I said something to a circle of people at a dog park that you’re not supposed to say to a circle of people at a dog park.
I didn’t say anything mean or unkind. But when I was invited to share my opinion during a spirited conversation on the current state of the world, I said something that was true for me and wasn’t received well by them.
I said, “I believe it is easy for trauma to masquerade as truth.”
As the rest of the circle (including the dogs) looked around awkwardly, I checked in with myself and felt calmness in my body, compassion in my heart. This is how I knew it would be okay, that I was speaking from my authentic truth and not acting out my past trauma.
The next day at the dog park, I found myself standing alone even though the park was full. I picked up an old tennis ball and began to throw it for my puppy, Camper. Another dog owner approached me, and referencing the day before said, “You speak your mind.”
I smiled, not sure if it was a compliment or critique. I nodded back and said, “Yes, it’s a blessing and a curse.”
The blessing is that I know who I am, what I like, what I don’t, what feels right and true for me, and what doesn’t.
The curse is that sometimes I end up standing alone with a broken tennis ball in a dog park full of people.
It took some work in personal therapy to accept that others may feel awkward when I am being truthful. It took more work in personal therapy to develop the mental, emotional and spiritual maturity to know the difference between telling the truth and re-enacting my trauma.
You see, I grew up in a good family, with good people, but there were a lot of secrets. They weren’t even my parents’ secrets—they were their parents’ secrets.
In order to keep those secrets, I had to break away from what I knew to be true inside of me to keep up the outside lies that weren’t true for anybody.
My little sister was better at this than me. My little brother was better at this than me. They developed safety strategies that pleased people. I developed one that fought people.
But because I was quick with words and armed with information, it was easy for me to spend most of my life confusing arrogance for authenticity, aggression for courage, and trauma for truth.
It was only after I was truly sick of myself that I started working with the right therapists and mentors and began to realize that my social justice warrior stance in the world was based on the destructive belief that I needed other people to validate my worldview, that I had to be right and they had to be wrong, and that I knew what was better for them than they did for themselves.
Throughout my personal therapy work, I healed and developed enough safety in my body that I no longer needed to fight the external world to have an authentic experience of me in it. I came to appreciate and understand that in order for me to grow and expand, I needed contrast in the world to know where I ended and others began.
That day in the dog park, I also said that I know I’m speaking from trauma if I have to get loud and perceive someone else as stupid, or racist, or radical, or an anti-vaxxer, or a mindless sheep, or if I have to cancel someone.
I said that for me, I know I’m speaking from authentic truth when there is calm in my body and compassion in my heart.
Now … I stand alone at the dog park.
But that’s okay. I know that I might have to stand alone when I make a conscious choice to reconnect with the authentic truth inside of me and share it with others when I am invited.
It’s okay because I know that everyone I speak to is free and safe to take what works for them and to leave the rest.
It’s okay because now I know it’s probably a good idea to bring dog toys with me to the park.