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Honestly, Reality

By Kellie Purcill

A piece of my friend’s heart is lost somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. At least, that’s the way I like to think of it. She sent me a message asking if she could send me a letter, actual folds of paper and ink, to share a piece of herself with me. I replied “yes, please, of course and absolutely!”, curious and chuffed that I could be a safe harbour for her request.

It hasn’t arrived yet, and I miss it. I don’t know the shape of the envelope, or how my name looks on the page, if it will limp to my letterbox, under-stamped and overwhelmed finally by my ripping excitement, or be wilted by the summer heat and post-Christmas crush. It’s not here, and I miss the unmet corners of it in my hands, the tug of my friend’s words unspooling across the page, her thoughts and worries sinking into the paper, tumbling like ribbon across the ocean to be knotted and anchored to my heartstrings, to be weaved into our friendship and melted into my reply.

There is bravery in honesty. Not the scoffing, often brashly untrue “Honestly, I couldn’t care…” or apologetic “Honestly it doesn’t matter…” but to somehow overcome the nerves and nausea that comes with revealing a need, a hope, a morsel of our own personal grenade we’re trying to swallow, panic we’re trying to bury, the mortal mud we’re drowning in, the delight that both has us dancing and snapping it between our teeth because maybe others won’t “get it”.

Recently I went interstate and had dinner with a wonderful friend, and sometime over the appetisers she said something like “You’ve done so awesomely with your life and challenges, you and your boys are doing so wonderfully, and I don’t want to be a gloomer but honestly… I’m having so many disasters.”

We sat there, licking sticky plum sauce and salt off our fingers, and spoke honestly of our realities. Kids not coming to church anymore, other kids fighting about going to seminary, health panics and futures splintering to dust, constant punches to our hearts and hopes and emotional falling pianos. Prayers not being answered, laughing in delight and wrong moments, Saints being jerks, us being awful to our loved ones and bruising our fists on our own doubts and furies. We wrecked our mascara, fought over who would pay the bill and, tucking our honesty around our shoulders, left our masks on the table when we left.

I’ve known that friend for nearly twenty years. I love and admire her, I know my secrets and worries are safe in her ears – yet we both still hesitated to share our honesty. I think of how differently the evening would have been if she hadn’t held out her hurt, her reality, all leaky and lopsided, and my gut lurches. I imagine the what-if of me not reaching back, to give comfort and sharing my own bedraggled, twitchy life, and my gut rolls again.

Deciding to drop our pretending punts us somewhere along the terror spectrum from “take a breath and do it” to involuntary loss of speech, sphincter control and/or sanity. It can be sending a letter to literally the other side of the world, or crying over delicious ribs. It can be looking in the mirror, or sending a text message. It can shove your life in a different, bewildering, astonishing direction.

So a piece of a friend’s heart is (temporarily) lost somewhere over the Pacific, and another friend’s heartache is hanging out with my own. It is a beautifully messy situation – full of hope, leakings and confidences, weighted with salt, exhaustion and stubbornness – and it’s real, and it’s glorious.

Do you find it easy to share the honest realities of your life? If you are feeling alone, or unheard, or overburdened, what is something you’d like to share?

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

10 thoughts on “Honestly, Reality”

  1. Kel, your gift of language always astounds and lifts me. Thank you for writing!
    People think I'm all out there with my "honest" opinions, but honestly, I am almost always holding something back. I usually feel like I'm "too much" for people to handle, so I'm always tempering my comments. It's either pride or compassion — I'm not sure which. But Segullah is a treasured, safe place for me. There's no fear of judgment, no need to pretend. Everyone needs a tribe like this. Thank you.

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  2. I wasn't half a sentence in before I thought, "This must be from Kel!"

    I treasure honest friends and find little use for pretense (some use, but little). You've buoyed me up when I was sinking and I pray I can do the same for others. It's a true gift to allow someone to share their pain.

    And it's SO happy to see your boys doing so well. Makes me giddy.

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  3. Dear Kellie,

    You are half a world away, but I feel like you are right next door (I wish you were). These thoughts about being honest are exquisitely expressed and make me want to be more honest and real with others.
    Thank you so much,

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  4. I love your writing, Kel! Thank you for the reminder of the real, glorious importance of honest-ness (trying to be different from honesty).

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  5. I am so grateful to have a few dear, wonderful friends that I have been able to share my deepest troubles and my greatest joys with. There were times in my life when I had to keep my struggles to myself and it was AWFUL. It taught me compassion for other people's silent burdens.

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  6. Lisa G, thank you for your comment. I also tend to temper my comments in many conversations, for many reasons, though I've found with age (maybe hopefully) has also come wisdom/confidence so I speak up more often about my real thoughts in those areas too. Thank you for adding your voice to this discussion and the Segullah sisterhood!

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  7. Michelle, there's such strength that comes from sharing the reality of our lives (even with some necessary pretense for some parts/people), and as you said, it's a gift too. Thank you!

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