Heidi Isern

writer. thinker. whiskey drinker.

From “Faux pen” to Open

“What is the best thing you have done with your life?” people ask.

Without skipping a beat I cite a road trip I took across the US to interview women who defied convention.  In dim diners, tequila bars, and strip clubs I documented raw conversations that captured the depth of the human spirit and the vastness of our land.

It has been a year since I embarked upon this so called “best thing” and months since I wrote about it. The book encapsulating my journey has gathered cobwebs while other pursuits have distracted me. There are a lot of shiny objects out there in the world.  Writing a book is anything but shiny.  It requires dedication, art, and an ability to overcome your fears to be open and vulnerable.  Although I felt my conversation tales were compelling, my writing teacher told me that I hadn’t quite ‘gone there’ with my own emotions.

I decided to discuss the principal of “open” with a friend of mine who bases his life around the principal of transparency.  Last Sunday evening I braved the haunting fog to walk over to his house, my thoughts bubbling outside of my skull.

“You are not really open on your blog,” he told me.  You are too diplomatic, too careful.  Yes you reveal some things but….I wouldn’t call it ‘open.’   You are umm….’faux-pen.’”

Faux pen?

To a writer trying to be honest, fauxpen sounds far too similar to faux pas.

“But,” I stammered, “I write all types of things about myself, my mistakes, my hurts, my visions…I even titled one post Naked!

My voice trailed off as he raised an eyebrow and then stared me down with crystal eyes that reflected my soul.  I saw myself, reserved, afraid…and well, “faux pen.”

Was I too careful, fearful of revealing too much in case it offended others or put my own reputation at risk?  In my writing class my teacher had asked a simple question that I couldn’t fully answer.  “Why did you take the roadtrip?”

My first answer was faux pen.

“I wanted to show strong women across the US.”

“That’s not enough,” she said. “What prompted you to seek out these women?  What need did you have in yourself?  What did you want to change?”

This conversation prompted a mad writing saga of the people I wished to escape, the hidden hurts I never revealed and my own secret suffocation in society.  I haven’t yet been able to share this documentation…or continue it.

I didn’t tell this to my friend, but I didn’t need to.   His eyes could read my insides.

“If you ‘go there’ he said…you’ll be stronger. Think of yourself in the gym doing bench press sets.  You are exhausted after 24.  You don’t think you can lift your arms up one more time…but something in you decides to go for it, and you ask your friend to spot you, assisting your sweating muscles push the metal bar up in the air.  You grunt, your push, and there….you’ve done it.  Afterward you have gained much more strength.  That’s what being open can do.  It’s most compelling tool we have.”

As I headed back home I thought more about the concept of openness.  What would happen if we freely shared ideas and emotions with others, unafraid?  Being open across other areas has only enhanced society.

Being open in technology has promoted innovation.  With open source code we enable improved communication paths, production models and interactive, collaborative communities.

Being open in science, such as the Human Genome Project, has allowed us to advance research on disease and cures.

With open (web based) education we can deliver learnings to people in remote locales, uplifting societies that didn’t have prior access.

It makes sense that being open with our thoughts would only have the same benefits.  By moving from “Faux” to “O” we can become stronger in our own identity and better able to connect to the world around us with our shared, beautiful, and fallible humanity.  We will make better decisions and impart learnings to others about the reasons why.   Stereotypes and judgments will be broken down as we realize…we are all the same!  And hopefully, as in that last benchpress, we can spot one another to get there.

And with that I am re-writing my first chapter to tell a bit more of my own truth….hoping that others out there may relate.

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