Truth wasn’t ever really a thing for me. It didn’t exist outside of circumstance.
The Queen (my mother) would simply decide quickly if she was going to agree with what you were saying (thereby making it the truth) or if she felt like yelling at you (which means you must have lied). Like the Queen of Hearts, my mother was a fickle judge who would intimidate the jury and force the hand of the executioner.
I didn’t realize until recently that most people actually know when they are lying. I would never really know if my words were the truth or not until I saw her reaction.
mom: “why didn’t you call me when you got to your friend’s house?”
9 year old lyla: (honestly) “i forgot.”
mom: “what’s the real reason? why didn’t you call me!!! *yell*shame*threat*”
9 year old lyla: “i um.. um.. her sister was on the phone until now.”
mom: “oh. okay.” (satisfied with the lie rather than the truth)
Playing dumb works too. The “I have no recollection of that conversation where you asked me to do that. Maybe you never asked or I’m going crazy but we’ll never know and you can’t blame me.” That answer actually works really well with her- because she also thinks that the truth is only truth if others believe it. Therefore, a lie is the truth if others believe it. Therefore, nothing is real and whatever is easy is what you should say.
Trying to tell my mother that her impression of reality was not the truth was like putting your head in a lion’s mouth. Why would anyone do that? Honor? Not worth it.
mom: “It’s too bad your daughter doesn’t have our beautiful blue eyes.”
29 year old Lyla: “My eyes aren’t blue anymore Mom.”
mom: “Yes they are, people used to always stop me on the street to tell me how beautiful your blue eyes are.”
29 year old Lyla: “I know but they aren’t blue anymore, they’ve changed colour as I’ve gotten older, there’s yellow in them and they are more green. See.” (moving closer to mother so that our noses almost touch)
mom: “I know what color your eyes are! I don’t need to look. Why are you getting so mad at me!@! You are so sensitive. ok ok, (sarcastic) You don’t have blue eyes. Sooorrry…. Nobody ever tell Lyla that she has blue eyes or she’ll yell at you.”
(That story also illustrates my mother’s inability to see me as I actually am. But that’s for another day.)
Having her ask you a question was like her holding your head under the guillotine with her other hand holding the blade…waiting. The actual truth was never relevant. The most appeasing answer told convincingly, was rewarded with being allowed to take your head out of the guillotine for a moment. (but you’re still up on the executioner’s platform as long as you’re in her presence.) Think fast. Answer calmly. Read her mood. Figure out what she needs to hear…and say it!
Even as an adult, when I have to answer for my actions to others, I always feel like I’m lying.
If you ask me what I ate for breakfast, I’m not sure if I should tell the truth (oatmeal) or lie (a bagel) or play dumb (I can’t remember) or lie big (I was going to have oatmeal but my daughter spilled the jar on the floor so i had to clean it up and then i just had tea and took them to Tim Hortons). There’s really no benefit to me in any of those answers and it’s such an innocuous question that it shouldn’t cause me stress… but it does.
(note: even in writing that I had oatmeal today, i’m not sure if i should write something more interesting for the purposes of your reading enjoyment or maybe i should say that i had yogurt because i want you to think that i’m someone who eats yogurt on Fridays. this makes no sense and is unnecessarily stressful. welcome to my brain.)
Last Tuesday, I had to leave work 15 minutes early for a therapy session. I could have just said it was a doctor’s appointment (which it was) but then I may get a raised eyebrow about always going to the doctor and then he’d think that I’m lying (even though I wasn’t). So instead I lied and told my boss some convoluted story about my mother in law having a work emergency and being late to pick up my kids so I had to run to get them. Stupid.
I actually felt safer in that lie than the truth.
I hate to be one of those people who blames everything on her mother but, to tell the truth, I’m pretty sure lots of the shit I do and fears I have are her fault.