Rumours and Reflection

Image result for pixabay whisper
Whisper, whisper, lies are sinister…

A few years ago, when I was working in my current job the first time (which is to say, before I quit and subsequently returned a year later), I had a woman accuse me of wearing her shoes. She had dropped them in to have heels replaced, and have them stretched. When she returned to pick them up, she asked my boss if anyone had been wearing her shoes, and looked pointedly at me. She said they were stretched out, completely ignoring the fact that one of the things she had requested that we do to her shoes, was stretch them. Obviously the accusation was denied, because there was no truth to it, but the woman didn’t appear convinced.

A short time later, one of the shopping centre security guards approached the shop with a grin, and informed us that the very same woman who had made her accusation, had gone into the security office and demanded to be shown the security footage of me walking out of the shop with her shoes under my arm. Of course, no such footage existed, because I hadn’t taken her shoes home to wear them. Not least because they were hideous, but also, and more importantly, not something I would do. When she was refused this by the security guards, she went one step further and left an online review for the shop, claiming that she would never be returning, because “The girl there wears customer’s shoes”.

I think back on it now, as I reflected on it at the time, and can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the whole situation. Some people, when they get an idea in their head, just run with it – regardless of how bizarre or outlandish the idea may be. And when someone is determined to drag your name through the mud, there is very little you can do about it. At the end of the day, people are going to believe what they want to believe, and you are not responsible for how people perceive you. What matters is that the people that are important to you know the truth.

I remember this story, because just recently I found myself in a similar situation, though this time it was considerably closer to home. A few months ago I met a girl through a mutual friend. We began seeing each other, and then began officially dating. Shortly after, I realised that it was not the right time for me to be in a relationship (based on certain things that I won’t go into detail about here), and I broke things off in what I thought was an amicable split. A few days later, I found out that she had changed the story of our breakup to the people she worked with, claiming that I had broken up with her because I “couldn’t handle the issues with [her] mental health”.

When I first heard it, I was angry. Here was someone I had hoped to remain friends with, lying about me to people I had no way of defending myself against. I was being made out to look like the insensitive jerk, the coward who couldn’t deal with the complexeties of mental illness. I am the last person in the world who would sit in judgement of someone suffering from mental health issues. Then, after a long conversation with my best friend, and a bit of personal reflection, I realised that getting angry was going to do nothing more than exhaust my energies on something that was entirely beyond my control.

I cannot control the actions and words of other people, but what I can control is whether or not those people have a place in my life. So, after some consideration, I decided that my ex was no longer someone that I wished to remain in contact with. Perhaps I am getting wise in my old age, or perhaps it is simply that I have no time or tolerance for petty, petulant high school drama. Regardless of the reason, I am no longer prepared to spend my time with people with whom I can find no genuine connection. At the very least, I am not going to waste any time on people who live for rumour and lies. And if nothing else, my recent dating experience had left me with no doubt that being single is highly underrated.

Lies We Tell Ourselves

From a young age, we are taught that lying is bad and that we should always be honest. Well, I have an honest truth for you; no matter how fiercely they deny it, people like lies. And more than that, they need them. People lie for all kinds of reasons. We lie to avoid getting in trouble. We lie to hurt other people and we lie to protect them. We lie to make ourselves feel better and we lie to avoid facing the harsh realities that we are so scared of. See, the truth is that for most of us, lies are a necessary evil. And if you want to deny that, you are merely proving my point.

Life is hard. Nobody ever said it was meant to be easy and if they did, that’s the biggest lie of all, right there. Perhaps the reason lies are so essential is because life is difficult. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, life’s inevitable outcome is always the same; people die. There is nothing we can do to prevent that, at least not yet. And we don’t like to think about that. I know I certainly take no comfort in the thought of my body rotting in the ground, nothing more than a headstone to mark that I was on this earth and that I lived. I will fade from memory and in the end, no one will even remember who I was and that I existed. Unless I happen to become famous for something, and even then eventually I’m sure I would become just another one of those long forgotten faces in the pages of history books – assuming of course books still exist by the time I die. We are afraid to die and so we fall back on religion. The idea of heaven or an afterlife or reincarnation; all of those things are comforting for people because it means they can believe that there is something after death. The truth is, no one living knows what happens after we die. Only the dead know, and they’re certainly in no position to tell us. Me personally, I take comfort in the idea (note that I didn’t say ‘fact’) that maybe I’ll get to come back in another body after I die. Old Souls and all that. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which we find more comforting, those ideas mean we can avoid accepting that maybe, death really is all there is.

One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves is that love fixes everything. We worship the idea of love and place too much emphasis on its value while simultaneously not appreciating it for what it is meant to be. The word ‘love’ is so casually tossed about that it loses all meaning. We use it as a panacea for all ills instead of a genuine expression of adoration, to the point where this idea that is supposed to be pure and untainted becomes twisted and warped. We say I love you because it’s expected, because we think it will fix our problems or because it’s just something we say without really thinking about it. And when we hear it, we believe the veiled lies behind the false sentiment and try desperately to convince ourselves that the feeling is real. We tell ourselves that hearing those three words means that everything is fine and choose to ignore the fact that there are some things that love can’t fix. We skim over our underlying issues by casually throwing an ‘I love you’ into conversations we have with people, and expect that if we say it, we won’t have to deal with those issues. But the sad truth is that in a lot of cases, love – this adulated concept – is nothing like what it’s meant to be. We don’t say it because we mean it, we say it because it’s easier to tell someone we love them than to face up to the fact that everything is not ok.

And that’s another lie; telling ourselves and telling others that we are ok when we’re not. We all do it. If we can convince everyone else that we’re fine, then maybe we stand a chance of convincing ourselves. We delude ourselves into thinking that there is nothing wrong, because the reality of having to face up to and deal with our problems is too hard. Easier to sweep them under the carpet and go on pretending that life is just peachy. Yes, we’re happy and our relationship is as steady as ever. No, I don’t have a drinking problem. We all have conflicts and difficult situations in our lives that we need to work through but so rarely do we acknowledge them for what they are, without first pretending that they don’t exist. Maybe we try to hide our problems because we’re ashamed, maybe because we don’t want to admit that we’ve failed at something. Maybe we lie about having issues because we hate the thought that we might be just a little bit fucked up. But the truth is that we’re all a little bit fucked up. I am. You are. It doesn’t matter what face a person puts on for the world to see, beneath the surface everyone has problems. An abusive relationship. An unhappy marriage. An eating disorder. A drug addiction. But the longer we lie and say that those problems don’t exist, the harder it will be to accept the truth of them later.

To use an old but nonetheless valid cliché, the truth hurts and it can be ugly and unpleasant and cold. So yes, for whatever reason, we believe that lies are necessary. Especially the lies we tell ourselves. And we love them because they tell us that just one more bit of cake won’t affect our waistline and that we look fantastic in that shirt that doesn’t quite fit. They insist that another drink will lessen the pain and make everything better. They assure us that when our partner says ‘I love you’, they mean it, or that we do when we say it back. Lies whisper lovingly to us and indulge us, telling us all the things we want to hear and letting us live in that wonderful, warm world of delusion. But those lies that we secretly love so much are more detrimental to us than we want to admit. And it’s about time we stopped giving them so much power. Delusions are pretty, sure. But when they fall apart, and they inevitably will, all we have left is the reality. So it’s up to us to make that reality as good as it possibly can be and prove to the world, and to ourselves, that those lies really aren’t as essential as we think they are.