Being true

I will never forget the first time I told a lie. I was four and I cannot recall what it was about, but I do know that my brother (three) and I had tried to pull one over on my parents and we got caught, as any young child usually does. My father sat us both down on that awful blue carpeting we had back in the 80’s and my father perched himself on the end of a coffee table for our very first lecture. I stared intently and his short sleeved plaid shirt because I couldn’t look him in the eye. It had bright pink threads crossing over the blues and whites–something I found very funny since, much to my mother’s frustration, I wouldn’t even wear pink because it was “too girly”. I was fiercely protective of my tom-boy status. But, at 6ft 2 I guess he didn’t feel there was anything he had to prove.

He explained to us the seriousness of telling a lie. Nobody would believe us when we told the truth. Trust is earned. Lies hurt people. And when you get caught in a lie people lose respect for you. He wasn’t the lecturing type, so  I took his words to heart. To this day I think of that whenever I find a sticky situation arises which would be made so much easier by a little while lie.

One of the many interesting things about humans is not so much that we have the ability to deceive and con others into believing something other than the truth, but that we can play the same mind game on ourselves. Even the most honest people often deceive themselves with little white lies. Something to make them a little more comfortable in uncomfortable circumstances, push them forward in difficult times, or pull them up and out of the holes they occasionally fall into.

After a broken heart, we say we will never love again.
While pushing a baby out of our bodies, we swear will never have sex again.
When we get the call that one of our parents is in the hospital, we promise ourselves will call them every single day. Twice. Just to check in on them. Just to tell them we love them.
After finding out we have been betrayed by someone we love, we promise that we will never, ever trust anyone again.
After realizing the pain we have caused by betraying someone’s trust, we promise to never, ever hurt anyone again.

I like to think I’m an honest person. I won’t say I never tell a white lie–I mean not every piece of artwork my kids have made has actually reached the coveted fridge door status. But, when they bring it to me with a smile on their face and pride beaming in their eyes, I slap that sucker on there front and center, because I see how hard they worked on it. I want to encourage them to be themselves, not destroy their feelings.

And I suppose if lying by omission is truly a lie, then I am guilty of that too. I’ve sneaked off to the laundry room to solitarily enjoy a piece of chocolate now and then. Sometimes when I go to the grocery store, I drive there and then read for 20 minutes in the parking lot before going into the store.

But, truth is a complicated thing–and sometimes it eludes us, even when we have good intentions. Even when we think we are being honest. Or maybe we are being honest–as honest as we know how to be. Or that maybe, just a little bit, we’ve been playing pretend and hadn’t yet realized that pretending is a form of lying.

Like when I leave out of my writing who I really am.

I don’t often talk about my childhood on here. I mean my real childhood–not just the stories I pick and choose to share bits and pieces of. I struggle to figure out how one relays the dysfunctionality of their childhood without bringing to light the dysfunctionality of it’s members? It’s a fine line, this whole “my life is an open book” concept, as that also means that the lives of those around you are also on display–often without consent. It’s hard to be the “true” me without being a little too true about others too.

Because I struggle to know how and where to share my stories, both fiction and in memoir form, the vast majority of this blog has remained private. I have been guilty of keeping my guard up and over-editing my stories until there is nearly nothing left. It is my new goal to bring more of my truest self to my writing. If not by personal stories about my life and experiences, then by letting my guard down and sharing the fictional stories which come to me, in their wholeness, no matter what I fear might be thought of me.

I guess we shall have to wait and see if I fail or succeed.

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6 thoughts on “Being true

  1. Lots to think about here. I do think there’s a big difference between lying and keeping something private (like how much you decide to reveal on your blog or not). I was thinking about similar issues this week. My post for Brain, Child this week was about exaggeration–another form of lying, really.

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  2. Hi Nina 🙂 I do not believe there is a need to make your entire life public. Actually, I suspect that over-sharing, though popular these days, actually leaves us feeling depleted in both our writing and out personal lives. I guess what I’m trying to address isn’t so much how much one shares, but that more so about the honesty of our writing. I too often tone back a story because a preconceived idea of what people may or may not think of it. I over-edit, and eventually lose the real meat of the post. I worry someone will assume the character is based on myself, or worse–them, when in fact it is not… so I chicken out. Chickening out has become so comfortable that I’ve formed a bad habit.

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  3. Dysfunction is the common thread that ties us all together. I consider my life a tapestry, one of threads woven together, none really standing alone, having it’s own spotlight. That you share what you do, is the thread that bonds you, your gift at storytelling and your story to your reader. I will certainly keep reading.

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  4. I used to have a more personal blog, where I mentioned my childhood and my parents (alongside other random stuff). Then my parents found out about the blog, and although I didn’t actively decide to move away from personal stories, I felt like I wasn’t able to be 100% truthful anymore.

    I don’t feel too bad about that, actually. In the end, I probably ran out of personal stories about the past anyway. But who knows–maybe the big point of understanding everything about everything was a single reflective blog post away.

    So now I’m less personal, and rarely reflective. And maybe I miss that, or maybe I was just done anyway.

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    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment!
      I guess what I mean to express is that I am content with my decision to shy away from sharing actively personally information on my blog. In fact I think that’s for the best in my life. But I do worry it’s crossed over into other areas of my writing. Always worrying that someone will think I am speaking about them, or perhaps a character in a story is based on them etc. Basically I worry that people will read themselves into the subtext of my writing. I’m trying to overcome this worry, or at least manage it better.

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