Everybody Lies


Everyone lies. Everyone. If you say you don’t, than you are already lying. So just stop denying it. You are a liar like the rest of us. The question is though, what is your intention when you lie, and how often do you do it? To me, intention and frequency separates the lowlife liars from the normal honorable people.

We learn how to lie from our parents. From birth, they deceive us. They fill our minds with the magic of Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. Oh, and don’t forget that you were a precious gift from the Stork who delivers babies too. (If I just ruined some magic for you or made you realize that your parents did indeed have sex to conceive you…I am so sorry, but the truth eventually always comes out.)

As we grow up, our parents tell us we are capable of doing anything we want. When in reality, we do not have the physical height for that basketball career we dream of. They promise us that those spankings and shots will hurt them more than it hurts us. Yet, no hands or needles touched them over the years. They look us straight in the face and claim they cannot find that the amazing movie we like to watch 18 times before lunch is missing and that they have no idea where it could be. Suspiciously, later, we find that movie behind the couch in the pages of their magazine, and they were not nearly as excited at the discovery as we were. They tell us if we touch our privates too much, they will fall off. If that were true, just imagine how many self-made eunuchs there would have been in high school after puberty!

I could go on, but you get the point. As parents, we lie to protect our kids, give them confidence and frankly, to keep ourselves sane because if we watch that Barney episode one more time, we just may lose our ever-loving minds. I get that and can respect it.

I can even appreciate the lies we tell to other adults at times. Again, these are lies with good intention though. For example, you lied to your girlfriend/wife and told her that her meatloaf was great. But, you really thought it was equivalent to what shoe leather may taste like. You agree with an acquaintance who claims their baby is the most beautiful child. However, when you look at the unfortunate lad, you wonder if you have ever seen an ugly baby and then you realize, you just did. You concoct some story about traffic to explain your tardiness to a party when really, your spouse was having a wardrobe malfunction of epic proportions and you had the forethought to not mention the truth as it might be embarrassing to your spouse…and maybe not so good for your health. To me, these are all acceptable forms of lies. That is hard for me to accept at first though since I loath lies. However, these lies help others, and that is noble and a form of storytelling, according to Daniel Wallace (The Kings and Queens of Roam). “A storyteller makes up things to help other people; a liar makes up things to help himself.”

The latter is the type of liar I cannot stand. Their intention is what makes them ugly. They lie to cheat the system, to cover up their tainted tracks or to claim unearned accolades. Their deceit builds upon itself and eventually, some even start to believe their own fantasies. I’ve known several liars in my life. From childhood to work to loved ones, I have witnessed some tales in my time. I have heard people lie about major illnesses to get sympathy or get out of a physical task. Others have spent more time lying about work they claimed to have finish, when it would have taken less time to just do the work. Others have fashioned audacious legends about their accomplishments to appear more grand and important. Sadly, who and what they were then, was impressive enough. I’ve heard of countless stories where spouses, both men and women, have woven such intricate fables to cover up their unfaithfulness. Isn’t one relationship time consuming enough people?

All of these types of lies come with a price. It seems, at least from my experiences in life, that the truth is a critical factor in the stability and longevity of relationships, businesses, and what not. “Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies,” said Dorothy Allison (Bastard Out of Carolina).

Just think about scandals in the world and relationships. Generally, the scandalous part is because some truth has been revealed. Now, I am not saying I have never lied. Of course I have. I am human. However, I try to be an honest, good person for the most part. But frankly, another reason I avoid lying is that I just don’t have the energy to do it. When I consider these scandals, I think of how exhausting it must have been to hide so many things. One lie seems to require another and another. Eventually, there is a web of things to remember. Hell, I cannot even remember my own birthday or what I walked into a room for sometimes. How in the heck will I remember 26 interconnected lies? I don’t think I could. Therefore, I just tell the truth. It is easier. Call me honest by default of laziness, but this is not a unique belief. Even Abraham Lincoln thought it was strenuous to lie. “No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar.” Too bad Lincoln’s belief seems to have escaped politics these days…

Other than requiring so much energy and memory though, lies seem to ruin trust and intimacy in a relationship as well. “Over time, any deception destroys intimacy, and without intimacy couples cannot have true and lasting love,” said Bonnie Eaker Weil (Financial Infidelity: Seven Steps to Conquering the #1 Relationship Wrecker). And doesn’t everyone ultimately want love? So why would we go out of our way and spend energy on ruining it?

The only excuses I can think of are: one, the liar is not happy with themselves and therefore, they lie to make themselves feel good; two, the liar is addicted to the challenge and excitement of lying; and three, they may actually believe their own lies. Regardless, when you realize someone has lied to you, it diminishes the trust you had for them, which according to Victoria Schwab (The Unbound) is difficult to regain. “Da used to say that lies were easy, but trust was hard. Trust is like faith: it can turn people into believers, but every time it’s lost, trust becomes harder and harder to win back.”

To me, relationships, both work related or intimate, are like bank accounts. When you have good encounters and experiences with people, you build a positive account. (I think this belief came from Stephen Covey book somewhere.) When you have negative events with them, you withdraw from the balance. So like in basic math, when you have more withdrawals than deposits, your account will become negative. Think about that coworker, friend or romantic partner who last lied to you. How did it affect your relationship with them? Friedrich Nietzsche summed up the after effects of lies very well. “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

And there is the rub. The more people lie to us, the less likely we are to believe them. Let’s just hope those known liars don’t tell you how good you look today or that you have a pretty baby.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the Walking With Intention series on The Seeker’s Dungeon.

 

 

 

Working Towards a Dream


workFor short time in life, I was blissfully working my dream job at a photography studio. Then, the U.S. economy crashed, I was laid off and then sent to a war zone. It was a lot to process in a short period. Ironically, going to war saved me from even more stress though.

My dream job was working for a photo studio. All day long I was either taking/editing pictures or designing coffee-table style albums. It was creative and exciting so I didn’t mind the hard work, long hours and average pay. I was learning elegance to a basic craft the Army had taught me.

As a military photographer/journalist, I learned to capture scenes of training events and actual missions through photography and articles. It was shoot (my camera, not my weapon), move and gather information for a corresponding story. If you missed a shot or quote, that was it, you missed it since there typically was no re-do. I covered assignments where I photographed various missions in small towns while deployed to Bosnia. There, I got to see the hope in the eyes of locals as they got the help they needed and pride in the faces of the Soldiers who got the chance to make a difference. Other times, I got to sit one on one with a Soldier and really talk to them about what they did and why, which generally resulted in an interesting feature article. It was rewarding, and I loved it. However, there was more for me to learn in the aspects of photography (and journalism).

That is where the civilian photo studio job filled the gaps. I photographed weddings, community events, portrait sessions and magazine shoots. I was learning more about my camera than I ever knew existed. I discovered that lighting and angles could create magic. I was witnessing huge moments of people’s lives: weddings, anniversaries, and milestones of their children (newborn through senior pictures). I created memories that they would cherish for years and perhaps even generations. Once, I even had the honor of unknowingly making the last portrait of a beloved grandmother before she unexpectedly passed away. The family called in their grief to order a candid picture I had taken of her laughing at a recent wedding. My photograph was to be her memorial picture. To me, that was an honor that I will always remember.

I’ve had some friends say, you can’t just take pictures your whole life. Frankly, that kind of hurt and I was rather offended. I mean is my dream less worthy? Less valid? I knew what they meant though. It is hard to make living off of photography. Just like it is hard to make a living off of writing, painting, singing and dancing. Those facts are pretty accurate according to statistics. And even when I did have a full time job at a photography studio, the pay was not enough to support my family alone. I could only do it because I was married and there was another income then.

Well, the dream has stopped and reality is now here. After redeploying and divorcing, I could not realistically return to the photo studio job. It just would not have been financially wise. But, as adults, we have to overcome and adapt to survive. That doesn’t mean that I have given up my dreams on working as a photographer and writer. No. It just means I have to readjust my plan. And plans take work, according to Colin Powell. “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

For me, hard work is doing what I need to do to be financially stable, completing my obligations and THEN working on my dreams. So, I accepted a government civilian job as an editor for technical manuals. (Yes, there is a sleeping hazard associated with this job at times but it is a miracle job nonetheless, but that is another story altogether.) Then, after that, I am a Soldier who can be a photograph/writer/commander for the Army Reserve. (Only five more years and ?? deployments to go before I can retire too!) AND THEN, when I have time, I shoot pictures for people as my third job. Or as I like to say, my bonus job. I have also started two blogs so I can work on my writing and photography as well. It may not be the dream pattern and gets a little hard to schedule at times in between a social life, but, it is what I need and want to do. One job pays the bills and helps me develop my editing skills. The other job makes me serve something greater than myself all while helping me maintain my skills at photography, writing and resiliency. And then, I can play around and shoot everything from weddings to senior pictures to work group shots. It is a lot of work at times. However, I think it will pay off eventually. And according to Sam Ewing, it shows that I am not a quitter. “Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all.”

Overall though, I truly believe that nothing will ever happen if I don’t make it happen. Like Powell said, dreams don’t just happen by magic. You have to figure out how to get to where you want to be. And when given a road block, you find a new way. There is always more than one way to a destination, but the only destination I want is the ultimate me. The best thing is, I get to decide on the route.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For Dungeon’s Prompt ~ Live to Work or Work to Live.

 

 

I Forgot Myself


My teenage self was a better actor than my adult self. Somewhere over the years, I forgot how to stand proud, act confident and create huge, wind-proof hair. It is all starting to come back to me though. Well, minus the 80s hair, that can stay forgotten.

As a teenager, I was active. I was in the marching band, took a modeling class, taught dance classes to kids, dressed like Madonna, competed in beauty pageants, and cheered at basketball games, football games and competitions. I acted like I was good enough to fit in all the crowds. I mean I was the creative writing honor roll student-band geek-cheerleader who dressed weird after all. I was walking diversity at its best back then.

From the outside, I looked like a confident young girl. It was all an act though. Inside, I was just as insecure as any other girl. I wasn’t from a wealthy family so I didn’t have the coolest clothes. Some kids teased me, saying I dressed like Madonna. At the time, I didn’t even know who that was. But I pretended I did and figured it out later. Sure enough, I had some lace gloves and odd skirts that could have easily fit into an 80s Madonna MTV video. (Remember when MTV actually played videos?)

I participated in local pageants, where as one of my runner-up prizes, I won a Barbizon Modeling course. Of course, this was just some ‘deal’ where you got a few classes free with some promise to be the next Christy Brinkley. But I went and somehow my parents paid for the potential earnings. (I didn’t become a famous 5’2” model though. Huh. Go figure.)

As a “band geek,” I played the flute, French horn and trumpet. I was actually pretty decent at the flute (but very meh at the horn instruments) and wish I would have kept up with it. For years, I toted around that stickered flute case that I got in 6th grade. I always planned to play it later, another day, but it rarely happened. It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that I finally parted with it, giving it to a co-workers child to cherish. (I wonder if they still have it?)

My best friend and I (who are still friends to this day), cheered and taught dance classes. We were inseparable. We went to practices, games, and competitions in our matching cheer clothes. We taught ballet, tap and acrobats to small kids at the local studio in lieu of free lessons for ourselves. We wore crazy dance outfits during recitals that we of course thought were sexy and modern. We even had nearly identical cars by mere coincidence of our families’ choices for us. Many people called us twins and we were perfectly OK with that.

Through all of this, I learned to carry myself in confident ways. Well, as self-assured as a teenager could be. I look at the girl in these old snap shots and wonder, where did she go? I know I wasn’t really that confident, that comfortable, but geez, I sure look like I am. And boy, I sure did know how to make some big hair back then! I mean really! How did I get big hair under that band hat? Now THAT, has to be worth something right there alone. Doesn’t it?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Over the years though, I forgot that fake confidence. I forgot that model walk. I forgot how to wear acid wash miniskirts while balancing huge hair on heels. I forgot how to play my own music. I forgot how to do a back handspring. And I even forgot what it was like to sit in a parade (on the hood of my mom’s rusty Ford Escort station wagon) gracefully waving at the people who were surely wondering, “Don’t most festival queens ride on the back of fancy convertibles? Oh bless her heart for trying.” (This is a true story. I may even find a picture of this parade!)

With age and hard lessons, I forgot the freedom of youth and the lack of concern of what others might think, or at least the appearance of it. I started to fit into less groups and limited my interests. I began to care about my reputation and restrained my creativity into acceptable forms. I stopped dressing like I was in a Madonna video. I never tried out for another pageant or anything close because I thought it was kind of embarrassing to have always been the runner-up and never the queen. I even helped the ozone by cutting down my volume of Aqua Net use when my hair became lower and less of an impenetrable, unmovable shield.

With all those changes though, I was more vulnerable. I was more insecure. I was more dependent on what the world expected of me and less of what I wanted myself.

Years passed where I was a zombie. I worked jobs to pay the bills for things I was supposed to have. I put myself into debt to support the American way. I completed a college degree only to have to join the military because I couldn’t find a good paying job in my field of study.

There were mind numbing years of existence that resemble hazy blurs in my memory. I don’t know what I did or how I got through them, but I did. And it is probably not a vastly different story line than many other people out in the world today. But here’s the thing. I am waking up and remembering.

I am learning to love myself again and walk tall, even when I don’t feel that poised in my questionable outfit of the day. I am relearning a confident stride and holding my head high as I remind myself that I never needed the title of festival queen to feel accomplished anyway. I am starting to write again and not restraining my creativity. I am taking risks and trying new things. I am not letting failed attempts hold me back. Heck, I have even been practicing my acrobats. I can’t do a back handspring (though my high school bestie still can), but I can do a mean cartwheel and backbend, which ain’t too bad for a 44-year-old. (Can I get that slow dramatic clap like in the movies?)

Overall, I am remembering the youthful girl I almost lost. She was me then, and is still me now, with more wrinkles and weight of course. With some time, I will revive all the dreams and potential she had. I will resuscitate that confident spirit and passionate soul. It is only a matter of time, before I remember the me I should have become. It just may not include such huge hair, lace gloves, and miniskirts though. The 80s are over after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~

A few weeks ago, I saved this challenge link because I wanted to write something for it. This isn’t what I originally planned to write, but it is what I felt today. So, finally, here it is.

For Dungeon Prompts: What Did You Forget?

Text Message Break Up…At Mom’s Funeral


I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but I didn’t have time for that. My little sister was reading her eulogy beautifully. She made the crowd laugh at some humorous memories of our mother. She looked at me for encouragement and continued. My dad held my hand, smiling at the stories, but you could see the sadness in his eyes. He did lose the love of his life and best friend after all. My older sister was not at my side like planned since she was very ill and could not come to the funeral. Hence, I sat there calmly, like I had it all together. But of course, that was a lie.

Mom’s death was not a complete surprise. Her cancer had been getting worse, and there were no signs of improvement. We all prepared ourselves for it. We told ourselves it was coming. We made a visit to the hospital to say our “goodbyes” before it was too late. Regardless of how much you tell yourself that something is coming though, it is still a surprise to some extent. The pain you imagined is no longer hovering over you, but washing over you, through you.

The days before the funeral, my two sisters and I spent countless hours together. We rehashed old stories of our mother. Some were funny and made us smile. Others were harsher and made us feel a sense of guilt over our pain and anger. We asked each other, are we allowed to still be upset about this now that she is dead? Does her death negate the mean things she did? That is a hard question to answer and one that must be decided individually, at least in my opinion. However, I do think there is a tendency to martyr people after they die, like the bad never happened. My sisters and I were not all at that stage though. So we talked and talked about our feelings as we sorted through mom’s belongings that dad laid before us.

The stories revealed that each of us had similar, but yet different, relationships with our mother. There were plenty of good times of course, but there were some substantial bad ones as well. The bad times covered everything from ugly words to physical violence to her disowning grandchildren. Some behaviors could be explained and forgiven. Others could not.

Thorough this whole grieving weekend, my boyfriend at the time was relentless. At first, it was relentless caring texts. Are you OK? Hang in there sweetie. I’ll be here when you get home. After three days though, the tone changed. If you have time for that. I don’t want to bother you. If I was important enough, you would make time. Now, I say tone because even though these were texts, I knew him well enough to get the tone. I could feel his anger and attitude. So while I was pouring over piles of my mother’s belongings with my sisters, I was getting and sending all these texts. It was interrupting our grieving. It was stressing me out.

Ironically, when I left home, I reminded him that I didn’t know how much time I would have to call, and that I tended to not be so chatting when I was upset. So I told him, I would text him. I sent him multiple texts during the day. At the airport. Taking dad to lunch. It is weird my mom not being here. I don’t know if I can do this. I feel like I am going to lose it. I was communicating in a form that I could, reassuring HIM while being strong for my family. Heck. I was practically sending hourly Twitter-like updates, so it was not like he didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t like I just disappeared for days with no trace. Unfortunately, that was not good enough because I didn’t pick up the phone to call. I couldn’t. I was almost never alone and I wanted and NEEDED to spend this time with my family. I wasn’t ready to talk about what I was going through. I wanted to finish going through it before I tried to deal with it. There was also the fact that if I called him, I knew I would break down and cry. I didn’t have time for that. So I text.

Now, with all that said, there is one other factor that I know I mentioned to him over the months we dated, and that was my basic belief on phone etiquette: if I am with people, I try to spend time with them and not be on the phone. Yet, here I was texting and texting replies to his anger and accusation. People that love each other, call each other. I thought I was important enough to you for you to talk to me. I am tired of begging for your attention. It was draining. Freaking utterly draining. But it continued and continued until I called.

I don’t remember what was said but it was not what he wanted to hear apparently. Shortly after our call he text me. I am tired of begging for your attention Michelle. So you don’t have to bother yourself with me when you get home. I am done. I stared at the phone in disbelief. Did he really just break up with me via text the day of my mother’s funeral? For a moment, I panicked. I wanted to call him. I wanted to say I was sorry. He was right, I should have called. Then it hit me. I should not be told how to grieve. I should be allowed to grieve. I did nothing wrong. So I replied something to the extent that I was done too. Are you really doing this? Right now? This way? OK. You will get what you wanted. Do not call me again.

Of course, he called. Oh. My. Goodness. He called and called and text and text. Eventually, I turned off my phone. I could not handle anymore. But I stayed strong. I did not cry. I did not break down. I simple made my way back home. By the time I walked into my house, I realized a few things and there was no going back to that toxic relationship. It dawned on me that if this man could not handle my four-day absence to mourn my mother, he would never be able to support me on my next deployment. If this man did not understand that I was just not ready to “talk” about what was going on then, he did not know me very well. If this man could not support that time with my family then, it would never get any better. If this man refused to be patient with me at a time like that, I could never expect anything more. If this man used manipulation and demands to get his way, it could only escalate in the future.

I thought about the seven months we dated prior to my mother’s inconvenient death that annoyed this man so greatly. The signs were all there. It had gotten worse over time. I just chose to ignore it. I wanted to work through it, not just give up when things got hard. That’s the thing though, when my mom died, that was hard for me….and he just gave up on me. He wasn’t there for me. He was there for him. And once I grasped that, I said goodbye to him. Too bad all that drama interrupted my goodbyes to my mother though.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For the Dungeon Prompt: Now I Get it Moment