It turns out that writing when I apparently have nothing to say is rather liberating. I used to be able to find concepts and subjects that had a beginning, middle, and end. Sometimes they even had a moral, or at least some pithy philosophical remark to wrap them up. It’s pretty dandy to have a sentence on which to finish that ties up any loose ends and also gives the reader something to ponder. Such endings will come back to me again, I hope.
A couple of days ago I was on a shoot for the Park Service and I was just finishing putting away all my gear. I had photographed the inside of an interesting house tucked away in the trees while the owner was out. (I had permission!) I got to chatting with the fellow when he returned and I ended up saying something to the tune of, “people’s shortcomings only look that way because of your own.” He said, “I’ll have to think about that.” Umm. I do too, because I’m not sure I believe myself.
It’s actually rather astonishing how much I keep hidden from myself in an effort just to get through the day. Most days I write in my journal and every entry is rife with lies lies lies. Or half lies because when I am in the midst of writing the sentence I can feel its untruth. It might be something minor like, “I don’t think Joe Blow likes me” when I actually mean, “I don’t like Joe Blow myself.” Or a more major thing such as, “I really don’t care if anyone likes my photographs–I am going to keep going anyway.” What I feel is more like, “It is crushing that I don’t get the accolades I would like, but I don’t have a lot of choice. I can either do what I want and risk being ignored, or do what others like but feel hollow about it.” The most common lies seem to orbit around hate and annoyance, two emotions that cover all manner of hurt.
Anger is supposed to act as a catalyst–giving you the necessary energy to alter the circumstances that brought it about. But I would also posit that it behooves a person to understand that it is an indicator that a boundary or limit has been breeched, and acting out is not justified by the fact that you have been hurt. Yes, I may feel like punching someone in the face but I can’t really get away with that. I could, however, acknowledge to myself that I was remiss in not letting my limits be known, and work on that.
I have had friends in the past who have made me really mad, but I have just swallowed it, thinking I will get over it when I spend some time by myself. What masquerades here as selflessness is actually completely self-absorbed. I tell myself I don’t want to hurt their feelings so I will just let them auger me into the ground with their emotional needs. I’ll be ok, right? There is some sort of hero complex going on there–I will be the friend who doesn’t say no, who is always there for them, who doesn’t abandon them. What happens instead is I don’t give credence to my annoyance and grind my teeth instead until–surprise!–I explode. The person on the receiving end has no idea what hit them. Some friend I am, right?
Self-deception is certainly not unique to me, but I sure do a lot of it. Some lies are pretty obvious, even as I tell them to myself–and I tell them to myself because I want something contrary to what I see and feel to be true. Oh, I say to myself, those aren’t whitecaps out there, it must be low tide and those are waves breaking over ever so many rocks. Nah, they were whitecaps which meant my 2 hour drive to shoot was wasted. Others are more complicated like when I am sure I can tolerate the company of someone for a few days when that has never happened before. Why do I think things have changed when I have done nothing to change them? Because a lot may be riding on a particular outcome, both emotionally and physically, and so I lie to myself.
I like to think that my lies don’t live large in my art life, but I’m pretty sure that’s untrue. I don’t know how easy it is to create things that are not authentic, even if I knew what that meant. I do know that sometimes I make things because I know they will be liked, and stay away from other actions because I know they won’t. It is not an uncommon occurrence as an artist to like pieces of your own that no one else does. When this happens to me I ask myself why–but once again the answers are anything but clear.
Truth is sticky, it’s murky, and it varies from person to person. In fact, as an absolute, I don’t know that it exists except in fleeting scientific moments when “laws” appear to be accurate. Without a veil of delusion, the world is a cruel, fickle place fraught with pitfalls, tragedies, violence, and pain. Every person, every where, deals with crippling hurt at one time or another that no amount of prayer or substance can truly alter. It’s little wonder that we invent things to cling to, and they march on out to fill every part of our life, where perhaps they are not critical to our survival.
I would like to find that place where I am ok with the delusions I harbor because they make parts of my life bearable (I am not that fat, that wrinkled, that old, that untalented), acknowledge and understand the same in others (my facelift is awesome, these pants look great, my poem should be published), and maybe arrive at a place where when the hurt comes–as it will–I am ok with the lies that help me through. In the end, it isn’t just me who isn’t truthful–it’s you too. For a society that seems to value truth, we sure don’t tell much of it, even when we think we are. I’m telling you, if I, a pretty honest person, is surprised by the amount of petty lies I tell, I can only imagine (with a gulp), how much crap is actually spewed by folks. And yet, have you ever noticed how incensed we are when public figures tell lies? If they get caught, perhaps you will too, and that is where that indignity begins.
We all lie. It’s more a matter of how much of it you admit to, even if only to yourself. And that’s the truth.