My Fainting Epiphany: love and loss

The first thing I felt, before my eyes opened, was the coolness of the bathroom tile against my cheek, as calm, placid, and cool as a forest lake—as though I’d never felt coolness before, as a baby might feel it, as someone without memory files.

The first thing I saw was a roll of toilet paper above me. How odd, and why were the walls at strange angles, like a white-on-cream cubist painting or quirky stage set—like flat surfaces that did not know they were walls, that were not yet tamed into being straight up.

It was the middle of the night. I was alone. I was flat on the bathroom floor.

Ill and light-headed, I had thought I might faint so took a pillow with me, but I missed it. I have scrapes on my forehead, a bruise above my right eyebrow, and small gash across my nose. Also a junior-size bump above my left ear and two splits inside my left upper lip. It is a Rorschach test to figure how I landed, though clearly my face led the way.

In the few days since I have rested, gardened, and questioned. What really matters? Who am I? Are politics or art more important? How many people will die without health care? Have I overcome or neutralized or morphed through the pains and betrayals of my life, or not?

That last question is one I’ve focused on for several weeks. My therapist on the afternoon before the night of fainting reminded me that trauma is cumulative. I recently opened the lid to the anteroom of my losses. One can go on, gain strength and even love through loss—including loss through betrayal and harm—but pain and loss don’t go away, they just become more companionable. Mine had become dark overstuffed upholstered chairs mildewing in the corner badly in need of cleaning and new stuffing.

This blog is not specifically about my traumas, but about the twining of love, loss, and grief. That someone arbitrarily harmed you, that they turned into a monster, does not mean you can retract your love without feeling loss. In fact, you can find your way to detach from the person, even to stop loving them, even to forgetting them over time, but you cannot cancel out the sense of loss. You loved. Love, too, is cumulative, and it remains.

No, this blog is not specifically about my trauma, but to give you a sense of my creds. I lost my child in a custody suit, suffered physical and emotional domestic violence, my “soul mate” third husband had a separate secret life complete with apartments in San Francisco and Beijing, and my childhood was an exercise in emotional stoicism.

I now live three blocks from my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren and our lives are filled with love. I got out of the abusive marriage 40 years ago, and that husband died after 20 years living in a banana grove. The “soul mate” married someone as fraudulent as he is and lives far away. I feel no need for vengeance.

And my parents became sweet and loving the last years of their lives. I tended them both into peaceful deaths. I also was there when my only sibling, my brother, died suddenly, a loss felt deeply.

But let us return to exploring how feeling loss proves you know how to love.

Loss is loss is loss and feeling or re-feeling losses can be disorienting. It can make walls go slant. It scales away your self-definition, and tries to strip away your persona, leaving you with the choice to let that persona go and find your way in the land of no self-definition and confusion, or to try to tamp down your painful losses and lock them in an anteroom, clinging to your persona as though you think it is who you are.

We all, in fact, always exist in the state where self-definitions are constructed trappings, attempts to not be frightened by the magnitude of being alive. When was the last time you tried to perceive the cosmos? When did you meditate into bliss? When did you last see the world as a baby before you decided walls go straight up?

Besides musing these past days, I watched two episodes of “Xena: Warrior Princess” and two episodes of “Star Trek.” Both firsts for me. The acting in Xena is hilariously bad and Star Trek is, so to speak, a world of its own.

What is of most interest is that the ads are about life insurance or things needed to breath right, i.e. equipment to clean your nose, and equipment to clean your sleep time breathing equipment, and things to do so you don’t feel guilty for dying. That is, the ads are for declining baby boomers who want re-runs of vicarious thrills rather than getting off the sofa—or facing up to that they spend too much time on the sofa.

We Americans are not good at looking at our lives. It can be painful. Not one of us with any age has not at some time been in a morass of lost love. It can dissolve a persona so thoroughly that the actual person is not sure which way is up, where her feet are, or what is ahead. The walls slant.

But I prefer loss of self-definition, as least for awhile. I prefer its freedom. I prefer finding my way through the loss to the love that had, and has, its home in my cells. The love did not go away when the lover, or parent, or friend, or betrayer died or left.

As trauma is cumulative, so is love.

I prefer beauty, and touch, and taste, and colors, and music, and the twining growth of wisteria up my house, and the cool nose of my dog, and the glint of rose off the sides of wet fish, and the whiff of sage, and my grandson’s smile when he spies a joke in the air, and making love in a soft bed with linen sheets and someone who goes there with me.

I prefer not to feel the bruises on my face but the cool smooth tile on my cheek. I love the hydrangea bush I planted yesterday, and that I could help its shocked branches by staking them upright. I love tending plants.

I want to be here, alive, mucking around in the sensations of being alive, even if I lose people and things. The hydrangea flowers will die but the plant bloomed.

I prefer to have the door to the anteroom of losses open so I can explore it for forgotten gems, find what was good and what was bad and say “I am here,” even if I do not know who I am or how large the cosmos is or when my body will die.

We endure the losses in order to become love experiencing life.

Love is cumulative and it is tough, and will tend us as surely as I tend the hydrangea.


Bad Husbands Are People Too

I didn’t set out to marry bad husbands. It was something that happened along the way, and rather like unhappy families are unhappy in different ways, my bad husbands were bad in different ways.

This first I won’t talk about because he is still in my life as the father of my daughter and grandfather of my grandchildren – and because at her wedding he suddenly burst out with an incredible backhand apology in the reception line after more than three decades of silence. It was poorly timed, and was a kick to my heart. I collapsed in sobs in a corner while my third husband tried to shield me from the wedding party.

The second one I will talk about because he had someone track me down a week ago after two decades of silence. He is the catalyst for this blog. I had not known for years if he were dead or alive. I last saw him over 20 years ago in a banana grove on the side of a mountain in Maui.

Husband number two is alive, but dying. We will return to him, but, first, let’s do a fast review of husband number three.

No, first of all, I want to say that I am blessed beyond measure. My life is an astonishment of good things outside of my husbands. The dichotomy between the rest of my life and my husbands is an endorsement for reincarnation and karma. I must have been a real bitch in my past lives.

Husband number three was in some ways the worst because his motives were purely self-serving. He had the power to behave differently. He had options. His decision to lead a secret double life with a woman twenty years younger and to buy apartments in Beijing and San Francisco was calculated and deliberate. I saw how power corrupts, seduces, and confuses. It can make you believe you are above the rules that apply to others. He had never considered that I might refuse to accept an arrangement where he would be with me 50% of the time and with her 50% of the time.

It never crossed his mind I would leave, which I did within 25 minutes of reading the 2 ½ pages of revelations and future conditions that he handed me – oh, so sweetly and with such love in his eyes – in our garden. I left 24 minutes after smashing the glass with my strawberry smoothie into the wall.

It got worse after that, a stunning reversal from his being my soul mate since college, mate for 18 years, and champion. His acts were perhaps those of an angry, hurt, and emotionally immature man, but they were not the acts of a broken man. He had choices and options. He could have behaved better, but chose not to.

My second husband, however, was broken. His violence and rages were not calculated. They answered to an internal skewed gyroscope. He blacked out during his violence, though I didn’t know that until a year into it. They were frightening, controlling, and twice just skirted being fatal “accidents,” but they had little or nothing to do with me, or with us. We actually had times of peace, even as I had to be very careful.

His attempt to let me know that he was very ill came by a circuitous route. He asked his wife to contact a mutual friend from 35 year ago, who found my daughter through an Internet search and sent an email to where she worked. That was a week ago. By now I know that he has Lewy Body Disease, the most common dementia after Alzheimer’s. He also has Parkinson’s.

He cannot use a computer and has trouble with telephones. He was recently moved into an assisted living home in Tucson. They had moved from Hawaii to Tucson, he had bad lungs. He always thought it was his lungs that would get him.

I was given his mailing address. What? I’m to write and say . . . what? What does he remember? What does he know? What does he want from me? Do I owe him anything?

He was a failed yogi who meditated hours a day. Everyone thought he was so gentle. He was not. He wore drawstring pants and flip-flops and yogi shirts. At one time he was the most handsome man I had ever seen. People thought he was so gentle. He was not. He controlled my life and blamed me and felt unloved by me even though he was, though with time he was not. He was beaten as a child by his father and thought he deserved it. He smiled serenely and I heard the electricity snap in his back when he meditated. People thought he was so gentle. He was not. He was living proof that if you are going to mess with intense high energies you better have your psychological shit together or you can become very bad.

Life doesn’t follow nice clean script lines. Am I to write to him and say I forgive you when he may not be able to make sense of that? He did, after all, a decade after we separated (30 years ago now) visit my city and beg to see me. I refused. He begged again. I allowed it. He fell on his knees and begged my forgiveness. I told him the forgiveness he needed was his own, not mine. Did he forget that? Does it need renewing? Does this have anything at all to do with harm done?

Perhaps he just wants me to know he’s wrapping things up, and I am glad to know that, and I wish him no harm though my tongue has gone over the scar inside my lip more often this week than it has in many years. After that first time, he learned how to hit without blood.

The past week has included the resurrection of old memories. Disoriented bats of fear and trauma flew at me, shrieking “remember me?” But they have calmed down now, murmuring in a far back corner, wings folded, returning to sleep – so that the week also became one of reflection on him and our time together – and also, for reasons having to do with the dispensing of art, of reflection on my third husband who made choices consciously and deliberately. (In writing this blog, I may forfeit pieces of art I adore, but I’m bloody well finished with self-censoring.)

Forgiveness. Everyone thinks it’s about forgiveness. But I don’t think so. I forgave husband number two soon after the separation, and I forgave husband number three so quickly that it was almost simultaneous with each harm over several years. I don’t seem to have filing systems that store hate. For disgust, grief, momentary anger, repugnance, yes. Hate, no. It always breaks down when I focus on the individual.

Bad husbands are people too, and perhaps there are different kinds of broken. Some are brittle and snap people into fragments. Others are sloppy and bend people to do stupid things and cruel things – and to become blind and deaf to what is good and what is clear.

It is interesting how people who are not clear themselves often cannot tell who around them is clear, or helpful, or good. Projection is a demon.

Yet, I have become the person I am because of life experiences, including three husbands. Perhaps if enough harm is done, one gives up hate because if you did not, it would destroy you. What a perverse way to surrender to love.

Perhaps I will write husband number two. I sent a message back through the circuitous route thanking him for letting me know and telling him I wish him peace. But as his mind leaves, he may forget that. If I send a note saying that same thing, then he has something that he can hold in his hand. Maybe he can manage to remember the good parts. Something in me would like that.


Adultery and the Clock: tick tock

This Labor Day weekend is the sixth anniversary of the day my ex-husband invited me into our garden to “show me something.” I assumed it was a flower or a hummingbird. It was, instead, a 2 1/2 page letter telling me, first, that I was his soulmate and he could never love anyone else as much as he loved me. Second, it told me about the other woman and the apartments he had with her in San Francisco and Beijing. Third, it told me that from that moment on he would spend half a year with her and half a year with me.

Fourth, it expressed that he understood I might have an “initial period of upset.”

What he did not understand – it had never crossed his mind – was that I might leave. I was out of the house with a packed suitcase inside of 30 minutes.

It turned out he had misconstrued my nearly a decade of work advocating inclusiveness across cultures and dialogue across differences. I pointed out that meant between rebels and governments, not between adulterers and spouses.

It went downhill from there.

Yet, I would not be writing about this except for an odd thing that happened. Yesterday, at a birthday brunch I was placed next to a stranger. When we went around the table to tell how we first met our mutual friend, I realized she most likely had worked in an academic program with the second husband of the woman my husband chose and presumably is still with. After the chocolate cake infused with raspberry juice, while people were leaving, I asked.

The shock on the face of this mild-mannered woman soon gave away to not only did she know him but she disliked him. She also knew the woman (the one presumably still with my former husband) and felt the two were a match in duplicity, fraud, and opportunism.

Fourteen years after experience with either of them, she became visibly upset. While I referred to them and my ex-husband as “bad news bears,” she used more explicit words to describe the two people she knows as “deserving each other.”

Their saga reached across to China and he wrote a critically-acclaimed book of their “love affair” that this woman, and others, say is filled with fraudulent information.

While I’ve never met him face to face, he found me on Facebook five years ago. His version of that story (he used even more explicit words to describe his ex-wife) is that he trusted his interviews with her, and that when the book was questioned after publication, they had already separated. She, however, asked to get back together, spent the night, and when he returned from buying groceries the next morning, she was gone and his computer was stripped of the interviews. (There was a second copy with his editor.)

The cast of characters is both juicy and boring. Three people who met her with my husband – people who did not know each other, two of them his friends more than mine – contacted me separately to say she was wearing see-through blouses with no bra underneath and combat boots, which sort of tells you her approach to life.

Note: she was in the first small group of young Chinese women trained as spies, I was told, against American men. While in the group, she secretly and against the rules married a Chinese soldier, had an affair with a married military Colonel, and became involved with the future American husband who would write of their love affair. She was also kicked out of the group. (One touch I like is that she told the American that the Colonel and his wife were her parents and that he should buy the Colonel a watch.)

Point is, if you, dear reader, male and female, are contemplating adultery there are four vital things to do first.

1) Deeply and thoroughly examine if you’re ready to chuck your marriage.

2) If you do not wish to chuck your marriage, then do the work of telling your spouse of any malcontent, and have real conversations. Force the issue. Be a grown up. Good and exciting things might happen.

3) Do due diligence on any prospective “adulteree.” My husband was apparently the only person in Silicon Vally not to get the memo. The number of strangers, including ex-lovers, who found me in order to warn me and to vent about her was impressive. In fact, I had avoided her for years as bad value after I realized she was trying to hook me in with fabrications. At the same time or shortly after he privately committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to her even before the affair began.

4) Get a medical examination to make sure your mental capacities are up to snuff and you’re not predisposed to bad decisions and moral slippage. I am serious.

IF you have wended your way through the above, check in with your moral compass. I am not against ending marriages that are harmful and painful, but I believe ethics have substance and to abuse them can damage not only someone you vowed to love and honor, but yourself.

By the way, her third husband was offered the same deal a few months before me. Half a year here, half a year there. He declined. He didn’t tell me because she told him I knew my husband was having an affair and didn’t want to know who with.

This is actually a sad story. It is a King Lear story, and “King Lear” is a sad play. It is a “power corrupts” story, and power corrupts silently, insidiously. I think it is hard to discern when it is happening to you.

She is unimportant to me, except in that I wish he had chosen more wisely. Strange, huh?

It is a story of lust and greed and privilege and betrayal and love lost. I try to make it a comedy, but the best that can be done with it is a tragic-comedy, one too often played out in one form or another around us.

He was my college boyfriend returned to me after decades of absence. We were together for 18 years. I’ve seen no evidence of that person for the last six years. Betrayal has a strange kind of grieving, but it does run out of steam.

I no longer believe in soul mates. But I believe in love – and feel love – more than I ever would have thought possible, and it is partly due, in ways I cannot decipher, to expecting to see a hummingbird and instead meeting the end of what everyone, except my husband, thought was perfect. Or maybe he did, too, but he wanted even more.

The clock keeps ticking, and things come round. I was less upset than a stranger I met at a birthday brunch.

Compassion is a choice, and pity is unacceptable.



A GUIDE TO LIARS: living well is the best . . .

This is the final post of the series. Part 1 focused on that you are surrounded by liars and they are well-disguised. Part 2 examined the mental-emotional processes of deceivers, scammers, and narcissists and how their minds work differently than ours. It looked at delusion, empathy, guilt, entitlement, and conflicting impulses of superiority and inferiority. It touched on how liars project their qualities onto you, allowing them to blame you and fight dirty.

This post focuses on you and how to recover from injuries by deceivers. While it is not necessary to read Parts 1 and 2 to appreciate this post, you are encouraged to read the entire series – and file it nearby, just in case.

Part 3 of A Guide to Liars

Reality #9: your right to joy is inviolable

You have a right to joy. No one has a right to take that away from you, and you should not let them. I am not talking about fighting for goods or reputation. I am talking about your happiness.

Your first duty is to yourself as a miraculous creature on this earth. This is different than an aggrandized sense of your importance compared to other people’s importance. Your joy is intricately tied in with the joy and care of those around you. They are inseparable.

Your job is to sort out how best to care for yourself in relationship with others. That includes sorting out who supports you and your happiness and who doesn’t, and if any one person’s support matters or doesn’t, and, consequently, who should then be in your life and who shouldn’t.

Your job also includes protecting yourself in ways that will not set up or continue cycles of damage, i.e. the boomerang hit me in the head again effect. Winning battles with liars is seldom a productive goal, or realistic. Winning the battle to return to joy is both productive and reclaims – or perhaps claims for the first time – the golden chalice. It is realistic, and it can expand you into new levels of compassion, greater understandings, and more nuanced relationships. It also gives you the muscle, experience, and desire to help others.

Besides, you’re too good to keep down.

Reality #10: betrayal demands grieving

Betrayal is a kind of death, whether of your plans for your future or as the end of a relationship. Especially painful is to be betrayed by someone you loved and were, or are, committed to, someone you identified, or identify, your being with.

Betrayal by your mate can be as painful as a physical death. I have had recent widows say to me, “This I can survive, it is easier than betrayal would have been.”

Your trusted mate slipped away, abandoning you to face a stranger who is willing to harm you a lot and who, unfortunately, looks exactly like your missing mate – has the same gestures, same mannerism, same hands. Love does not turn around quickly. You stand, grieving the loss of your dearest friend as you have to become a warrior against a sudden enemy. It is immensely confusing.

And it will have the same grieving cycle as for a physical death even though you try to fast forward it because of the circumstances, even though people may not understand why you don’t instantly hate your betrayer. One day, months or years later, the grieving will be over. There is a release. It may be quiet, but you know when it happens.

I’m just acknowledging that for those of you to whom it has happened or are in this process; and I am telling those of you it hasn’t to remember that when this happens to a friend, male or female, that love isn’t turned off by fraud or savagery by their mate. It takes time and the grieving process is mucked up.

We have to learn to save ourselves with as much elegance as we can muster.

Reality #11: even stunned, you need to do some things immediately 

So, you’re reeling, your world has been turned upside-down, your money was scammed, your spouse blind-sided you, the child isn’t yours, the list goes on.

Gather your team immediately. Contact your friends and ask for support, secure your funds, get therapeutic help if you need it, find a great lawyer, make a budget, change your will and estate planning if pertinent – and start preparing yourself to walk away if it comes to that.

My double-life husband who never expected me to leave nonetheless had a lawyer by the next morning. A really nasty lawyer. It foretold what was to come. Do NOT expect deceivers, once exposed, to play nice. They might, I’ve heard some do, but for most you have become an obstacle to what they want now.

That said, do not engage in tit for tat. It is bruising and he or she is the pro, not you. I once watched a self-made Park Avenue lawyer swear under oath the truth of a story he totally fabricated, complete with detailed conversations, time and place. Now, he was a pro. You, however, whether in court or other conversations, need to rely on truth. It has to do with your relationship to yourself. It has to do with honoring your future.

Regarding your lawyer (if that’s where you are): check and re-check that they are doing what they agreed to do when they said they would do it, change them if necessary, see them only with a note-taking friend if you get confused, micro-examine and negotiate their charges, and strategize with them when to be tough and when to be yielding because most lawyers are stuck in either being “tough” or “compromising,” which can be another word for “giving in,” sometimes too soon.

Your lawyer is not in love with you, and he or she has other cases. You know better than they what might be best in dealing with your “adversary.” Trust, with scathing self-examination, your intuition. You get to mix it up, gentle one day, unyielding the next.

With your “adversary” – mate, business partner, other – save records of all communications, past and on-going. I advise witnesses. Taping conversations is allowed, just not as evidence in court if you didn’t tell the person you were taping that you are taping them. Reasons to tape? Liars change their stories, deny or forget what they said, renege on promises, and set you up.

I personally have never taped anyone without their knowledge, but I have refused to have conversations unless they were taped. It brings some element of carefulness and rationality to a conversation.

While it may feel weird, even alien, to strategize against someone you may have loved and/or trusted and/or worked with, get it though your head that he or she is strategizing against you. Get clear that someone who deceived you does not have your interest at heart and does not have a viable concept of justice. Instead of seeing their culpability, most liars blame you (specifically or as a representative of humanity) and they want revenge. You’ve messed with their projected happiness, you caused their troubles. She or he will not wake up tomorrow and stop lying because it seems like a nice thing to do.

Other concerns: eat well, dress beautifully, exercise, dance, change your hair, take a shower or bath very single day at least once, cry often, hug, don’t drink too much, never ever listen to sad music, and watch only happy movies – or movies where good conquers evil. I watched the entire seven year series of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in two months. My daughter brought the set over as immediate first aid. It was a brilliant move. Little girl kicks the crap out of evil non-dead people. (I love Angel, but ultimately preferred Sting.)

Reality #12: revenge is a two-way sword

There is fighting to reclaim – material goods, reputation, and other losses – that might have been taken away from you or at least to get some recompense. Then there’s “getting even,” which is about your anger and hate. “Getting even,” as usually used, means deliberately injuring the other person, business, corporation, or organization for personal vengeance, as a vendetta.

I believe that people are accountable for deception and calculated harm – rape, scamming, fraud, all of it. I also believe in going public, which you may have noticed. That is, I am not willing to cover up for liars, deceivers, bad actors. The shame is not in being deceived, it is in being a deliberate deceiver. I believe in holding up mirrors because I believe people should act decently towards others. If public knowledge, transparency, helps stop that, then good. Note: people who deceive, like other abusers, usually continue unless revealed.

That said, I’m not an expert on hate or anger. Fewer women than men are. It is men I hear say “I’m going to get that s.o.b.” and “(S)He’s gonna wish (s)he never messed with me.” Problem is, you can’t cut others without inflicting self damage. Hate corrodes. Revenge gives away your moral core.

I’m not saying women are nicer than men. Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. What is sure is that we have learned that the court system is weighed against us, we are physically weaker than men, and society is quicker to condemn our bad  behavior, i.e. we have training in anger management and creative solutions in order to survive.

But let’s say you, male or female, are in a rage and feeling hate. (Hate is the hard top coat over the “softer” and more “vulnerable” emotions of grief, fear, and humiliation.) Therapists, friends, time, exercise, and art are aids to get past that, but first you must be willing to get past it.

Important: to get past rage and hate, to reclaim your right to joy, you must recognize that actions by you with the goal of doing harm, even in exchange for harm done to you, makes you (also) an aggressor. They change you in negative ways, and will cling to you through your life. Anyone can do harm. It takes more courage to find and walk the path where you receive justice as best possible without perpetrating gratuitous cycles of damage.

What you want is an end to it, what you want is to live well again, which is, after all, the best revenge. But you want to live well on your own, reclaiming your joy without constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure your injurer knows you are living well. Move on.

Now, this does not mean you can’t have some fun in the “make it public” area. A woman I knew in Brazil took out a huge billboard on the busiest street of Rio near her husband’s office that showed a photograph of his fancy sports car with its license plate. It said the person driving that car was having an affair. It was the first he knew she knew.

A woman I don’t know did something similar with a huge photo and announcement at Times Square in NYC. There are ways to vent and regain a sense of personal power that expose but are essentially fair. As one of my husbands said, you shouldn’t do anything you don’t want on the front page of The New York Times.

Reality #13: trusting again is a choice. Choose it.

Trusting again is a decision. You can, if you wish, stay outside of humanity and intimate relationships and never invest again, financially or emotionally. But do you want to live fully or not? Do you want to be creative or not? Do you want to be juicy or not? Do you want to dance or not? Do you want to expand your life and work and contributions or not? Do you have the courage to trust yourself to trust?

Will you answer to your fears or to your right to joy?

Now you’re older, wiser, have more compassion, and have learned what matters most to you, what is to be cherished and celebrated for its rarity and beauty. Cherishing and celebrating require sharing yourself and that requires trust.

Trust and gullibility are not the same thing. Enlightened trust is not gullible, it is grounded and watchful and does due diligence. It looks carefully, and checks for discrepancies. Not everything, every proposal, every person is to be trusted. Now you know. You know to look for the gems, usually people, and savor them more than you did before.

And now, when you do trust, you understand in advance that there may be a gap between what you prefer to happen and what may actually happen. But understanding that the gap may occur, you are prepared to leap over it or go another direction. Your trust can be both adventurous and flexible.

Without trust you cannot experience the warmth of people who want to be with you, who want to be nearby, who want to know about your life and be, in one way or another, loved by you and to love you.

Reality #14: you can forgive if you want to

Yes, I know forgiveness is essential to happiness and good health. I also know that so long as you don’t forgive, whoever abused you by any kind of deception has a hook in you. They may or may not care, but you sure feel it.

I’m not airy-fairy about forgiveness. For me it is somehow irrelevant. I just don’t want bad behavior to continue, and I think people should be accountable, but I’m used to that many liars appear to get away with deception, and I’ve made my peace with that. I don’t find these people very interesting. I find people of truth and courage to be interesting.

I also probably don’t like the exchange of deceivers owing me an implied apology. It leaves a kind of connection while I prefer neutralization.

If, for you, neutralization includes an internal act of forgiveness, then do it the quicker the better and again and again if you need to. Work it out. Come to it. Bring your full self back to joy. Don’t leave part of yourself behind, snarling in the dark.

Reality #15:  . . .  just to know, deceivers don’t get away with it

Even when liars appear to have gotten what they wanted, they are, unavoidably, alone. Surrounded, they are still alone. It’s unavoidable because they are not really there. There’s only a stand in, a fake, a deceiver, a pretender. People lose their own good company when they deny their authenticity. They sacrifice their right to joy, which always comes from inside, from the honest place, the hard working place, the place of love with others and recognition of kinship, the place of “two or more gathered . . .”

Reality #16: honesty

No one hasn’t been hurt. No one hasn’t lied. Most of these hurts and lies have been, or could be, laid to rest. They don’t need resurrection. They are compost.

Having free will, we make choices. Honesty works best over time because it keeps our own good company and, by processes I could not possibly explain, celebrates our right to joy.


A GUIDE TO LIARS: you’re surrounded

 Part 1 (below): you’re surrounded                                                                                    Part 2 (tomorrow’s post): how a liar’s mind works                                                             Part 3 (following soon): living well is the best everything

Liars lie, some of them big time, some with the intent to damage others, others to aggrandize themselves, and others to gain perceived or real leverage in life situations. This “Guide” is not to take revenge on liars. I leave them to their own devices.

Rather, it is for those of you, the majority of us, who don’t lie big time and who chafe at deceiving others. It is intended for those of you who are unprepared and ill equipped for scammers and liars who have you in their sights or, if you have already been victimized, to help you understand what hit you. I recommend filing it under “emergency help.”

Why me?

Those of us whose spouses led double lives should have bumper stickers – I Climbed Betrayer’s Mountain or Honk If He Cheated. We are a large special interest group without social status or recovery programs. If your partner is alcoholic or a drug or sex addict, you have a 12-step program. Why not one for those of us were lied to, scammed, diced, and sliced?

As it was, I relied on my daughter and friends – and three medications and two therapists. Or the other way around, I’m not sure. I have only chards of memory like flashes of lightning against black from the first two years after my partner and husband of 18 years guided me into our garden and handed me a 3-page letter telling me of the other woman and their apartments in Beijing and San Francisco, and that from then on he would be spending half his time with her and half with me. I would always be the love of his life and soulmate, of course. She was mundane, really, and it had only been about sex but, alas, they had fallen in love. What could he do? He understood I might have “an initial period of upset.” He said so in the letter.

I was out of the house in 20 minutes with one suitcase that included, I swear, a cooking pan. That was six years ago.

I landed in an empty house we bought five months earlier that was under renovation. His vision, it turned out, was that she would stay with us often and teach him Mandarin script down by the Potomac River. Delusion and duplicity are intricately woven.

It also never entered his mind I might leave. (More on delusion and duplicity in Part #2.)

Over the next weeks, my hair went from straight to wavy, I lost 15 pounds, and one day I woke with the nose of a hunting dog. I could discern the separate smells of grass, dirt, rotting wood, and the river. I could smell a used washcloth across a bathroom. Grief and shock are physical.

We were written about as a “renaissance couple.” I believed he was the most honest man I knew.

People who have been betrayed become researchers. We are archeologists digging up ancient bones, historians of old letters and photographs, bio-physiologists of human development and sexuality, and amateur lawyers. We do research because we hope never to go through this again.

Reality #1: liars, liars, everywhere

Scientific reports show that one in every ten people is a liar on a scale unimaginable (taboo) to the rest of us. Even when secret, they are betraying our trust, and their integrity, routinely and deliberately. We do not suspect because things that are foreign to us do not enter our heads. This gives liars and cheaters free reign in the world of the unthinkable. (Prime example: Madoff.)

Now, when I go into a restaurant, a theater, any large group, I scan. Her? Him? I put a face on the statistics. I imagine every tenth person as a fraud. Who is betraying the person sitting next to them? Embezzling in the office? False resumes? Identity thief? Using their professional position to take advantage of others?

This practice keeps me alert, I recommend it.

Now, you and I lie. We all lie, but our lies are usually small ones and are usually meant to make other people feel good: “You look just like you did 30 years ago!” Or we smooth over an awkward situation: “It’s fine, no problem, really.”

But ten percent of us practice large-scale calculated deception for our perceived personal gain. We scam, cheat, betray and use others. We manipulate reality.

Of this ten percent, two-thirds are male and most of their lies are to enhance themselves to the world and themselves, or to conceal something from the world and themselves. That is, approximately half of all lying is fueled by the male ego’s desire for status and power. There’s no softer way to state that.

What is a “purple lie?’

Besides white lies, there are “purple lies” said by basically honest people who believed what they said when they said it. Usually spontaneous, “purple lies” often infer a commitment to the person they’re talking to: “doing lunch,” calling soon, being in love, going to Rome together. We’ve all been on both sides of “purple lies.”

The crucial difference between fraud and a “purple lie” is that the person who tells a “purple lie” wasn’t lying at that moment. They just should have thought more before speaking. Many lovely things said during passion fall into this category with the light of day. (On the other hand, passion is sometimes the only way to get to the truth, but that is different, possibly future discussion.)

Also, a basically honest person who tells a “purple lie” usually has some relationship with their conscience. He or she may then feel guilty and act weird. It’s a bad way to lose a friend, and happens too often.

My own code is that people prone to exuberant “purple lies” deserve leeway while deliberate strategizing liars are not entitled to leeway. Most, though not all, know they are deceiving. They seldom feel guilty. They seldom care what happens to others. They feel entitled to having advantages over the rest of us.

And they seldom give themselves away by acting abnormal. Lying is their normal.


Reality #2: good liars are, by definition, well disguised

A very successful friend of mine did not know for two decades that her husband was gay. She knew he was alcoholic, she knew he relied on her to make the money, she knew he could be nasty, but she had no idea he was having serial homosexual affairs. She’d never checked his porno sites. Now he lives with a man who matches my friend in size, color, and nationality, just not gender.

(Do you see the word “Liar” composing the face at right?)

Liars are everywhere and the best are indistinguishable from you and me until after you’ve already been had, whether by a mate, scammer, colleague, or stranger. The best liars are deceptive beyond your ability to perceive or anticipate.

Another friend was financially ruined when her prominent husband, whom she trusted with everything, was exposed in a multi-million dollar fraud. Public humiliation was poured on top as she lost her home, finances, and spouse.

My favorite example, however, of living with a fraudulent spouse is a male friend who found that his husband of many years had not been raised by an eccentric great-aunt backstage in Paris theaters after his parents were killed in a car accident. Nor had he been taken under the wing of Marlene Dietrich, despite the book he wrote, and that was published, about their relationship. One day an unknown woman showed up at their home outside Las Vegas, a woman who had finally tracked down her brother. His very alive parents, who had raised him quite ordinarily in middle-class society, turned up shortly after. My friend was not charmed, and the marriage was over. It also had something to do with the life-shortening illness that didn’t really exist.

Part #2 of the Guide to Liars will be posted tomorrow. Find out why liars lie and why they fight dirty.