Bear with me. My brain is apparently in dump mode – as in, get out all the crud that’s been stuck in the corners for too long. Spoiler alert: there’s some heavy stuff in there. I gotta think at some point my writing will get lighter but for now…the muse insists on evicting the crud first.
I’ve been lied to. A lot lot lot. It’s stupid how much, really, and a little incomprehensible even to this day. I have endured an unfair amount of deception already in my life, with the lion’s share coming from just one person. But I’m not here to bash the liar; that’s too easy and frankly, not worth my time. I’m here because as a writer, I’ve tried to communicate how it feels to be lied to on such a grand scale, and what that does to a person. (I’m going into this with the assumption that you have not experienced deception on the scale to which I’m referring – but if you have, my heart goes out to you, cuz it sucks.) Write what you know, they say. However intimate I have become with the feeling though, I feel like I have failed to find the words to accurately convey it to others. But I’m going to try anyway, because dammit all I’m a writer and that’s what I do.
I’ve often wondered: are some things beyond description? Possibly. Maybe certain things just have to be lived through to fully understand them (even if we’d rather not know), and this could be one of them. Lies are one of those intangible things you can’t see, you can only experience. You can catch someone in a lie, but you can’t physically catch the lie itself and put it in a jar to examine its movements or patterns or describe its shape. And you can almost never see it coming or brace for its arrival. It just…happens. And even though my slant will be personal and how you experience a thing will be innately different, the threads that bind us in our shared human experience are similar enough that I should be able to make you feel some measure of it without having to live through it. Right now, I’m using it to challenge my chops as a writer – if I can make you feel some of what I felt (read: pain) by the end of this, I can possibly convince myself that I am good at this writing thing after all, and that could potentially tear down the walls stubbornly constructed around the novel I’ve been trying to write for years, putting some sort of wordy domino effect into play. Worth a shot, anyway.
Lies are the very definition of selfishness. I don’t want to hurt him/her, I don’t want people to hate me, I don’t want to get caught – whatever the justification or however altruistic the reasoning might make a person feel, it’s selfish, and it’s bullshit. It serves one purpose alone, and it’s never to spare the person being lied to. NEVER. Don’t kid yourself. However hurtful the truth can sometimes feel, it’s dwarfed by the pain felt when you discover you’ve been conned. Because it’s intentional. They meant to do it. They claim to love you and yet they looked deep into your eyes – eyes that were begging and pleading for the truth – and they spewed out garbage. It fucking hurts, even when you know it’s-them-not-you. And then when you’re able to finally see the size of it, you realize deception requires a baffling amount of energy to maintain. Why would anyone want to live like that, and inflict so much damage in the process? It’s beyond me. Sadly, though, learning the truth is not where the story ends. The burden of that energy then shifts over to the lied-to, now having to face the world a changed person, mentally assessing every word or action for signs of deception and reasons to distrust. I have to fight every single damn day to not let it define the rest of my relationships. And even though I’ve (mostly) learned how to beat it, or rather keep it from beating me, it feels like a hollow victory. I’m not out fighting the good fight – I’m out there clawing my way through simply trying to get back to zero.
Much like any burden, it’s one I wish I didn’t have to carry, but here I am.
If you tell the truth it becomes part of your past.
If you lie, it becomes part of your future.
When the truth finally surfaced and I learned my entire relationship was constructed out of lies, my insides burned white-hot. I was a searing ball of anger. Every time I opened my mouth to speak about it I was breathing fire, I couldn’t help it. Tears tinged my eyes red in much the same way. It would take days, weeks, months for me to actually see just how elaborate it was, and every time I learned a little more – usually stumbling upon it accidentally, because lord knows I already had more than enough evidence to convict, I wasn’t looking for more – any progress I had made in assuaging the burn was undone instantly. Every foggy, not-quite-right explanation I had ever struggled to make sense of suddenly snapped into focus, splashing more fuel on the fire. Because it never left. Their deception took up residence in my body like a boiling vat of acid, and each new discovery incited a sickening flare up. I had lived and shared my life for years with someone who, it turns out, I didn’t even know. I had unwittingly become part of a thing I hate most in this world – a big, fat fucking lie.
I made major life decisions based on their lies. I challenged family and damaged friendships relying on false information. Looking back, there was not a single aspect of my life that wasn’t altered or impacted by the li(f)e I was living, and I didn’t have a clue. Every move I made was predicated on knowledge intentionally being kept from me, so how could I possibly make good moves? It sickens me that it was able to thrive for as long as it did. And the worst part of that was that I felt justified in defending it because I thought I knew the truth and they didn’t. My very existence had become false and I couldn’t even see it. I was completely, hopelessly, utterly lost.
All memories, even (especially) the happy ones, are now tainted. Forever. Simply put, wasted years. Happy memories of that time no longer exist. Because lies don’t just dirty up what was already dirty – they shit all over what was once valued and cherished. Now you have the knowledge that the lie was right there beside you, its arm draped over your shoulder, sickly smiling back at you in all your reimagining of events and memories – you just didn’t know it. Your brain goes into assault mode, furiously and simultaneously attempting to rewire years’ worth of happy memories to include this new information. Your past is no longer your past anymore, but some shitty remake taken from a new, unflattering camera angle. Can I tempt you in watching a B (or C, or D) version of your favourite movie over and over again in place of the beloved original? I thought not. But good luck shutting it off; it’s now on a constant loop in your brain.
So you have the burning insides. The fire breathing. And a frantic, stressed brain overloaded with requests to turn happy into sad, beautiful into ugly.
Now I want you to add the heartache. Oh god, the heartache.
You assume the heart is aching for the person you’ve lost, but it’s not. How can it, you never really knew them. No, it’s breaking over the loss of something that you never actually had, but that you believed in your heart existed. We don’t just mourn for people who die; we mourn whenever we feel loss so great that it alters our very existence. Only there is no ceremony to put it to rest, no gathering to recall the good times, because there aren’t any. But the pain is no less crippling; it might even be worse, because you know they’re still out there, capable of inflicting more pain. It’s over but it’s not. The awful things they did doesn’t shorten your anguish or make it more bearable. You don’t just ‘move on’ because now ‘you’re better off.’ Your heart is in pieces regardless of how gracelessly a person exits your life.
Every ‘I love you’ I ever heard became white noise; meaningless reverb. Imagine going home tonight to your loved ones and not believing what you hear. Doubting it, questioning it, not feeling even remotely loved by it, but instead feeling stupid for believing it. Insulted. (There’s that hot sear again.) If there’s one thing in this world we most need, it’s to believe in and feel love. To stand in front of someone asking for love, and instead getting spit on – that would be devastating, right? For a good while, I lived with an irrational fear that the next time someone said ‘I love you’ it would be immediately followed by, ‘haha just kidding, sucker!’ A verbal punch in the gut. Logically, I knew this was highly unlikely. But that’s how it leaves you. Raw, burnt, scared – not trusting a damn thing, not trusting other people – and certainly not even your own heart. So you have no choice but to mourn that too.
It was definitely enough pain to close up my heart forever. For the record, I didn’t. I knew the only person who would suffer would be me if I did. And here’s the other thing this slug fest left me with: Resilience. Strength. Compassion. Yes, compassion. It’s not a healthy, happy person who destroys you with lies – it’s a broken one. If you care to pinpoint the moment I became a champion for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, it was the very same day I came face-to-face with it. Because however oppressive and unbearable its presence was, I was grateful for it…eventually. It had finally, mercilessly, set me free.
Doesn’t mean I’ll never be lied to again. Sadly, exposure doesn’t make you immune. Others have already used my pain to their advantage while I was trying to climb back up, stating they would never do such a terrible thing, waving the “You deserve better!” flag. (To them I say: karma, baby. It’s coming for you, TRUST ME. Heh.) The truth about lies is, we’re all capable, but what we often don’t consider is the weight that comes with it. It’s never the easy way, and it always comes at a price. My experience taught me, among other things, that I just have to be that much more careful about who I give my heart to next time. Actually, that’s not even accurate – I’m not giving it to anyone. It’s too precious to give away. But if someone wants to earn a place in it, well that’s an entirely different story.
I’m not happy I was lied to. The collective experience chewed me up and spit me out. I’d probably have chosen just about any other way to learn this life lesson about love and trust and loss, but I didn’t get to choose and I can’t rewrite the story. I can only tell it the way it felt to me, with the goal of making you feel something – anything – by the end of the page.
Hopefully, I was successful.