september surrender: day six
What i’m letting go
I remember my first big lesson about lying as a kid. I was about five or six at the time. A floor lamp got broken, which was entirely my fault, and I tried to hide the evidence, claiming I had no idea how it happened. I thought I was going to get away with it too, but I hadn’t yet perfected my poker face when my mother saw the obviously concocted scene and confronted me with the truth. I burst out crying, knowing I had been caught and was about to be disciplined for it. While I couldn’t deny any further, I made one last-ditch effort to justify my falsehoods, saying I had seen an episode of The Smurfs where Smurfette lied to everyone too. “Well it was wrong for Smurfette to lie, and it’s wrong for you to lie!” my mother told me. She then got down to my eye level, highlighting the seriousness of her next statement: “Gina, you can’t hide anything with a lie. It’s always going to get found out.”
Her “Mom said it so it must be true” logic scared the hell out of me enough to never want to lie to her again. This continued right up until the time I became a teenage girl whose mom hated her boyfriend, but I grew out of that phase pretty quickly. Nonetheless, I knew I was taking a massive risk every time the idea to lie came into my head. There was always that pause that stopped me from ignoring the truth. This skill seems so obvious to me in adulthood that I can’t even think about knowingly lying, especially when the truth is so impossible to ignore. And yet there’s people out there, who lead and lord over us, who’ll lie right to our faces and think absolutely nothing of it. Those are the people I need to give up on.
what i’ve discovered
People lie for all sorts of reasons. They might need to cover their ass. Maybe they need to not hurt someone’s feelings. Or perhaps they simply have a compulsive need to do so. Whatever the reason, the lies that are currently permeating throughout our national conversation seem so great, their reveal could upend life as we know it. People seem to be better about spotting the liars these days. Or they are at least beginning to tell when someone isn’t telling the truth. They may be telling “their truth,” and even be quite convincing about it. But it’s not reality. It’s all smoke and mirrors. And it’s never been more clearly embedded in the American psyche.
I’m still plagued by the question as to why someone would lie. But I think I got a little closer to my answer today when I saw a reply on a Twitter report about polling for the November midterms, and why someone would ‘lie’ about the Democrats’ chances of tipping the senate to a full majority. A commenter said the pollster has to do that to keep his audience. Which made perfect sense when I read it. Once someone is used to something, knowing they want more and more of it, they might keep up the charade if it means they can keep something that much closer to the vest. I tried this many times. I once was told by someone who loved hearing my stories that I could make up any one I wanted, as long as it ‘pleased’ them. I presented these tales as if I did the acts I was describing, but a lot of the time I embellished, and wouldn’t distinguish what was true and what was made up. I was accused of being “a liar” one time because of my storytelling. I it was supposed to be said in jest, but it still hurt. I never wanted to be seen as a liar, especially by this person. But I was willing to say anything in order to keep them around.
So I said anything. And always owned up to it later. But it still wasn’t enough. Because I wasn’t forthcoming with the most important part: the truth about just how I felt. And withholding that may have been the fatal error in not being able to keep them for good.
what i hope to find
I don’t feel like there’s a lot of skeletons in my closet. I’ll talk about anything with anyone as long as they allow me. I’ve been working on being more open with my feelings in order to let people know a bit more about me. Shrouding myself in the vague for dramatic effect just isn’t as fun anymore. I think I’m enough of an adult to know where the filter lies, what should be said and in what circumstance. But there’s a part of me that still believes it’s possible to be one-hundred percent honest with the one that’s meant to be. I’m not sure what that looks like in reality, but perhaps I’ll surprise myself. Because the more I put honesty at the forefront, the more I see it in everyone I surround myself with.
My dad once told me telling “a little while lie that hurts no one” is okay once in a while. It’s been proven effective when I have to explain to my mother why she cannot leave the house by herself to come visit me. Most of it is true, as I told her Manhattan is a dangerous place to be right now. But it’s like talking to a kid, telling them everything is going to be all better after they go to sleep. In my ideal world, none of this would have to be necessary, but I’ll concede when appropriate. In the mean time, finding the truth isn’t just on the other party’s shoulders. I have to do just as much work to keep myself honest and the truth at the forefront. Who knows. Someone might learn to love my fiction one day. After all, if I make up a story, does that automatically make it a lie?