The Truth Stands on Two Feet

Aviva told me that she liked one of the games she did at camp last week. Each girl took a slip of paper with half of a quote on it and had to find the person with the other half (kind of like the “You complete me” line in Jerry Maguire). Her quote when the two halves found other?

“A lie stands on one foot. The truth stands on two.”

I reflexively felt for the floor with both of mine as she disappeared upstairs. You know that god-awful phrase, “Bloom where you’re planted”? Well, you can’t bloom if you’re not planted, and it’s hard to feel solid on this earth standing on one foot. Which is all to say that lying sucks and is an impossible way to live authentically and with integrity.

I think of the famous story of Rabbi Hillel teaching the entire Torah to a future convert while standing on one foot. I’m not feeling sharp enough to figure out what it has to do with anything, though I have no doubt is has everything to do with everything.

And then of course there’s tree pose, and the deep rootedness that can come even through imbalance. As usual, nothing is ever just this or that, despite my dogged either-or thinking. Contradictions co-exist. How we feel our way through these narrow passages reminds me of the birth canal itself, where every single one of us begins our life by squeezing between the bliss of the womb and the light and noise of this world. “You’re looking rather fetal,” Greg said to me this afternoon. I looked at myself on the green chair and realized that yes, I was all curled up, cocoon-like, womb-like.

I keep hearing this one line in my head from a Toad the Wet Sprocket song: We might be different but our hearts don’t lie.

Our minds can lie. Our words can lie. But actions don’t lie. I kind of think by definition actions can’t lie. And maybe it’s true: our hearts, our bodies, can’t lie either. I recently learned from an amazing practitioner of Neuro-Emotional Technique about the corpus callosum. The Latin translates as “tough body,” and it’s the part of the brain that connects the right and left hemispheres. He confirmed that what was happening in mine literally reflected being “of two minds.”

This morning, I sat on a deck and closed my eyes, full of strawberry pancakes, listening to the birds, the breeze warm and soft and full. For a moment, maybe a half-hour, I wasn’t of two minds. I wasn’t of any mind. I wasn’t lies and I wasn’t truth. I wasn’t fear or trust or effort at all. I was just there. It was a mini vacation, the kind you never want to go home from.

In the last week I’ve practiced being honest when it scared the shit out of me to do so. I told the truth, not slant, but straight up, said things to people I love and don’t want to lose. Things that could have driven them away, made them angry, closed doors. And what I keep learning is this truth that I seem to have to step into over and over and over again: that honesty really does stand on two feet. That honesty is received with gratitude, even when it’s hard, searing, to hear. That the damage of being dishonest is far worse and irreparable than just about any truth, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Especially when it comes to love. And that honesty creates openings and possibilities. Damn the cliche, but it really is the best policy.

I asked a friend recently about truth. Her take was matter-of-fact: “It’s whatever your emotional reality is.” I tried to recall the title of a collection of short stories by women writers. Was it “We Are the Stories We Tell,” or “All Stories Are True”? It doesn’t really matter. What I want to know is this: What is the story I will tell about myself in thirty years, looking back on my thirty-six-year-old self? Who will I have been? What will I have done? No matter what the answer, where I end up, I want to be able to know that I “stood on the ground and told the truth,” as my friend Sharon’s mother, a tried-and-true Texan, used to say.

And as Hillel said, “The rest is commentary. Now go and study.” On two feet.

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