about being cheated on and trusting others, I’ve been distracted from the part I’m most ashamed of–as a result of all of this, I stopped trusting myself. That is the biggest piece I must sew back together in my new canvas–it is the heart of it all.

After she cheated and I was hurt, I should have been my own greatest advocate–first and foremost protecting and defending myself. Have the self-respect to stand up and fight for myself. But I am ashamed to say that isn’t what I did. Instead I limped out slowly, with my head hung and cowered, mumbling something about how that was all I was worth. I made poor decisions in the aftermath that there are no excuses for. Even now it makes me cringe. My ex is long gone, so who cares if I can trust her anymore. But ME? I see her daily, face-to-face in the mirror, and I am still pissed at her. I expected more of myself. I deserved more from myself. I let myself down when it really counted and as a result lost a considerable amount of self-respect and the much of my ability to trust myself.

Now that I have the perspective I lacked when I was in it–it is all so clear to me, and I am ready to put in the work. I will regain the trust, I will forgive myself for not acknowledging my own worth, and I will not soak in the guilt.

No one is above it. No one. No one is above being a coward, and taking the easy way, and lying and cheating and covering up their lies and skulking around and betraying their own beliefs and hurting others. Not you, not me, not my ex, not the girl I’m dating now. I guess all we can ask of ourselves, and others, but especially ourselves, is to be as honest as we can be. That sounds so obvious, but my god it is hard. Lies try to protect our pride and our ideals of who we are and who we’re trying to be, and are dressed up as qualifications and justifications and reasonings. In fact, lies are quite often much more pleasant and pretty than the ugly, raw, vulnerable truth. It’s hard to be honest with ourselves, let alone with a partner.

Being honest doesn’t mean beating yourself up and making a big show of it. It means owning what you’ve done, humbling yourself, making amends and then learning from it and moving forward when you’ve made a mistake.

It sounds like that’s what you’ve done, Nora. I know that can’t have been easy. But I’m proud of you for taking positive steps in accepting yourself, learning from what happened, and figuring out what you really need. I like what you said about forming relationships that are real and not ideal–more on that later. I am lucky to have found someone who is a very brave and honest soul. She makes an effort daily to self-examine, and offers up the truth, even when it paints herself in an un-flattering light. It is refreshing, to say the least. It might not be easier, but that’s how I’d like to go through life.

Only two things are certain in life: one day, you will die. And in the meantime, you have to live with yourself.

Here’s to forgiving our own cowardice, accepting ourselves, and telling the ugly truths.

Your friend, Ruth

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