By Robert Levithan
Originally published on Advocate.com August 30 2010 3:25 PM ET
Saying yes to the truth is not always easy. I was brought up in a world of secrets. We were, on the surface, a perfectly regular family. But, looking back, we had an odd relationship with truth and reality. Unpleasant events were omitted from the record. My grandfather died of cancer, we were told. Not true. My uncle had a different last name than his brothers. Why? He changed it to get jobs that Jews couldn’t get. Not true. The list would go on and on ...
Carrying secrets and lies can be tiring. Mark Twain said, “The great thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you said.” Amen.
Traditionally, psychotherapists hold the confidences and secrets of their clients. I have been well trained in this art. Yet as a columnist I am out to reveal my truth. Is this a conflict? Not really: My clients’ business is sacrosanct; my own can be shared. Is a psychotherapist supposed to be a blank slate on which the client projects their view of the world or a full-bodied human being? I am seeking to find a balance here, and I’m still working it out.
Recently I was asked to hold a secret I couldn’t contain. It paralleled a family secret that I have hated carrying for almost 30 years. At this point, revealing it would, I believe, cause more harm than good. However, to be asked to begin to hold such a secret again felt unbearable. I followed the path of truth and was loyal to myself and my nearest and dearest. This was very hard to do. I was being disloyal to my upbringing. I was, however, being true to what I believe is honest.
In this column I am trying to speak my truth. Revealing doubts and/or conflict goes against my training. Always show the best side of yourself, I was taught. However, this often leads to falsity. We all have issues, and most of us have traumas to work out. Our process, our imperfection, is a significant part of our gift to the world. Occasionally we need to stand naked emotionally and allow for the complications and messiness of life.
This is my 11th column in a series of 24. Turning 60 is obviously big for me. I want to reach young men to let them know that getting older is more a plus than a loss. I miss my young skin, but the rest of aging is about things getting better. I have tools. I can choose the challenge of telling the truth as fast as I can — to myself and others. I can be disloyal to my lineage and true to myself.
Online writing opens one to instant feedback. I know that not everyone will appreciate my
point of view. I am interested in those who disagree. And it is
fascinating that some readers have trouble with statements about liking
myself and my life. I consider my contentment a hard-earned prize, the
payoff for years of study and reflection. This is why getting older
is so cool: If we continue to learn and grow, living does get better.
Some people are born with the grace of inner peace, Most of us have to
peel away the layers of indoctrination and internalized prejudice and
embrace the peace that is our birthright.
There is always work
to do. I like learning. I like being challenged. I struggle when my
history gets in the way of my present by skewing perception. The
alternatives to embracing the aging process are really daunting: resignation, despair, enervation.
The heart and mind and
psyche are like the body — they thrive on exercise and healthy fuel.
The regimen must be reevaluated periodically and adjusted for stress
factors and changes in the circumstances of one’s life. To maintain
health, we continue to eat, drink, and move. Writing about approaching
60 allows me to examine the journey thus far, evaluate my practices and
beliefs, and adjust for drift. This column could just as easily have
been "The New 40" or "The New 70." It’s about redefining our point of view
on aging and living in the 21st century.
I am so fortunate: I love this life that I have worked for ... yes!