I believe I lie to myself too much.
I don’t give myself enough opportunity for self-reflection and self-honesty, but the rare opportunities I do find truth crashing over me like a tidal wave. The truth of my interpretations of life. The truth of what I believe, why I believe it, what I need to let go of, and what I need to defend.
One of the biggest truths I’ve embraced is the folly of all religion. An ex-pastor, I remember defending “truths” to the point of risking my life. One time in particular that comes to mind is when I boarded public transportation in Chicago as a teenager in the 70s, when it was popular for a preacher to stand up and begin “ministering” to his captive audience, who did their best to appear to ignore him. All except for me. Since he wasn’t preaching my interpretation of our shared “holy book,” I stood up and made him look foolish, embarrassing him by quoting rings around him, to the delight, cheers and applause of the bus riders. When I got off at my stop, he followed me, said he had something for me and pulled a weapon out of his “holy book.”
There have been other rare moments of honesty. Having grown up severely abused, I didn’t want to believe I needed anyone, because I was afraid. I believed that I was stronger, more confident and self-assured than I was. When I released the need to be invincible in a torrent of tears recently, it was accompanied by an incredible sense of relief. The acceptance that I didn’t have to be in control of everything going on in my life, and that there was no benevolent, supernatural person watching over me while allowing starving children to die by the thousands daily, made the world finally make sense to me.
After my second divorce, I told myself and others that I would never even consider marriage again. Another lie. The woman in my life loves me more than any reasonable man could ever hope for or even dream of. All the explanations I used to have for denying myself the wonder and beauty of love because of the past escapes me now.
Family reunion movies used to send me on fanciful flights of fantasy, imagining my extended family (who have never been close) connecting on a deep, intimate level that was somehow programmed into our genes. In my daydreams, it wouldn’t matter that many of us were emotionally and psychologically incompatible—we were supposed to connect because we’re family, right? Blood is thicker than water and all that good stuff? It sounds good, but if I allow myself the truth, the closeness we had in my dreams would be the closeness we had in reality if it were so.
I can only let these things out in small doses, but I get braver every day. One day I will allow myself to see only what is. And that’s no lie.
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