Thursday, May 19, 2011

What Is Your Truth?

I have started and stopped writing this post for the past four days.  At first, I wanted to write about accepting ourselves for who we are.  I planned to use my father as a prime example.  His hearing is not what it used to be.  In fact, it’s not even half as good as it used to be.  It has become so poor that he actually convinced my mother to celebrate Mother’s Day a week later this year so that when we had our usual dinner out in a restaurant, it would not be as loud and busy.  This actually backfired on Dad, as May is also communion “season,” and the restaurant we ate at had two parties running concurrently.  I planned to call that post “What Interferes With Your Quality of Life?”

Then, I was distracted by a custody battle a friend is currently going through.  This got me thinking even more about the concept of  “quality of life.”  I began to contemplate  how one goes about proving to a judge that one parent can provide a better quality of life for a child than the other parent can.  This can be a very sad situation, since essentially you participate in character annihilation of a person who you, presumably, once loved - or at least you thought you did.  So now you have to confront the choices you’ve made, and perhaps your lack of ability when it comes to such choices.  You do this, of course, to the mother/father of a child you adore and have to come to terms with the idea of hating this person, yet at the same time, putting on a happy face for the child or children involved.  Very few people can accomplish this.  Most of the time, the kids (depending on their ages) can tell you EXACTLY what caused the rift between their parents, and what each parent has said about the other  - both directly to them and to other adults when they thought the kids weren’t listening.  I was going to call that post, “How Do You Measure Your Quality of Life?”

Finally, I watched Oprah’s two part interview with author James Frey.  You’ll recall  that he is the author who was “disgraced” when it was revealed that his book, A Million Little Pieces was actually not the no-holds-barred memoir that it was published as, and was, in fact, a novel “based on” his own personal experiences but with many embellished details.  Many felt that this left Oprah with egg on her face, as she had chosen the book as one of her very popular “Oprah’s Book Club” selections.  The show featured clips of the original show, where Oprah had Frey on to discuss his memoir, as well as clips from the follow up show where Frey was taken to task for duping the American public.  Following Frey’s admission, subsequent copies of the book were printed with a “note to the reader” from Frey in which he clarifies the nature of the story he had written.  This got me thinking about the concept of  “truth” and managed to pull all of my ideas together.  

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines truth as “sincerity in action, character, and utterance; the state of being the case.”  In the case of James Frey, it can be argued that his book was NOT “the case.”  It can also be argued, however, that there was sincerity in its intention.  Frey explains in the “note” that the work is a “subjective truth, altered by the mind of a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.  Ultimately, it’s a story, and one that I could not have written without having lived the life I’ve lived.”

isn’t our entire existence on this planet part of our own subjective truth?  Ask three witnesses to a crime to describe the incident and you will probably end up with three different versions of the same story.  Since we constantly see life through the lens of our own life experiences, our position cannot be anything but subjective.  So my Dad’s creation of fake holidays helps him maintain his truth - that there is nothing wrong with his hearing.  Anyone involved in a custody battle is able to maintain their truth of being the “better parent,” even if it means picking apart the character of their former partner and manipulating details, because getting custody of the kids is what is important.  And Frey is able to maintain his truth, that while his book is not a 100% factual account of his experience, it is the reality of his addiction (as he told Larry King) and the message of the story is what is truly important.

We all play this game.  We tell ourselves: taking something from a retail store is not stealing when the cashier failed to ring it up properly at the register, adjusting the number of your age or weight is not lying when you look younger or thinner than the actual number reveals.  This is our truth, as we see it.  So think about it,  what “subjective truths” do you tell yourself? 


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