Most people lie. Maybe you don’t but I do. I lie less now than I used to. But that is only because my parents are no longer alive and I am divorced.
There are still white lies and lies to get over an awkward moment, like when someone does something embarrassing and I say, “Oh, that always happens to me!” And it never does but they feel a smidgen less humiliated. Since I’m certain other people have told the same lie for me, I am happy to do it for someone else.
Some lies are bad for everyone involved. They wend their way throughout your shared lives and damage everything they come into contact with. They dim the sunlight and ruin your trip to the beach. They get tangled in everyday decisions until everything turns into a fight. One person knows the truth. The other person knows something isn’t right but can’t pinpoint exactly what isn’t working so they blunder and stumble about, feeling unmoored and afraid.
The lie becomes a haze and then a heavy fog, obscuring all truth until it’s time to decide. Live with the lie and all its consequences or finally say, “Something here isn’t right,” and get out as fast as possible. There is tremendous guilt in making a decision based on what you think might be wrong rather than having concrete proof that something is wrong. You have to trust instincts that have been blunted by months or even years of living with a lie someone else has created and then carefully nurtured.
If you are lucky, the heavy fog reverts to a haze you learn to live with. You can’t remember when life wasn’t encased in a haze. You know life used to be different, brighter, but you just think, “Well, I’m middle aged and who is happy in middle age? No one. So this is probably normal.”
And you keep going. Laundry. Work. Volunteering. The bedamned drop-off and pick-up line at school. Drinks and snacks. Naps and sandwiches. Things are getting better. This just might work.
Then one day, for no particular reason, the liar admits to the lie. On a Tuesday morning, sitting on a couch, in the midst of a fight about something else.
“There was a lie. I was lying. All those times you asked what was happening? I told you this lie. All those times you spoke the truth? I told you the same lie. I kept it going for years. I passed up ample opportunities to tell you the truth. I loved the lie more than I loved you.”
What to do when the truth feels foreign? What to do when the haze from years of lying suddenly clears and there is a presence of heavy, horrible truth sitting in the middle of your life? A monolithic lie, four years old, finally revealed. What would a lie like that look like? Something that has never seen the light of day, sharp and jagged. But when you touch it, maybe it crumbles and makes a powdery mess all over the floor? Then you have to get out the vacuum. No, it would be harder, like one of those rocks that looks like black glass.
Nothing feels like the right response.
It’s like thinking someone you love has a terminal disease and then it turns out they do. Can’t really crow, “I knew it!” at the funeral. And you wouldn’t want to because your heart is broken.
I have no idea what to do. I have this foreign truth to deal with. Should I spend time examining it? Take a hammer and chisel to it, break it apart and see what it’s made of? Hire a professional to examine it and, by extension, me? Should I try and drag it with me into the future or leave it where it is?
Dynamite it? Spray paint it with swear words? Invite my friends over to see it?
Then another question occurs to me.
Is knowing the truth better than living in the lie?
So there’s the start.