I’ve had several great ideas for a blog this week, from discussing The Elements of Harmony as they apply to my actual life to three other things that seemed like great ideas, on three different days, and that I didn’t write down and that now I’ve forgotten. In all cases the ‘great’ subject seems like a wan idea today.
I should have just written the blog early.
Someone told me when you find yourself saying ‘should’ to yourself, you need to find out whose voice it is inside you saying it. And if it’s not your own, you should ignore it.
Because should sucks. Should robs one of honesty. So I suppose that’s the only tenet borne of the Pony-theme I still want to discuss.
I’m not certain I’ve ever been truly honest. Certainly I’ve always felt honest. If you’d asked me if I was honest twenty years ago I would have balked at the tacit assertion that it were even possible that I wasn’t.
But I wasn’t. Not really.
Now: I’m honest about a lot- don’t get me wrong. I’m no thief. I don’t contrive to be deceitful. On the contrary: I struggle always to tell truths. I’m genuinely not trying to suggest that I’m a pathological nightmare of lies. But I have realized recently the deep extent to which I’m capable of lying to myself. I do it habitually. And the problematic extension of that is that I tell what I perceive to be truths, based on the lies I’m more comfortable believing, and thus, I lie. It’s called confirmation bias. And here’s the bad news: We all do it. To a degree. I think mine’s gone wrong.
When I was eighteen I dated a 20 year old ex-model.
She had been the face of Guess Jeans in Canada until a tragic accident burned her face and after the very successful reconstructive surgery, she had to maintain it by taking a drug that made her face puff up, which lost her the lucrative contract. She missed the work. She’d been to several continents to shoot, and even got lost in the Sahara desert for a short while because of mismanagement but she wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Despite our safe use of condoms, I impregnated her. Later she would tell my friends that I forced an abortion upon her, and that the procedure gave her cervical cancer.
All completely false, of course. Every word. She was charismatic and I was naive – a horrid combination. But it wasn’t just me she’d convinced. She was skilled as hell about it. And I think it was because she made herself believe herself before she lied to me. Once, in anguish because she was afraid of taking her drug, but in equal anguish about how she’d look without it, she decided to empty a package of Tic Tacs down the toilet in front of me and then cry in my arms. I believed the anguish, and she believed the Tic Tacs were the Cortizone, so I did too. But in hindsight? They were Tic Tacs.
Once I became able to see one thing as a lie (the abortion did it for me – I was nothing but supportive of her choices regarding her utterly false pregnancy), the rest of them tumbled out like projectile vomit. Cortizone doesn’t generally get prescribed to burn victims (this all according to a book I read 20 years ago), doesn’t look like a Tic Tac, and doesn’t make your face puffy. Abortions, also, don’t generally result in an immediate case of cancer.
You may be thinking how absurd it all seems written out in a paragraph or two. And it is, of course, when presented as such. But she played a long game. She never told the whole story at once. She’d let one tidbit drop, then fill in the blanks over months, fighting what she presented as a reluctance born of insecurity: until she trusted me enough to tell me. In this way she rendered me complicit in her falsehoods. I became an ally in her quest to spread her unbelievable-ness, which lent her veracity. The reveal, as they say in showbiz, was devastating, heartbreaking, painful. I was raw and vulnerable.
I spent many years after this not trusting people, particularly women, as you can imagine. But despite that I learned how to trust again years ago, it’s only recently that I’ve discovered a disgusting side effect. I became excellent at self-preservation. I would hold secret any truth that might lead to another scar on my heart, borrowing unconsciously from this viper’s playbook, to re-craft the truth to benefit myself and then present it as a believable veneer.
The last few months have been difficult. I’m making an effort to be as honest as possible, regardless of the hurt it may cause to myself or to others. But I’m still pretty shitty at it. I can be tactless. It feels dangerous to say what I feel without first containing it. Like sticking my hand into fire. But the fire I fear, it turns out, is my very passion for life. So I should let that fire burn bright and large outside the containment walls I’ve built over the last twenty five years…
And there’s that word again: Should. Says who?
Says me I guess.