Openness As Faith: Fate and Cathy Stewart
At our Open House this weekend, a number of people thanked Maria and I for hosting our Open Houses and many people thanked me for being open. I always want to thank them for coming.
More than anything else, I am thanked for being open and sharing my life. It isn't that people want my life or agree with it, the process of sharing one's life can be valuable to others, it perhaps helps them to sort through their own lives.
My idea of openness is also disturbing to many people, we live in a cynical and wary world, and a lot of people assume it is a posture, that I put myself out there and then complain when people presume things that make me uncomfortable.
I appreciate all those comments, they made me think quite a bit about the idea of Openness, which began as something of a marketing tool and has evolved into a faith or creed for me. In 20017, when I started the blog, I promised to be open. I noticed that very few blogs or websites were open, I thought most were so packaged and marketed that openness would in itself stand out.
I was correct. People did want authenticity.
The blog has about four million views a year now, about one-fourth of that number are unique visitors. When I started the blog and then experienced a breakdown, I promised myself, Maria, and my therapist that I would be authentic, I would never again knowingly delude or lie or misrepresent myself as I felt I have done again and again in my life.
I believe I have mostly stayed faithful to that, and it has been a profoundly liberating and gratifying and spiritual experience for me. Being open is nothing if not selfish. I had no idea what it would do for me.
I share my life fully and openly, I do not believe there is anything anyone can say about me that I have not said about myself or acknowledge. I often feel free as a bird sailing through the sky, and i never used to feel that.
Being open was frightening to me, and often still is, I suppose that's one reason I protect my boundaries so intensely, I feel vulnerable and exposed.
Being open sometimes means hurting people or angering them or saying things I might not normally say.
When I want to write something, I ask myself if it is what I feel and if it is true, and no matter how intense or uncomfortable, i write about it and share it.
Without this daily exercise and practice, I doubt I could have seen how much I was to blame for the trouble Fate and I had Saturday at the Open House. It is a habit now, an instinct, a part of me.
I have no secrets, and I never pretend to be blameless or even correct. I do not tell other people what to do because I do not know what other people should do, and I ask the same favor be returned. That has lifted a ton of bricks off of my shoulders, and freed me to begin to learn how how to think, a lifelong and painstaking process.
I nod to Beavis & Butthead, Because I am stupid, I am free.
Because I don't know what I am supposed to think, I can think.
Online, people have become used to being rude and intrusive and presumptuous and patronizing. This is now almost seen as a birthright, and if you share your life in an open and public way, it is also widely believed that you will bend over and take whatever people want to give you.
Because it is so open and free, we have lost the inhibitions and civilities of open discourse, since there are no consequences to being cruel or invasive, we are. We are, after all, human. We can now say all of the things we want to say to people that we would never say to their faces or in their homes. Social media is the coward's training academy.
Being open in such a world is a challenge, complex and unpredictable.
Openness is not about what other people do, it is what the individual does. I write to please the face in my mirror, no one else, and I write to try to do good, and to provoke thought and hopefully, civil discussion.
I have learned to say so when I see that I am wrong, or when I am stupid or afraid.
Openness is about being human, and about what it means to be a human. We are flawed and imperfect, damaged and incomplete. Any writing that cannot reflect that – even when it is annoying or confusing – is not open or authentic.
Hiding what we feel is poison to the soul, I know, because I did it for so long.
To hide is, by definition, to be false.
In our culture, marketers rule the public space, and it is considered dangerous and foolish to be open. It is easy to offend people, or to misstep, or to make people uncomfortable. I do all of those things almost every day.
But over these past few years, and thanks largely to my blog and years of talking therapy and to my relationship with Maria, I am learning to be open rather than simply say so.
Openness has become my faith.
Being open is hard, always, and rewarding, always.
It is simply out of the norm and deeply troubling and upsetting to many people. Being open does not mean I am right, it is about what I feel, there is no right or wrong for me. Only the truth about me at the moment.
Being Open is about change. Our assumptions are our windows on the world, wrote Isaac Asimov. "Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won't come in."
People often accuse me of changing, as if that is a crime. Changing is my life, the greatest compliment. Albert Einstein believed that change is the very definition of intelligence. Change is not hypocrisy, the lowest form of falseness. Hypocrisy is the disease of the hollow.
I love being open, I love being free, I love having no secrets to keep from the world, no facade to protect, no agenda to hide behind, not left or right to parrot.
My blog is my great work, my living memoir, and the memoirist is absolutely nothing without being open and honest – to be otherwise is to be a fraud and a cheat.
If you follow my life, you are entitled to see it and know it, any memoir that fails to do that is worth nothing.
When you read me here, you see me, for better or worse, and I well understand it is often both. Hopefully, you can take something from that that you can use.
You can see me, and that is the most precious thing I can offer you or me.