Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Liar in My Head

"Tell the truth now", she said, trying her best to be stern. Despite my mother wagging her finger at me, or more convincingly, waving the wooden spoon, I feared the truth more than her consequences. Spontaneously, I made up a doozy of a story in the fond hope that I would be believed, thereby avoiding any painful penalty that would otherwise be visited upon my buttocks by my father’s hand or belt when he came home from work. By the age of 12, I was a consummate liar. Feigned sincerity was a specialty of mine, nurtured it seemed by a budding acting career. It was nothing particularly nefarious, just a preteen trying to avoid the reality of his bad choices or the somewhat harsh restrictions that might be imposed by overly-informed parents. I knew that lying was wrong, but did not appreciate why. It seemed perfectly justifiable at the time, in a Darwinian sort of way.

Little did I know then that my penchant for prevarication would be perfect preparation for a career that specializes in uncovering lies. Okay, okay, I hear the chorus cries, "It takes one to know one". But, lest I be anything else but candid, as a lawyer for the past 31 years, I have come to believe that the truth is as scarce as it is sacred. It is feared much more than fostered. While the temptation to give in and tell just "a little white lie" can be overwhelming, I have learned that the truth is colorblind and critically necessary. Covering up some damning evidence, twisting a tale to suit one's convenience or contorting reality until it is unrecognizable are simply unacceptable lies. And lying makes blind fools of us all.
"I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but truth, so help me God". Despite hearing this innumerable times, I never really understood why this oath was necessary. Leaving aside the "so help me God", as most people do, would one all of a sudden tell the truth if by habit, predisposition or self-serving convenience one was not inclined to do so? My experience in the courtroom strongly suggests that lying is often much easier than telling the truth there.
Lying to ourselves, like peeking through parted fingers supposedly covering one’s eyes, would seem rather pathetic were it not such a popular pastime. Lying to others also seems to be quite acceptable, as if integrity and honesty have been thrown from truth's pulpit by popularity. The truth for many, it seems, is not an absolute at all; it is variable, malleable and circumstantial.

How did we get this way? Was it by abandoning any moral compass for fear of intolerance? Did the lies seem preferable to watching the inexplicably harsh reality of war, famine and injustice on big screens in our living rooms?. Has the skepticism nurtured by those espousing hollow truth made us cynics who lack discernment altogether? Or was it simply the gradual displacement of truth by the allurement of lies that promised happiness.
The propensity to lie finds fertile pasture in the mind of one facing Parkinson's disease. The truth seems like a daily torture chamber of creeping stiffness that feels like concrete hardening around our limbs and unstoppable tremors that threaten a full-scale bodily earthquake. Curiously, we meet this onslaught of reality by a regimen of pills that permit us to pretend we are "normal". Truth presents embarrassment, whereas we prefer addiction to the "acceptance" extended to us because of the medication we take.

How do we deal with the truth? It is rarely popular, and sometimes fatal. But consider life without the relentless pursuit of what is true. Life is truly a cabaret, a charade, a costume party and a meaningless celebration without truth. The "truth" for someone with Parkinson's disease does not paint an attractive portrait. But we can only deal with it if we face our fears and expose the lies that render us helpless.
To pursue truth in living with PD requires that I confront the liar in my head, betraying its delicate delusions, if only to myself at first. I must listen to another source. Somehow, embedded in our souls is a still, small voice that whispers, "… The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…". There is freedom in that.

1 comment:

  1. As one who has postponed the commencement of meds until the 11th hour, I suppose I too am a "liar" in that I am in denial albeit differently. I tell my Neuro how well I am doing on the regimen of drugs, that make me throw up (and which are still in their bottles).

    But lies come home to roost, both in adolescence and real life. In my 4th year since diagnosis, I am hearing more and more "do you need to see a chiropractor? You look stiff" or "are you depressed?" as the symptoms take hold.
    I look at the always present bottle of pills as an admission of failure and loss of ground in this fight which I know I won't win anyway, so why fight?
    A good night's sleep, a new stress free environ and I can lie again, gait improved, attitude rectified..... I'm winning!
    And on to the next month, is this how it works? Until I flip over to the "I'm fine on meds" crew and just lie about something different (but not to my neuro now).
    Lying can help us get by so long as we keep in touch with reality, although with PD, that can do more harm than good.