On Lying, Being Fake, and General Asshattery

I read a meme a few months ago, and i’ve been turning it around in my brain since then. I knew right away that i wanted to write about it, but any time i sat down at the keyboard, nothing i bashed out seemed to capture my feelings. I can’t find where i saved it, i can’t even be sure i did save it, but that’s okay, i’ll give you the gist.

The creator of the meme requested that at their funeral, people tell the truth about them. Further, they asked that no one give banal, meaningless or patently false accounts of them as a person, because they didn’t always have a smile on their face, and sometimes they were an asshole.

It struck me, and resonated, long after i’d seen it. It also led me to some other thoughts that are along the same line… I think? I’m going to attempt to present these ponderings in a cohesive way, but as with anything i write, just because i get it, doesn’t mean you will.

I want to be real and i want to be known.

But sometimes i’m cool with being hidden and fake.
Like when i’m at the injectionist’s for some cosmetic work. I can see how most people act when they’re there. It took some courage to go and be surrounded by young, beautiful women who look like they’re IG models, and older sophisticates who appear to have a lot of dough. I don’t have much chutzpah left over after coping, to boldly be my weirdo self. I feel fine about plastering a huge smile on my face and using that voice – you know the one, right?

Some people i don’t know well enough, and some set off inside alarms.
It’s fine to behave in a somewhat generic, slightly subdued way until i know folks better, i think. If you want to come at me as 100% you, i’m cool with that, i just personally feel a bit safer in new social situations with a bit of anonymity.
There’s also the odd time where the person i’m interacting with triggers me (reminds me of an abuser), or just plants immediate red flags – like the person who stares in an overtly sexual way.

Many situations don’t require me to be my full self, and some things flow better without the full meal deal of my personality.
When i’m at the till, paying for my items, and there’s a bunch of people waiting behind me, neither the cashier nor the waiting customers are looking to forge a lifetime bond with my (incredibly charismatic) self.

I don’t think i could be described as down-to-earth, or even genuine, as an ex-friend once informed me by email (yep, still a bit tetchy about that one). I’m a multiple, after all. My face can be a mask, my body the puppet of a person who is not quite me. I’ve hidden my true self from others many times – both reflexively and with conscious intent.

I always want to know the truth, but sometimes i’ll lie, and i don’t feel bad about it.

If i don’t want to do something, and i don’t have the energy or desire to go into the reason why, i will totally fib.
If it’s a large gathering, or maybe i don’t know the person i’m doing the thing with very well, i feel no guilt begging off due to illness.
I should say though, that i’m fairly up front with my mental/emotional/social issues, and i’m selective about who i socialise with, so most of the time i can just say, Can’t people, and it’s understood and accepted without further explanation.

If my response could hurt someone’s feelings, i might lie.
That How do i look? one comes to mind. If i’m close with the person asking, i may say if they look awful. I’m more apt to pick something i like, or pick 1 piece of the outfit to change. I know for some that’s not good enough, and i’m obfuscating. Okay. <insertshrughere>
Sometimes i’ll purposely misunderstand the question. I’ve found that people are often loathe to restate, so i can avoid saying the potentially hurtful or contentious thing.

I’m glad when people ask more than one question at a time. I’ll pick the one i can be honest about without getting into something i’d rather not. That dislike to restate the question comes into play here.

I think there are a lot of situations where lying is fine.
It’s been my experience that everyone lies.
It’s also been my experience that, those who rail about hating liars are often the biggest ones, and i give them a wide berth.

There are only 2 people i won’t lie to – my doctor and myself.
The rest of you are fair game.*

I bring this up because i’m not “honest to a fault”, and i don’t want to be.

Another thing i hear said with respect to the dead is that they would give you the shirt off their back.
Well, i almost certainly won’t, unless you’re my child.
My husband won’t get the shirt off my back, and neither will my best friends.
I may die of exposure without my shirt, and i like living.
If there’s room, i’ll share the space inside my shirt with whom i will, but that’s dependent on circumstances.

There is a point at which i’m giving too much, and the point is mine to discern, and i do so carefully. I will not empty my vessel for anyone, and seeing as my children are all grown now, no, not even for them.
I don’t see the virtue in poverty.
The dead share nothing.**

Another thing you couldn’t say about me is that i’ll do anything for anybody. I won’t.
Which brings up judgment too, because i will judge. I will ask myself if doing the thing is worth my time and resources. If i don’t think it is, i don’t do the thing.
That’s not to say that i won’t still throw good money after bad, or help someone that i think may not appreciate it. I’ll pour myself into an unwinnable cause.
But i’ve taken a hard look at the situation before i decided to throw the dice anyway, because sometimes i win when i lose.

Oh, and my favourite remembrance of the dead:
“They were always happy, and always had a smile on their face.”

NO.
I’ll be damned if i’m going to smile when i’ve got nothing to smile about. Hiding and subjugating how i feel is one of the things that screwed me up this badly.
I can smile at a person on the street, or at someone who’s providing me a service. I don’t need everyone to know i’m having a low day (mostly). I don’t need to tell everyone that i’m currently riddled with anxiety (usually). But if we have any kind of rapport, i may very well tell you a bit about my sadness or stress, because it helps me, and i dare to think it could help you, too.
This is not contradictory to my prior statement that sometimes i wear a mask on purpose.
These are choices i make, dependent on the situation, with whom i’m dealing, and how many spoons are in my drawer. I’ve collected a number of tools over the years that are there to help me be functional in my day-to-day living. If i can, i generally prefer to let it all hang out, but that is not always wise, or appropriate, or timely, or safe.
Discernment. I haz it.
Sometimes it’s no one’s business.
Further, it’s normal and fine for folks to have neither the time, nor the desire to get the full HistrionicaButterfly experience. I can be a lot.

Which brings me to the best part.
Occasionally, i can be a good and proper asshole.
Let me demonstrate my honesty.

There are reasons and explanations and mitigating factors that perhaps cause and at least influence my assholery, but the unvarnished truth is:

– i hate questions, and will obfuscate, hedge, and get outright testy in my answers,
– my sarcasm can verge on caustic,
– i’ll disappear with no warning or explanation,
– i keep even the most worthy people at arm’s length,
– i regularly make mountains out of molehills,
– i’ve got a know-it-all streak,
– i’ve bitten more than a few heads off for no good reason,
– i’m so focused on myself i can miss the needs of others,
– i can be vicious,
– i sometimes manipulate others to get what i want,
– i’m an excuse-maker and dodger of responsibilities.

There are more, but they fall under annoying personality traits rather than character flaws. Like my ability to talk the leg off a chair (or clamming up when it’s most important that i talk), or spend us into the poorhouse, or my exhausting need for reassurance and approval, or my constant self-doubt.

This is me. This is who i am. Dying doesn’t remake me into a perfect human. Loving me doesn’t mean that i wasn’t sometimes hard to love. It won’t be disrespectful to tell the truth about the kind of person i was. In fact, it’d be honouring me.

I’ve failed many times. My biggest failures involve the people i love most in the world.
I’m standoffish, emotionally unavailable, unreliable, and intensely self-focused.
I can be pushy, obnoxious, thoughtless, demanding, critical, and infuriatingly contrary.
It’s only the truth.
It doesn’t negate all the wonderful, beautiful, amazing things about me. (I won’t go into those, because the length of this piece would treble. Heh.)

Of course, once i’m dead everyone’s free to sugar-coat me or not, as they will.
A person reading this might think the truth doesn’t matter so much to me, but in fact it does, very, very much. I share this nakedly in part to emphasise how important it is. I don’t think it’s contradictory or even ironic.
Do yourself and the rest of humanity a favour and don’t slap a coat of Hollywood paint on the portrait of my life.

I’m absolutely fabulous, and also an utter shithead.

If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness. But aspects cannot be added up.
~ Albert Camus

*I’m being facetious, here.
Also, my blog is brutally honest, in case anyone was wondering.

**I’m referring to literal resources, here. Food, drink, shelter, money, physical effort, even time.

Untitled

This is not my garden,
i’ve tarried here too long
I cannot keep it,
it does not rise to my touch

This is not my garden,
its fruit does not sustain me
The taste is bland and unripened,
the sun too rare

This is not my garden,
nothing here will grow
No verdance, no smell beckons me,
It’s time for me to go

This is not my garden…
It never was

Image: Gardens of the Dying Light, by QueenOfRohan

Water of Life

CW: Contains indirect references to childhood sexual abuse. This one is heavy for me – emotional. It may be for you, too. Take good care.

**********

Heavy hearts, like heavy clouds in the sky, are best relieved by the letting of a little water.
~ Christopher Morley

So i made it to my therapist’s office today. And i started crying as soon as i saw her.
In the parking lot.
Crying.
Fuck.*

Tears are difficult for me. There is, as with just about every fucking thing in my life, a push and a pull with tears. As an infant, i know that i would have cried. I know from gathering as much information as i could from people who would talk to me about her honestly, that she wasn’t a terribly attentive mother. Unless family or someone she wanted something from was around, and then she was perfect and doting. But her mask would slip occasionally with those she called friend. She’d leave me cry in my crib for too long, saying i needed to cry it out or i’d be spoiled. Claimed i was colicky and would drown me in gripe water (which contained alcohol back in the day), and push baby Aspirin. Based on behaviours i do remember from a young age, i imagine the ignoring of my needs went for longer when no one was around to see.

When she’d spank me or hit me, sometimes she’d stop when i cried, and sometimes she’d go harder. If i cried for something other than beatings, say, disappointment or sadness or fear, she’d berate and humiliate me. I was a big baby and needed to toughen up. She’d accuse me of crocodile tears. I remember her telling other people when they’d show concern, “Don’t believe it. She’s faking. She’s an amazing little actress.”

She groomed me for predators from infancy, so i’m going to assume there were some tears involved there. And the people she gave me to were the hardest, when it came to shedding tears. Some of them would hurt me worse if i cried. Some would complain to my mother and then she’d beat me. And some needed me to cry, which became a problem when sometime around 3 or 4, my tears dried up. She took me to the doctor about it, i think, but i don’t remember what he said.

I do remember what caused my tears to flow again. I was around 12 or 13. I’ll tell that story another time, because this subject matter is already heavy enough.

I’ll share another interesting tidbit about me and tears, though. For my whole life, since my tears stopped flowing and through their adolescent return, you couldn’t tell i’d been crying when it was over. No matter how long i’d cried –i could, and did, bawl my little eyes out sometimes– all i had to do was wipe my eyes and blow my nose, and no one knew.

Sometime during this recent bout of therapy, that’s changed. I’ve never been asked, “Have you been crying?” until a couple of months ago. My face gets blotchy, my eyes and nose get red… It’s like my body is giving up all its ghosts. I’m no longer carved from alabaster. I’m becoming a living, breathing, crying being. Filled with snot, apparently. Buckets of snot.

I’m coming to life and i’m mourning my dead. The tears water me. They wash off my grave clothes. They cleanse me of the filth that coats me that was never mine. I’m pink and warm underneath. Red and blue and purple and golden light! I pulse and sparkle as life flows into dead limbs. I’m sitting in my cemetery, surrounded by beautiful dead things, and as i water the barren sand it becomes fecund. Living things are sprouting up around me. Pretty things. Green things. Life from death. Beauty from shit.

Which is all very lovely and poetic (and still true), but in the meantime – i cry. I want to cry all the time, and i cry just about every day.
People, i am not a fucking cryer. I get choked up over art and suchlike. Verklempt. Sometimes my eyes will fill up with tears, but they generally remain unshed. I can cry for other people, too. If a friend/loved one is suffering, i cry. But that place where one sobs until there is nothing but hitching breaths and hiccoughing? That place where one connects with one’s own pain and suffering? Almost never. And until my first round of effective headshrinking with my current therapist, if it did happen it wasn’t really for me. I didn’t cry over what happened to me, what was DONE TO ME.

Now i am.
I’ll be attending to some task, speaking with someone, reading something unconnected, sitting on the goddamned toilet – and the tears will suddenly come. They spill out and pour down my cheeks, hot and salty. My heart aches and my belly clenches. I weep. I mourn. And i know this is only the beginning. I know there is an ocean of tears inside me yet. A torrent waiting to be unleashed.
I’m going to let them come.

I’ve marinated in self-pity before, and i fucking deserved to. But this isn’t that.
I’m transporting myself back to my childhood, to bear witness to the crimes committed against me. I look upon that innocent little baby, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, and yes, young woman. I watch what happened to her. I listen, and i feel.
And then i mourn. I weep for her suffering. I ache with her needs. I lament her violation, and i grieve her death. She died over and over again, scavenged bits of flesh and blood from the corpse and made a new thing. A zombie. A golem. A robot. A doll.

The water flows and there’s no bottom to this well inside me.

And i thought it was hard to cry. To release my white knuckle control and cry. To stop dissociating from the grief and cry. To feel the pain of past abuse in my body today, and cry. But it is not the hardest thing. Not by a fucking long shot.
Why does a baby cry?
Hunger, thirst, pain, fear… Unmet needs.
What do we do when a baby cries?
Figure out which one it is and meet the need.
Sometimes though, we meet all the needs and the baby still cries. What do we do then?
We soothe them. We hush, we hold, we comfort, cuddle, softly sing. Blankets, stuffies, low lighting. We whisper words of love, vows of protection. We promise that everything is going to be okay.

And now, here we are at the hardest thing.

I’ll try to post about it in the next couple of days.
Until then, try to have as good a weekend as you can.
I will, too.
Do they still make tissues with lotion?

Love and Peace,
~H~

*If cuss words aren’t your thing, you might wanna pass on this piece. I mean, i often let 1 or 2 into my writing, because i write in my RL voice. What you’re reading is how i talk. Yeah, i’m pedantic and histrionic and show-offy with my admirable vocab. I’ve also been known to swear like a trucker made a baby with a sailor, and it was born with an itch it can’t scratch and a 2′ wide yapper.
This post is feelin’ like it needs to be full of swears.

Thanks Mum

My mother-in-law died, and we held a memorial.
I did a thing that, even 2 or 3yrs ago i might not have done nearly so well. I met a family obligation appropriately, with maturity and i think, grace. I was present, not just in the body, but right there in the face, for almost the entire time. I didn’t use anything in order to cope, and i was genuine and sincere. There was a moment when i could feel myself sliiiidiiiing… But i knew it immediately because i was practising mindfulness, so i was able to recognise that i was pulling out of the face. The words that were coming out of my mouth were things i wouldn’t say. I reined it in by excusing myself from the conversation and the group that was chatting.
I wasn’t too nice, too friendly, or too funny. I shed a few tears, but the deep grief is for me to express privately, and it’s not ready yet.

I shared a few words with those who’d gathered there, about what she meant to me, and i was there for all of them. I hadn’t felt that way since the first time i sang a solo in church. I don’t think i’ve done anything like that after high school. I was a karaoke hostess for a couple of years in my late 30s, but i’m not sure >>i<< ever sang a single song. I sang at my grandfather’s funeral, and i think that’s the last time i did anything in front of an audience sober. Until i stood there, in front of those people who’d come to mark her passing.

Growing up i loved public speaking and performing, and i was good at it.
I’ve spent some time grieving the life i might have had if i’d been allowed to pursue it, or even just been supported when i did things on my own. My mother was concerned with me only insofar as i was a source of positive attention and income for her. She wasn’t much good at encouragement beyond urging me to join something. I think she wanted me out of her hair, so she’d push me to participate in after school activities. The problems came when she was called upon to help, like bake something for the tea, or drive me to swim meets, or be there when i was given an award.

The church choirs and the school plays were the worst. I always got noticed. The teachers and congregants always sought her out to share how impressed they were with my talent. She was approached by people a couple of times who wanted to represent me, saying i could get commercials and jingles and little bit parts were available – even in a city like mine. I loved performing. I loved entertaining people. I loved just speaking in front of people, whether it was a poem i’d written, a scripture in church, or just a book report in class. I’d get excited, but i never got stage fright. I don’t know why those things never panned out for sure, but Mom definitely had something to do with it. Whether it was jealousy, envy, laziness, or she liked the way she had things set up already, i just don’t know. What i can say for sure is that she was certainly lazy, a flaw that only grew more pronounced over the years. Also, when dealing with my past as an adult, i looked back and saw that she’d been markedly nastier and more violent after a school or church performance.

At the end of all the angsty feels, i chose to see it as a dodged bullet – my various mental diagnoses left untreated in the entertainment field may well have made me more infamous than successful, if i’d managed any success at all.
Still…

That’s what grownups do, yes? Or maybe i’ll call them “growers”, as in, those who grow. Not just up, or out, but in and down and through and deep and beyond. People who have the kind of life that looks good to me seem to, anyway. Those who find happiness and satisfaction in their day-to-day, and if there’s none to be found, then they look harder, look forward, look upward, look anywhere, knowing it’s there somewhere, or at least believing in its possibility. Those folks. There’s no particular character trait or personal voodoo woo-vibe they got goin’ on. The only thing i’ve found that they have in common is the way i feel when i’m around them. It’s simple, clean, fresh, pure, real, fundamental and beautiful and… And that’s all i can tell you. What exactly the quality is i don’t know, but i know that i like it. I know that i want to be around people who have it, and i know i want some of it for myself. Not theirs, though. I wanna make my own.
But still…

My mother took a possible future from me. I cannot say whether it was accidentally or on purpose, and that part truly, no longer matters to me. The thing that matters is that i’m mad at her for it. I resent her for emotionally hobbling me. And i mourn my lost opportunities. All those doors, from the ones i walked by at her bidding, to the ones she quietly clicked closed when i wasn’t looking, to the ones that must now remain locked. Sometimes i’m still sad about it, and nothing i’ve overcome or accomplished has changed that. Today i may be a queen, but my parent still gave me away for pride and the king only wanted me for wealth and i can’t really make straw into gold, i’m just clever and lucky.

It may appear that i’ve strayed wildly from my initial paragraphs. How did i get from eulogising my dear mother-in-law to Rumpelstiltskin?
I’ll tell you – i’m not exactly sure, but it feels organic as fuck.
I was standing there in front of those gathered, wondering if my legs might give out, sniffling in punctuation, but i was looking up and making eye contact. I knew what i was saying and i was there and invested in communicating what she meant to me and how i felt about her.

One day i’ll tell you about my brief career as a karaoke hostess, but for now let it be enough that i was in full-blown mania, and my multiplicity was out. of. control. I took the job because it appealed to my need for attention and excitement and drama and some of my Bit N’ Pieces still wanted to sing and dance and play dress-up and flirtyflirtflirt with eeeeverybody!
The thing is, i had crippling stage fright. I simply could not sing without a drink or 10 in me. I’ll analyse it/break it down another time, but for now just get this, okay?
I never had stage fright as a child and now it was ALL i had. I drank the stage fright away, but i also drank me away – that was someone else singing.
And i think the same thing would have happened had i tried out for a play or took a public speaking engagement.

But i stood there fully present in my body, communicating my thoughts and feelings to a group of people that mattered to me. We were all there for Mum, and so i cared about every person there, and it was important to me to share my love for her and my grief at her passing. And i believe i was able to do so.
Since then i’ve been trying to write about it, but i kept putting it back in my unfinished folder, because i knew it was missing something. I hadn’t found my voice to tell you the story yet.

I have, now.

My mother took away my voice. She silenced me to the point where my brain made other people to speak for me. And while her death set me free, it took me decades to find which voice was truly, most essentially and basically, mine.

My mother-in-law gave me the beauty and marvel and magic that is a mother/daughter relationship. She gave me a safe and nurturing place to say things that daughters say to their mothers – and she always responded to me with a mother’s love, in a mother’s voice.
I wanted to convey to the people in that church, just how powerful and beautiful her gifts to me were, and i think i did, a little.
But now i see that she gave me one more gift, even in death. Her love of me inspired such love in return, that i was able ditch the stage fright. No need for liquid courage, no help from the Peanut Gallery.
I stood in front of a group of people and told them something i wanted them to know.
And they heard me and they felt it and they got it.

She helped me get back something that my mother took away.

Thank you, Mum.
I miss you.
I love you.

~H~