Keeping My Lies Straight

When I was a kid, I saw a book in a store. I didn’t have enough allowance to buy it, but I still remember staring at the paperback cover and journal-like structure of a book in which I was invited to record the lies that I had told so that I’d be able to keep them straight and not expose myself by forgetting what I’d said to someone. It seemed like such a good idea. And so sad at the same time.

I knew I didn’t always tell the truth, but it never occurred to me that there was another option.

Life happened; I grew up (mostly). I don’t remember a line I crossed beyond which I valued the truth, but somehow I came to deeply want a life of integrity. I came to believe that the truth would set me free.

I want a life where I don’t feel anxious about who is going to think what about me, where my friends can meet and not find out that they know two different people, where I don’t really care what anybody finds out about me because, well, it is what it is. I am what I am. That’s just true. And that’s what I want.

Social media, the Internet, the trail we all leave everywhere we go — our actions and words and photos and purchases recorded — means that we really are living with Big Brother. This week’s news about wire taps on journalists’ conversations and this story about a photographer who is selling photos of (unidentifiable) neighbors whom he photographed through windows in New York both get at the complications in matters of free speech and artistic expression. I’m a proponent of privacy.

There certainly are a zillion occasions and circumstances under which the conversation between two people should be kept private, as they thought it was. In fact, all of them should be private. Yes, a screaming yes, to that.

But more and more, I see how much I need and want my life to be full of integrity so that I just am what I am, and I like what I like (or “like” what I “like”), and I’ll know that some people will agree and others won’t. The life that I am (and we all are) living —  increasingly publicly — puts our lives on display and reveals our lies, our pretenses, and our desires to be seen sometimes as somebody that we’re not.

What effort it takes to keep up with all the versions of me I might want to project into the world (or the Internet). What exhaustion results from putting on a mask or a false self.

And what freedom comes from just being who I am, who we are, warts and all, and doing the best we can to live lives of integrity and apologizing when we fail. And what relief comes from not having to fill in the pages of the “lie book.”

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