Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yours Truly?

The truth is overrated. That’s been part of my philosophy of life for as long as I can remember – probably since the first time I heard some nitwit finish a particularly rude, unnecessary and unnecessarily mean comment with “I’m just telling you the truth. You wouldn’t want me to lie to you, would you?” Yes. I would like exactly that most of the time.

Let's look at a couple of examples. We're out at a restaurant and you notice I have spinach in my teeth. Here is a great time to use the truth. Simple. "You have spinach in your teeth" or something to that effect. I fix it. Everything is great. We move on.

How about this? We're getting ready to go out. When you come to pick me up, I ask if I look OK. In reality, I'm wearing a pair of jeans that make me look like ten pounds of potatoes in a five-pound sack. In my opinion, here's where you mitigate the truth a bit. Instead of "Those jeans really make you look fat" -- which is only going to result in neither of us having a good time the rest of the night -- why not try, "I don't love those jeans on you. What are your other options?" You manage to be honest without telling the unvarnished truth. I wear different jeans and no one gets their feelings hurt.

According to The Oxford English Dictionary, something that is true is “in accordance with fact or reality.” On the other hand, the first definition of honest is “free of deceit.” So, the question is, can you be honest without being completely truthful? You are probably wondering why that is the question.

Honesty is paramount if I hope to convey all the causes, conditions and consequences of the past five-plus years of my life. What’s the point of putting it out there if most of it is pared, pruned and pitted (I’m diggin’ on the alliteration right now)? There’s no point if I go at it trying to protect myself. So, honest it is.

Here’s where things get a bit sticky. It’s true (in accordance with fact and reality) that it’s my story. I lived it. I own the rights to it and I can disclose as much or as little as I like. But is it fair? There were other people involved in many of the episodes of my story. Can I, in good conscience, just fire an automatic weapon into my past without any regard for who gets hit?

At the very least, much of the narrative paints a very unflattering picture of all the people involved (read: incriminated). Some of it could actually hurt the people involved if disclosed directly.

I’m of two minds here. Part of me says, if you participate in something where there are people to witness it, you take the chance that it could become public knowledge. However, I am beyond certain that there will be things that I will withhold about myself because I’m not ready to let go of them yet. So, if that’s true for me, don’t I have an obligation to be sensitive to others feeling the same way?

Where I am right now is that all of this is a work in progress. I may not get it exactly right the first time out of the gate. But I feel it’s best if I err on the side of respecting as much of the privacy of others as is possible without letting it become a work of fiction.

So, when I write about the things that have happened to me, I’m going to disguise the truth as much as I can without disturbing the honesty. Obviously, names will be changed. Time lines may also be tampered with, to keep people from simply guessing who it was based on when it happened. Probably, I will even composite some of the people involved so that the actions can’t be attributed directly to any specific person. Unless it destroys the integrity of the story, it doesn't matter nearly as much who was with me as it does what happened.

Some of you might not understand why I’m not just throwing it all out there and letting the universe decide the consequences. All I can say to that is what I said to open this post. The truth is overrated. But I will do my very best to describe the good, the bad, the pain, the danger, the fun and the crazy as honestly as possible.

There is one other reason I am disclaiming as I am here. What I will be writing is what I remember. It is a widely held belief that eye witness accounts of events are almost wholly unreliable. We simply don’t remember things the way they happened. When you stir in the delusions, hallucinations (both visual and auditory) and drug-induced schizophrenia, there are big chunks of my story that I am not really clear on whether they were real or imagined. Trust me, however, when I tell you they were all very real for me. That said, even if I recounted every detail exactly as I remember it, I could still only really claim that it's all "based on a true story."

As I said earlier, it’s all trial and error right now. I’m going to adapt on the fly when necessary. I’ll make sure you are kept updated on any changes to the process.

P.S. Right now I like the psquared signature more than any pithy phrase I could think of, so I'm going to stick with that for the time being.


  1. I LOVE IT!!!

    I agree w/digging the signature instead of a 'sign off''s unique enough on its own.

    I am seeing BOOK! I am hooked. And you know, they used to write books in serial form (I just read a book about Dickens and discovered this fact. One of my favorites (Vanity Fair) was a serial!)

    Keep it comin'

  2. Heavy stuff of course, and I agree with your tack (and tact!). It's also a more creative approach and will lend itself to a more cohesive story. As long as you're upfront like this (else you have Million Little Pieces!), take the license you need.

    On a related note, the opening paragraphs and your small mention of the trouble with memory remind me powerfully of this brilliant book I just read, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. (And it's nonfiction, so I'm actually recommending it to you, LOL.) It's radically changed the way I've thought about my perception of my own history. (And the chapter on "Law Enforcement" should be read by every citizen in a democracy!)