The Strings Are A Lie
“The sooner you accept that it was all a lie, the better off you’ll be. You can’t make sense of something so irrational.”
Those words stung like hell the first time I’d heard them. In early 2018, in the throes of what felt like a madness I’d not experienced in a long time, I slipped away from a hospital room in small town Colorado and went home to find answers. My partner, 31 at the time, was laying in a hospital bed two miles from our apartment and no answers were making sense. Of course he hadn’t been drinking, he’d stopped when we moved here. It was the primary condition of him coming with me.
It was my job opportunity that brought us 2,000 miles from home. He hadn’t worked in the entire span of our relationship and by the time this opportunity was presented, I’d had enough. I wanted to start over. Unencumbered.
He’d have none of it, of course. He’d made every concession and every promise but it was clear the minute the movers finished packing and we were on our way that he had no intention of keeping any of them. And so it was after the most terrible Christmas back home with our families that he’d come home with a plan to leave me.
That would have been fine if he’d just been an adult. Ended the relationship. I’d offered to help him move back home numerous times. Offering to cover security deposits, moving costs, the first few months of living expenses…whatever it took to get him out of my life. But no.
Instead, he told his friends he was going to use our dog to “get soooo much midwestern tail”, “spend as much of the bitch’s money before I bounce”, how he needed to scramble and save to ghost me because he “only has $1,400 saved because I’d been secretly drinking” and had been planning a “just shy of the hospital bender”. Such a shame he left the hospital in a body bag.
I say that because before anyone had the courtesy to tell me he’d passed away, his family stood in my apartment amongst his belongings – which I’d boxed up for easy shipping – and pretended he was alive – even going so far as faking a phone call with him when I was concerned about their plan to not ship everything back east.
I spent a long time reeling and feeling and eventually, healing. But it wasn’t easy to accept that yes, the entire thing was a lie. Every song we recorded. Every novel we worked on together. Every creative endeavor we pursued. Every conversation. Every vacation. Everything. All of it was a lie.
I spent a lot of time asking “But what about…” and the answer was always the same.
All of it.
Two and a half years later, I am sitting across from my now partner. It’s the first time in weeks that we’ve eaten in a restaurant. “I don’t know,” I tell him as I’m eyeing the remaining fried green tomatoes, “I feel like there’s a lot of folks who look like me experiencing this deep cognitive dissonance in the world and they’re struggling because they’re realizing all the things they thought were true, weren’t.”
He nodded in agreement, took a swig of his pilsner and in what is just his way, created space for me to continue. “I should be better equipped for this right now but it’s not just the societal dissonance but I just can’t believe I was lied to about this fish allergy since I was a teenager. I just…can’t.”
A few weeks earlier, after a challenging telehealth visit, my allergist ordered serum tests that showed that none of the things I had been told I was allergic to were actually true. I, in what is typical Lisa fashion, lost my shit. Made them confirm it with a skin test, brought in pouches of fish from the grocery store, I mean…the whole ordeal. And the only answer the medical community has is that there is a link between an allergy to house dust mites and that since dust mites don’t survive at altitude, by living in Colorado, I’ve effectively overcome any allergy or reaction I may have previously had.
Still, it felt like more lies. Just piled on top of lies. Piled on top of old family secrets buried in death certificates.
“What if…” I put my fork down, staring off at the chalkboard listing of weekly specials, “I had to go through that in 2018, you know…everything being a lie…to be able to even start to process all this now?”
“Some things are serendipitous.”
Boy, have I heard that before.
You can’t keep pulling cards and expect the house to stand.
So what do you do when it all starts to crumble around you? Your answer…your response…your reaction is what will determine whether or not you’re resilient.
The first thing I did was apologize to friends for how utterly assholic I was when we’d gone out for dim sum long before any of us knew what COVID was. But that’s about as far as I’ve gotten with it.
“I’m still angry,” I told my coach this week. “I’m angry that rather than ever confirm these things, I merely accepted them. And I’m angry that what was modeled for me was to just accept. I don’t want to accept things I don’t like; I want to change them. And I don’t want to feel so utterly controlled by my emotions because that is how manipulation happens. Pull on my strings and get the response you expect. I don’t want to be that puppet anymore.”
The thing about those strings is how delicately you need to approach them. You can’t just hack at them, machete swinging wildly. No. This work requires the delicate hands and calm of a cardiothoracic surgeon.
These strings go to the core.
Cut one that’s not properly supported, properly strengthened, and you’re left like a patient with foot drop…stumbling over your limbs and unable to get out of your own way.
This is delicate work.
And I am – as always – fragile like a bomb; not like a flower.