“Tell the truth and you won’t have to remember anything.” ~ Einstein
A friend of mine added, “By telling the truth you are honoring the fidelity of the moment.”
Truth, or in Sanskrit, satya, is a primary guiding yogic principle.
I haven’t always been a truth teller and I haven’t always liked myself that much either. It seems to me the two go hand in hand. The less I have liked myself, the more I have lied. On the other hand, the more at peace I am, the more truthful I become. Which came first? The chicken (self-esteem) or the egg (truth)?
I first remember lying when I was six or so, though I’m sure it happened much earlier than that. I lied about how much money I had received when my best friend told me she had been given $140 for her communion. I had gotten none, but I told her I had gotten $160. This was silly because I was not Catholic and had not gotten communion—a fact she quickly pointed out.
Instead of coming clean, I tacked on another lie. I told her my mother had let me take communion because she secretly wanted me to be Catholic. “But,” I said, “don’t tell anyone because if my father finds out he’ll kill me and my mom!” She never said anything, but she didn’t believe me either. I didn’t care. An imaginary $160 was better than nothing.
When I was eight my family moved to England. I told my new “friends” (quotation marks here because I did not actually have any friends) that I had once seen the Easter bunny, that the diamonds in my rhodium plated necklace were real, and that I knew how to ride horses bareback.
Who cares? I thought.
I knew we were moving back to the states in two years so I would never see any of them again—and I didn’t.
When I got back, the lies got worse. I was in the habit now, and when I was faced again with a bunch of unfamiliar kids I went straight back to my comfort zone. I grasped at anything and everything I could to make myself seem less dull, more fascinating or even better—more fantastic. I said my mom was a famous oratorio singer, that my dad drove a rare BMW, and that my dog was a retired show dog. There were grains of truth in all these statements, but they were not true.
This continued throughout high school and college. My ability to weave a tapestry of lies grew more refined, and it was rare that I was ever caught—doubted, yes, but not caught. I had come to allow my lies to define me; without them I was boring. At night, alone, I hated myself. I fantasized about coming clean. Oh, but I couldn’t! No one would understand, no one would ever believe me or love me ever again.
Then I moved to New York and I fell in love with a man. It was this man with whom I was first truthful, not because I wanted to be, but because he scared me and he could tell when I was lying. He told me that he knew. I told him everything, and breathed a long sigh of relief. It was over and I was fresh and clean.
Except later he began to use my truths against me. He told me I should be ashamed. He said he could help me and that he wanted to help. We stayed up night after coke fueled night, talking about how to fix me. Our life became so focused on this conversation and the drugs required to have it that I began to tell new lies. They were directed to my family about what I was doing, to the people I worked for about where I was and to my landlord about the rent. This went on for years because I was overwhelmed by fear—fear of not being loved.
I ended up where such people do.
The truth was that I was a stripper with a drug problem and an abusive boyfriend. My self-hatred had led me on a path which spiraled ever downward, darker and darker as it unfolded.
“You don’t love me. You don’t even like me!” was the first honest thing I shouted. I didn’t care who heard me: my guy, my friends, or my family. I didn’t care because I was right. Why should they like me? Why should they love me? Except they did love me. For some unknown reason, they did.
I lie awake some nights and ask myself, “Who am I? What am I doing? Am I doing it right?”
I don’t know the answers. My willingness to end a thought with a question speaks of progress and instead of filling in the blanks with artificial reasoning, I let myself wonder.
Now I am boring. I’m a middle-aged mom and housewife who teaches yoga and blogs a little here and there. That’s one version of me anyway.
Another version is that I’m a powerful force with a heart that is easily captivated by miracles. I am a being who is one with all the beauty of the world and as such, an integral part of it. Not that I’m going to go around mentioning that at Sunday brunch. People might think I was bragging.
My reality is somewhere in between. I am all things magical and mundane, just like all of us.
Now when I feel the urge to lie, I know something is wrong and I’m hurting somehow. Yet, it’s the easiest thing in the world to simply say, I’m hurting, then tell the truth, and let the chips fall where they may. After all, if I can offer myself empathy in the face of my own pain, what can’t I do?
There is power. There is love.
Erica Leibrandt is a certified Yoga instructor, student of Buddhism, vegan chef and mother to six heathens who masquerade as innocent children, Erica spends her time trying to apply the principles of Yoga to real life. Between teaching Yoga, holding vegan cooking seminars, writing and cycling she spends her time as a taxi service to her children, being walked by her dogs, and trying to dream up an alternative to doing the laundry. If she occasionally finds herself with a fried egg on her plate or dancing until dawn, she asks that you not judge her. Life is short, she knows the chicken that laid the egg, and you can never dance too much.
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Assistant Ed: Dana Gornall/Ed: Brianna Bemel