I watched a politician lie the other night. I know. Big surprise. But I was only watching to see his technique. Maybe pick up some pointers. He had the body language down right. Very relaxed. No unmanageable ticks. Or involuntary furtiveness. Nope. Clearly at ease with himself. And his duplicity.
He was up there a long time too. Long press conference. Playing the “obviously if I had anything to hide I wouldn’t be all hanging out and jawing with you for this long” ploy. Know it well. I also know if you’re not on your A-game that day, it can back-fire. That’s why defense lawyers always want to keep that shit to a min.
My mom always saw through it. As a teenager I would always stop by her bedroom after a night of partying. For a little chat. To show her how high I wasn’t. One night she flat-out told me, “I think you come in here and talk to me for a long time so I wouldn’t think you were stoned.”
Oh God. She just busted me. A clown squirted chocolate milk out of his eyes. A laughing tulip licked up some of the drops. I remembered looking at a Puerto Rican girl’s bra strap on the subway when I was six. Then I pictured playing ping pong with Pasty Cline. Heard somebody whisper something about Presbyterians. The top of my head felt like a lava lamp. I wondered what ever happened to Checkers and Pogo. I saw a pyramid. A vulture. A lemon.
A soup ladle made out of purple velvet.
“Really? Well that sounds strange to me. And not because I’m stoned kind of strange. Which I’m not. At all. Just weird because…of the… weirdness…of…it. And I can’t believe it! What you said. Back then. And I’m really tired with these allergies in my eyes so I better go to the bed. Bed. Not the bed. Just bed. I better go to bed is what I meant to say. ”
Anyway, I was watching this guy lie his balls off. And I had to admit, he was pretty good. Lots of apologizing for things. Just not the things he was being accused of. But that doesn’t matter, because with lazy listeners it all blends together. Sprinkle enough apologies around and they think “Hey, he apologized. What more do you want?” It’s a way of taking the rap, but while maintaining your innocence. A tricky dance to pull off.
“I take full responsibility for what happened. For leading on your sister, to the point where she would feel compelled to write fantasy scenarios in her diary about me and her having sex in a bowling alley parking lot on the Friday night you went up to Santa Barbara. You are right. I should not have done that. That was wrong. Leading her on like that. I should have known that once she realized she could never have me, her vivid imagination would erupt in a rebellious tantrum. There’s simply no excuse for not noticing the level of her sexual attraction towards me. I should have known that my innocent and innocuous flirtation would unleash a demon of desire. But I was a fool. A blind fool. I should’ve never been nice to her.
But you shouldn’t have read her diary. With all her fictitious private stuff in it.
So I guess we’re even.”
That one didn’t work. Well, it worked getting me hit repeatedly by a screaming woman. Worked like a charm.
Apparently, she wasn’t a porch swinger when it came to listening. She listened real hard. I don’t know if she would’ve hit me any less hard if I just told her the truth. But I know I wouldn’t have felt as scumbaggy, while I stood there, lungs vibrating from the blows. Sure, I still would’ve felt like scum. Just not as baggy.
I hate to lie. Not out of any rigorous ethical principals, but because I hate doing anything I’m not good at. And I don’t think I’m a good liar. I get too nervous. Give away a lot of poker tells. And add way too many details. Things that trip me up later.
“You said you had to go to visit somebody at ‘the brain unit’ at a hospital in Pasadena. Which hospital exactly was that?”
“Uh, let’s see…I have to think exactly what the…”
“Because my father is a doctor at Huntington Memorial. Was it at that one?”
“No, definitely not that one.”
“Memorial has the best neuroscience department in Pasadena. I thought he might have gotten his cat scan done there.”
“No, I’m drawing a blank on the name. I mean I know it. Maybe when I give up trying. You know how sometimes after that it will just pop up. I remember it was fairly close to the Rose Bowl. And I remember I got robbed by the Snicker machine at the cafeteria. Took 85 cents. I remember that. And that they had a so-so brain unit.”
“Is he going to be okay?”
“Oh God, I hope so.”
“Well, we missed you at Easter brunch. The kids really enjoyed the egg hunt. ”
“Oh man, I wish I could’ve been there. But you know…”
Yeah, they know. And you know they know. And it’s a cringe-fest.
Early on in my sobriety, I used to go over to this old guy’s house to hang out. He had almost twenty years sober by then. We’d sit in his living room and chain smoke while he taught me some coping skills–ways to navigate the treacherous seas without a tankard of grog. He was generous with his time, and was very helpful in securing the sails of my sanity.
One day, the subject of honesty came up. He said my big problem was with “white” lies. He said that’s where I should focus. That was the crux.
He’s crazy, I thought. Who gives a flying frankfurter about white lies? That’s just being polite.
I’ve got bigger honesty issues to wrestle with. All those years as a drunk, lying became second nature. It became a survival mechanism. Now I was having trouble disengaging from it. I was having a real hard time being honest. Those little white lies I told were just social niceties. As problems went, they seemed like a low priority target.
We’re standing in a dining room ankle-deep in raw sewage and he wants to put the salad fork on the correct side of the plate.
But he insisted. I only thought they were harmless. I had convinced myself that I was lying not to hurt someone’s feelings. Keep things nice-nice. But at a deeper level, I was really worried about their disapproval. I was afraid they wouldn’t like me.
“They’re corrosive. Every time you tell a white lie, you’re telling yourself it’s not okay to be you. You’re lying about who you are. ”
It wasn’t a burning bush or flash of light variety of insight, but I did hear a distant gong.
Lying about who I am? Holy shit. That doesn’t sound good. It sounds creepy and insane. And not in the way I enjoy.
“Instead of making up all kinds of reasons why you can’t do something, just say you’d rather not. And then leave it at that.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, just say ‘I’d rather not.’ ”
“And leave it at that?”
“Leave it at that.”
This was absolutely nuts. I remember giggling with glee. Simple honesty. What a revolutionary approach to life. I couldn’t wait to try it out.
I didn’t have to wait long. I’m not lying. The next day, one of my personal training clients asked me to come out to Disneyland with her and her family. Oh boy. A wholesome activity that I despise, but don’t want to admit to hating, because people will then think/know just how degenerate and jaded I am.
Now was my chance to say “Hey, I hate craft fairs, Renaissance faires, parades, dinner theater, magic shows, puppet shows, circuses, sack races, hot air balloon launches, and any kind of music that’s played from a bandstand. But I really hate Disneyland. So I’d rather not.” And then leave it at that.
I stood there. Do it. Just say it’s something you’d rather not. Then drop it. Drop it like a hammer. Strike a blow for being yourself.
“Oh wow! Would I ever love to! But you said Saturday? Yeah. Ah. I can’t. I promised a buddy I would go with him to get a cat scan at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena. They’ve got a great neuroscience department there. He has epilepsy and they specialize in brain mapping. And even though epilepsy is not life-threatening per se, he gets nervous about any medical procedure, and since he’s a recovering alcoholic he’s going to need somebody to be there…because none of his friends or family are talking to him yet, you know, him being early in recovery and all,” I said.
And then left it at that.
I went back to my friend and told him about my failure. He said it was okay. A lifetime of behavior doesn’t change overnight. The important thing was that I was becoming aware of my dishonesty. That, in itself, was an important step. In the process. The process of recovery.
Turns out he was crazy. And right. The white lies were the crux of my problem. Not being okay with who I was–was. That was the hydra head to a multi-tentacled monster. But little by little, the more okay I became with who I was, the easier it was to be honest. And the more honest I was, the more okay I became with who I was. It was almost like it was some kind of process or something.
So yeah, I’ve come a long way with honesty. How long? Well, let’s just say long enough to know I have a long way to go.
I’ll leave it at that.
Bravo! Bravo! I’m actually standing and applauding this piece… well, in my head anyway. You totally nailed it. I had a similar experience but with saying ‘no’ to people. ‘Fuck off!’ was second nature, but a firm and polite ‘No’ always caused me much vexation. It was because I knew what they were asking wasn’t right, but they had those social graces, y’know the ones all good psychopaths learn real quickly, and saying no without exposing and explaining their manipulative behaviour just made me look like an ingrate.
But I did it, and do it all the time now, remembering this from Chinese medicine- moxa cautery. Minor suffering to relieve major pain.
Lovely to hear from you again. Hope the Earth shakes and fires are keeping their distance.
I’m actually bowing to your applause. I’m a little embarrassed, but drinking it in nevertheless.
Oh man, don’t get me started on the “just say ‘no'” campaign. I am almost scared to bring up the concept because it inevitably precedes some situation where I will be tested. In which case I might screw up the courage to actually say “no” to some request, but then chicken-out at the end and add a “however” to it. The “however” usually winds up committing me to more bullshit and angst than the original invitation-request-demand. Happens all the time.
Okay, Lori and I are heading up to the beach for the night. This beach is right next to the ocean, so I like that. Do you like the ocean?
Hope all is well with your mood and brood.
PS Have you ever taken a holiday in Wales? http://youtu.be/CYSv27Z3_ug
Ha ha. The beach. I know that place, just turn left anywhere, it is right next to the Ocean.
Have I been to Wales? Check out the Senghenyedd (pronounced sen-gen-eth) coal mining disaster. My great G’dad died there. We share the same name.
Proof, my dear foof, that Dylan Thomas wasn’t the only disaster to happen in Wales. Harsh shit alright. Sorry to hear yer great gramps was so suddenly interred there. A splash of Rye in the sign of the cross in his memory. Bendith Duw arnat, old boy.
I have to say I don’t “get” Wales. Not like England, Ireland or Scotland. Of course, the only thing I know about the place is what I saw in “How Green Was My Valley.” What I read in “The Trouble with Taffies” And what Karl Pilkington has to say about it. But they all seem to imply that it’s kind of a depressing place. The Senghenyedd (pronounced completely different) coal mining disaster does little to cheery-up the image I have in my mind’s eye(s) of Wales. Didn’t they once have a tourist campaign featuring “Come to Wales, and miss Manchester.”
But then…there’s Tom Jones. If that’s the kind of swinging cocksmen that hell-hole produces, well it almost seems worth it. To be from there. That guy. Jesus. I can only imagine his scorecard.
That’s it. Next life. Wales.
In the meantime, let’s get together next time Cardiff plays Swansea. See what kicks off.
Love you, laddie.
Well THAT put me in a better mood this AM. Me thinks History liked that one.
Glad it worked, Jeffski. And glad you think history will fancy this number. Her opinion is the only one that really matters. But you, of all people, know this. Man for the ages, you.
Hoping any brutality is at least funny,
PS Speaking of brutal, been reading a lot of Buk’s cancer poems lately. Boy, can he paint that picture.
Laughing, snickering, giggling and chortling…….and SO sadly, relating to every word. Another bitching twitchin piece, my love. Honestly!
heh-heh. I was wondering what was going on upstairs.
Glad to see that patience has paid off. This is a good post. I wish that I could honestly say that the more I become okay with myself the easier it is to be honest with myself. My honesty towards self is always tainted with the fact that I got myself into this jam, thank God I won’t be the one getting me out of it. Part of the dying to self daily routine that has helped me to be better than what I once was due to His Grace. Thanks for the post and keep up the good work.+++
You’re welcome for the post, but much more thanks for reading it. I love the practice of dying daily. In the mystic sense, as I imagine you meant. Rather than actually dying a physical death and then having to come back after the sun stops shining on the coffin lid. That gets old. Trust me.
No, better to just pack it all in on the metaphysical level. Surrender all the trying, wanting, fearing, figuring out, etc. and slip into silence. They say God can be heard there. In the silence. Bose noise-reduction headphones could use that as a marketing angle, and probably will.
Speaking of silence. tis where I shall now return,
Ha, I feel like I wrote about something very similar today–the liberation that comes with stopping “performing” for everyone. It really is OK to be yourself, you know? xx
Well, it maybe okay for you to be yourself. Hell, I would have no problem being you. It’s being me that’s hard to swallow. But I’m getting better. Compared to the evolution of the carbon molecule, I’m advancing at light speed.
I’m going to read your piece right now.
You’ve come a long way Baby! And you have allowed folk like me to hitch a ride and move up the evolutionary chain as well. Be Proud. You are AWESOME!
Crazy proud I am. So proud I won’t return a pair of jeans I bought from a thrift store. No. I have to donate them back. It’s only right. Let some other sucker have to deal with them. How awesome is that?
Pretty, I’d say.
Let’s keep climbing, I think the man-eaters are evolving right under us.
Holy shit. Y`all are on fire. Wait, I wrote that before remembering the title of the piece. I can`t bring myself to join this epic fray. Other than to say I found it fucking hilarious about showing your mom how high you weren’t. Seriously laughing loud, out loud, to myself. You slay me. And, yeah, the honesty. It’s gotten much better with sobriety, yet I still sometimes find myself straight out lying when the truth is totally acceptable and easy. I usually call bullshit on myself, though, soon enough. Luckily most of my friends understand. Old habits die hard. AS do old junkies, but that’s another story. Carry on, gentlemen. I have a cat I need to scan.
Mortisimus, Sorry for being so late in getting back to you, but I wanted to wait until I felt garrulous enough to bang out a lengthy response. This third cup of coffee has done the trick. And now you’re in for it.
First off, about old habits dying hard. Although I can’t think of any examples in my personal life, I’ve watched enough programs on OWN to know it’s a common issue. One wildly popular with people lacking my iron will. It seems that certain modes of thought and behavior can be habit-forming. This is only interesting in that some of the ways of thinking and acting make the cogitators and volitioners miserable. I can understand being “hooked on a feeling.” but not on one that feels bad.
Who am I kidding? I do it all the time.
Sometimes it even feels like I’m…powerless over it. Hmm…
A lot the problem is a result of cognitive dysfunction. I just don’t think about the results or rewards of a good habit strongly enough to over-ride the immediate satisfaction from a delicious and juicy bad habit. Given the way I frame some of my choices, it’s no wonder I’ll pick bad. As long as the pay-off from an initial sacrifice or delay in gratification remains thoo-thoo and abstract, it doesn’t stand a chance. Not against the more immediate reward. The bad choice becomes a no-brainer. The feeling of a good vodka burning down my throat, loosening neck-muscles, eyeballs, and tongue in the warm glow of it’s fire will trump any amorphously imagined benefit from abstaining. “C’mon Marius, just picture how good it’s going to feel to pay your bills on time, or not having to go to the dentist smelling like a Skid Row sterno-huffer. It’s awesome!” All that stuff got the yeah-yeah-yeah from me. For a long time. Until I really started wanted the feeling of driving past a jail, or the joy that comes from not pissing my pants in public, it wasn’t a choice. I chose to drink.
It’s like that now with a lot of other things I’m wrestling with. If I find myself stuck in some rut, it’s usually because I haven’t found enough motivation to get myself out of it. I realize that sounds facile. I only wish the answer were as well. How do you make yourself want something you don’t really want? How do you make yourself not want something you really want?
The best I can come up with is what the Hebrew sages of the Kabbalah recommend–that we invoke “the Light That Reforms.” Ask the invisible. To make it so.
It’s worked every time I’ve tried it. Maybe that’s why I avoid it. Anyway, I’ve never had any lasting success with personal will-power. With anything. The only areas in my life where the change has not only established a beachhead, but captured bridges leading inland, are the ones I completely surrendered.
Go fucking figure.
What I’m working on these days is trying to surrender earlier. Rather than wait until I’m a cornered rat. I throw my rifle down the second I step out into a hot LZ.
Saves me a lot of bullshit.
All I have to do now is think “I can’t deal with this,” and I remember that I don’t have to. I can let something else in. Deal with it for me.
There is no way I would continue to do it, or recommend it, if I didn’t have countless examples of it being an effective strategy.
Look at Pauly’s thing (no, not that thing, you perv. His most recent article) He’s sitting in that court room, and he’s totally surrendered. He’s listening to harsh shit regarding his past actions, the threat of substantial penalty looming over him, and he is calm and still. Almost watching himself from afar. And not because he’s high on Ayahuasca either. The result? Well, you’ll have to read it for yourself. Without giving away too much, I can say it wasn’t him being forced by a predatory cellmate to dye his underwear in Cherry Kool-Ade from the commissary.
Okay, I have a client I need to get ready for. This is as good as any for a stopping point.
Thanks again for writing here, Mort. It’s always a pleasure to see you pop up. (not like that, you perv)
Lots of love,
Paul. Lugubriously. I love you.
And, finally, felicitations from the lawn chair next to the drained pool at the Bahiya.
You are hitting me where it hurts, Marius. No one has ever point blank said to me that white lies are my problem, but, if they did, I would have the same reaction you had, and I would be as blown away by the advice given as you were. Shit, now you’re making me do some work on myself. I am going to seriously attempt this the next time I am tempted to white lie (which, given my proclivity, should be in the next 10 minutes), and I will report back to you the results.
Seriously, thanks for this, you have REALLY struck a chord with me.
I apologize, Josie. I never intended to hit you anywhere, much less where it hurts. But I know the feeling.
However, let’s get something straight, I would never never never never ever make you do some work. On yourself. At your job. Or in the garden. The Bible says I shouldn’t do unto others what I don’t want done to me. Nagging me to work (on anything) is way up there on my list. You are so off the hook, girl. In all the figurative manners of the expression.
Now if we’re talking about The Work, well that’s a different story. That work is a pure joy. It’s a letting go. An unchaining. A dropping of excess. A cessation of effort. A deep inhalation.
It leads to freedom of movement and luxurious rest. Love. Laughter. Light. It’s a sweet gig. No nagging need apply.
The Great Work is the liberation of the human mind. The small “I” surrenders to the greater “I am.” And by connecting with the majesty of the Macrocosm, the mind can finally find repose. In the velvety soft folds of the eternal and infinite, our peace can safely snuggle.
I say we climb in bed with it, and start spooning. With our peace.
Well, if that’s the kind of work we’re talking about, don’t waste money running an ad. Miss Universe, I’m your man. Is what I say.
To the Goddess of infinite space.
But I know what you meant.
Just thought I’d springboard from it. Launch into some purple prose.
Needed something. This five gallon bucket has been out in the sun for years. If I try to launch off it, I’m bound to punch through, and fall on the flaming barbeque. Already saw one of my buddies do that. Didn’t look fun. Not as fun as this.
So I guess what I’m trying to say, is thank you for writing. Here and there.
By the way, your ten minutes are up. What’d you lie about? Tell me. And don’t lie.
Unless you feel like it.
The last of the white hot liars,
Thanks for another great post.
Totally going to tell my Aunt, “I’d rather not.” [This is not the forum for the “why” of that… but this post came at the right time for me, so… thanks again.]
Yeah Muggs, don’t bother explaining “why.” That’s the whole point. Although I disagree that this is not the forum in which to do so. It’s actually the perfect place, if you think about it. Let’s say, you had to unburden yourself, and didn’t feel safe journaling it in a diary, because people read those. Well, this comment section makes a great option. It practically guarantees privacy. It’s like some adult bookstore on the edge of the city that one can discreetly duck in and out of. Unseen. Unheard.
Oh shit, I just remembered I was going to e-mail you a story, but now I can’t remember what about. I guess I could go back and read my previous comment to you. But that seems hard and boring to do.
So I’d rather not.
See, how I just dropped it? Not even a “sorry.” Because if I start apologizing, I won’t be able to stop.
Thanks for coming by. There’s hand-sanitizer by the door.
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