Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Where We Live

I come from a family of liars. Professional liars. People who, at one time or another, got paid good money to pretend to be someone other than themselves. People who got paid to make fictitious stories up and try and present them as realistically as possible. I myself am a gifted liar. I can sit down and start typing and create a world that had not existed prior to the tippy-tapping of my lightning fast fingers on the keyboard.

And its all lies.

Oh, sure. We call it fiction to gussy it up. We call it acting to make it seem somewhat presentable. But at its core, there is an air of deception and pretension that can be seductive. It's lovely to have the ability to make things up, just for the hell of it. It's lovely and enticing and seductive. So much so, in fact, that it can difficult to come back to this world, this planet, this reality.

The difference between me and the rest of my prevaricating clan is that I live here -- I only work in Fantasyland. I was raised by a mother who was just this side of a pathological liar. I am about to move in with a father who is… well, let's just say he can tell his share of fish stories. The trouble with creative people who lie is that they tend to lie most of all to themselves. They live in a permanent state of denial in which unpleasant news is greeted, not with shock or grief, but with an immediate urge to revise and polish, changing the outcome through fabrication, rather than dealing with problems head-on.

It reminds me of when we were very small and playing make-believe, and something was proposed by a playmate in the creation of our mutual fiction that didn’t quite jibe with our own vision. So we'd attempt to change the course of the story by saying a sentence that usually began, "Let's say that…." "Let's say that you're the mommy and I'm the baby, and you have to carry me because I'm too little to walk." "Let's say that you're the velociraptor and I'm the T-rex and we have to fight to see who's meanest." Which is great. When you're seven.

If you're still doing it at seventy-seven, then we have a problem. "Let's say cigarettes aren't harmful to my health, but really are what has been keeping me alive for all these years." "Let's say that this persistent numbness in my foot isn't anything to concern myself with or see a doctor about, and let's say it'll go away by itself, and won't put me in a wheelchair the rest of my life." "Let's say that living in a squalid, filthy house full of rodent feces, with nicotine-coated walls, a leaky roof and stinky, mildewy carpet is just fine and no concern should be given whatsoever to what kind of damage such conditions have on my physical or psychological health."

Let's just say all that, because if we say it, we make it true.

Personally I like my drama on the page and the stage, thank you very much. I like to make stories up, as long as when I turn off the laptop and put it in the case, the stories go with it. Because this is where we live. This is the world and we are the people in it. Magical thinking -- the belief that just merely by wishing that something were so, it is so -- hasn't advanced the cause of the world one bit. Inventive thinking, yes. Magical thinking, no. Creative thinking, yes. Magical thinking… not so much.

How I'm going to tackle the challenge of living every day in a house with someone who is constantly rewriting his reality, as if it were a screenplay instead of real life, I'm simply not sure. This is not a drill. It is not a docu-drama. It's life. And sometimes life sucks. But it must be handled, and soon.

Or it will simply slip away, unnoticed.

~C~

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