I'm feeling a little guilty.
I wrote a blog post recently on the importance of telling our stories and sharing our truth. And I try to do just that in my life. But I remembered a situation from earlier that same week where I didn't abide by this rule. I broke my own honor code. It wasn't that I lied, I just didn't tell the whole truth. And maybe it was no big deal, maybe it will make no difference whatsoever in the long run of my life what I did in that moment. But it's bugging me, so I'm going to take this opportunity to set the record straight.
Here's what happened:
I was on a site visit for work. We were tasked with assessing the cabins at a local State Park, so that we could write a recommendation letter for the necessary repairs, and then provide a construction cost estimate to go along with it. There were several of us there: myself, the client, the park maintenance manager, and others - all of them men, and most of them much older than me. At one point, they were teasing me about the fact that I was far too young to know the meaning of a slang term for "going to the outhouse". This sparked an extended discussion of outhouses, and surprisingly, all of them had one at some point in their childhoods. I smiled and laughed, but otherwise, I kept my mouth shut.
But here's the truth that I kept to myself that day: When I was 8 or 9 years old, my family lived in a house in Speedwell, TN with no running water and... you guessed it: an OUTHOUSE! (In case you're wondering, the year was 1988-89ish, WELL after the advent of modern plumbing). We didn't live there long, maybe 6 months. And what a memorable 6 months it was! But not for the reasons you might think.
Because, strangely, when I think back on that time in my life and that house, I don’t really think about the outhouse, or the makeshift toilet in the kitchen, or the aluminum tub in the living room with second-hand bath water. What I think about are the experiences that I had there; like picking blackberries on the mountain behind the house, or playing in the creek with the fun neighbor girl, or walking to the gas station down the road for candy, or getting to visit my grandparents more often when we went to their house to take real showers.
I learned from this experience to value love and family and togetherness over material possessions. I learned that happiness comes from being grateful for what you have, no matter how small, rather than from getting more. It may not have been very convenient at the time, but I'm grateful for that lesson. I'm grateful that I still carry that with me today, when the idea of a house with no running water seems as foreign as a third world country and excess is everywhere I turn.
And, honestly, that experience gave my family a time to pause and reset our priorities. It gave us a break from the constant pursuit of MORE that we're all so accustomed to. It gave us time to just be together, without worrying about the modern rat-race or keeping up with the Jones's.
I have to ask myself why I didn't join in on the outhouse reveries with my colleagues that day. I know those guys wouldn't have judged me, they all had similar experiences, and this was probably one of the few things I actually had in common with them. But I really don't know why. Maybe I was ashamed. Maybe I wanted to be perceived a certain way by them, and I thought that disclosing that information would tarnish my reputation. I just remember thinking to myself that no good could possibly come from me fessing up. But I was wrong. I should have owned my story that day, I should have stood in my truth and basked in the fact that I ONCE HAD AN OUTHOUSE. Heck, it would have been a freakin' badge of honor with that crowd, what was I thinking!
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2015
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