I feel conflicted.
I consider myself very honest. I fibbed a lot as a child – and I’ve read children who lie are often very intelligent. So I’ll accept that for now! However, there came a time (at least 20 years ago) when I decided it just wasn’t worth the hassle, the energy and the guilt, to lie. So now I don’t. Ever.
Or do I?!
I don’t utter completely falsehoods.
- Olives are my favourite food! never escapes my lips
- I’ve never smoked a cigarette! is not something I lay claim to
- We’ve been married 25 years and still can’t get enough sex! is an absurd statement I wouldn’t even utter in sarcasm
But I’ve indulged in false pride regarding my holier-than-thou status of heart-warming honesty. Because I do lie. Just not overtly.
1. I lie to myself. I desperately want to be happy, to recover from the hurdles surrounding and inspiring my eating disorder, to be purposeful with a future to focus on – so I tell myself these things are true. If I tell everyone else they’re true, I’ll believe it. If I write about it, it will become true. This is not to say I’m sad, not recovering, and without purpose – but I think my state of being is not as elevated as I lead myself to believe. Quite possibly, I’m a lot crazier than first assumed.
2. I wear a metaphorical mask (not a literal mask…) I realise this is common – we all have public and private faces. But my private face is incredibly private and precious few see it. What a different world it would be if the 15 year old kid at the checkout said, How are you today?! and received a million variations of, Pretty shit – my wife left me, the cat died, I cut myself, my baby has colic, I fucked up at work, I have a cold sore. The general public really don’t need to hear all that. Seriously. So it becomes a matter of how much to share. Acquaintances need nothing more than I’ve had better days! Some friends and family maybe, I’m struggling a bit at the moment. While nearest and dearest get the full story. But for those of us who struggle to share, most people get, I’m fine! while nearest and dearest receive, I’m okay. And if push comes to shove, a little more detail. It is far, far easier to let everyone believe you’re doing fine, than to acknowledge you’re not.
3. I lie by omission. I won’t say, I had the best day! if I had a terrible day. But I won’t let on about the terrible day, unless I’m pressed. I won’t tell you I’ve binged or purged, or spent the day crying, or stressed endlessly about my husband/father/child/friend dying, or had no sleep, or made plans to restrict again. Because it’s highly unlikely you’ll ask me directly. However, if asked directly, I would not say something untrue.
4. I lie by misdirection. I generally redirect conversations very quickly. Oh I haven’t had a great day – I made better choices yesterday. You know what it’s like?! Do you remember when… then chat about something else altogether. I am very good at this technique. I was asked a couple of years ago what the cuts on my arm were – did I get them gardening? I laughed and said, No! I have a cat! Now that is not strictly a lie. I wasn’t gardening and I do have a cat. Technically I didn’t say he gave me the cuts, I just answered a question that wasn’t asked. That is in fact, the most overt lie I have told in a long, long time. And I still feel guilty about it. Especially because my cat is a gentle, loving soul and has never put big cuts on my arm!
So it would appear I am not Miss Perfect Pollyanna (I know – nobody thought I was!) but just as dishonest as the next person. In fact, perhaps overt lying would be more honest than my subtle, skillful misdirection. The most damaging thing though – is lying to myself. And that is tricky to identify. It is done with good intentions and comes from a place where self-awareness is so lacking, that only extreme emotions are identifiable.
For those wondering…
- Am I happy? I think so. Yes. I am feeling pretty good right now.
- Am I recovering? I don’t know. I have been genuinely trying. I’m unsure as to whether or not my progress is imaginary or real.
- Can I picture the future? No. I make up plausible futures with as much realism and gusto as implausible futures. I can imagine a world where I’m holding grand-babies, have published a novel, and plan overseas travel, as easily as I imagine a world where I win the lottery, become best friends with Robert Downey Junior, and transform into a talented cabaret singer.
Truth. It’s a tricky thing. I despise dishonesty. I despise it in others. I despise it in myself. I recognise lying as a form of cowardice. And yet… This is an ugly truth I may need to face.