Everybody lies. Of all the lessons I’ve learned from Dr. House (and there are surprisingly many), that one stands above the rest. Before prison, I lived far too many years stacking lie upon lie upon lie, until the House of cards (pun intended) came crashing down upon me. After prison, I’ve been faced with the harsh reality that I have been repeatedly lying to myself, thinking I could return to some semblance of a normal existence (if normal could possibly have some sort of static definition). And I am repeatedly being lied to – out of love – by those who want me to be able to feel like a normal citizen again, though they know undoubtedly that this is entirely unrealistic. These “lies,” perhaps, aren’t necessarily lies (per se), but more like comforting and well-intended half-truths aimed at helping me cope with the current conditions of my life. And, I suppose, for many of these lies, I am thankful.
So I find myself stuck in the conundrum of trying to make sense of senselessness and searching for meaning in meaninglessness. And while I wouldn’t go so far as to say “Maybe purposelessness is my purpose,” I do know that my search for meaning and my attempts to firmly grasp the concepts of “reality” and “normality” are vital to my own life’s sense of direction and success.
I’m a writer. It’s what I do. If given the choice, it’s all I would do – all day, every day. It’s how I cope, it’s how I make sense of the world – it’s the best way I’ve found to make my thoughts and emotions make sense to me. My inspiration can be heard in the voices of Chuck Klosterman and Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson and J.D. Salinger and Chuck Palahniuk. Like nearly all writers, my own arsenal of ideas is a cacophony of these writers’ greatest works intertwined with my own life experiences; my written voice is an intricately-woven tapestry of these writers’ expressive powers and vernacular usages tied deeply in with my own manifestations of self-expression.
In all honesty, I genuinely feel like writing is the only thing in my perceptively-failed existence at which I excel greatly. I believe everyone has one skill or ability in life at which they are “great.” For me, it’s writing. My “opus” is still under construction, and it exemplifies my truest skill and the far-reaching scopes of my writing abilities. It’s a non-fictional account about my struggles as a recovering sex addict, how the addiction controlled my life, how I fought back from the addiction, and how living “in recovery” has allowed me to be the best husband and father I’ve ever been. It will probably never be published (because, well, I’m me) and it’s doubtful that anyone besides me (and probably my wife) will read it in its entirety. And I’m fine with that. Because, for me, it’s not about publishing a book, it’s about writing a book; it’s about putting my life into words on a page, and then reading them.
Doing this provides a unique ability and opportunity to see my own life from the outside looking in, being able to critique my past life choices, not with the remorse that I’ve felt for years, but rather, objectively, as though I was analyzing my own life like a character in a novel. And as a result, I can use the poor choices of my past to shape the positive choices of my future.
I am a character in the novel of my life. This is not to say that I’ve somehow detached from reality or have trouble discerning fiction from non-fiction. It is simply the best way I’ve found to think objectively about my own life. Writing is a coping mechanism for me that works amazingly well. Writing allows me to see the world simultaneously through my own eyes and from the outside looking in.
But there have been consequences. Today I was informed that I received my first parole violation. After my Halloween editorial was published by S.O.S.E.N. in October, people began leaving comments – positive supportive comments about my article. I was thankful that people were being supportive and positive about my writing, so I left a comment in the comments section saying, “Thank you for all the positive feedback.” Then, I went about my life and didn’t give it another thought – until today. I was informed that this constitutes “Social Networking” and was therefore a violation my parole conditions. This puzzled me briefly and the therapist asked me why I thought this might be a violation. I was stumped. In retrospect, the answer was obvious, but I didn’t have my brain pointed in the right direction. She explained that it is a violation because anyone could subsequently contact me and that “anyone” could be a minor, which would be a further (and more severe) violation of my parole conditions.
This was a perspective I hadn’t even considered – I didn’t have any sort of guard up for this sort of thing, so the “violation” caught me a bit by surprise. But after careful contemplation, I came to a very important conclusion: This violation does not bother me at all.
Here’s my train of thought on this: If I was constantly on guard against minors, trying to keep minors from seeing anything I write or being able to contact me, it would derivatively mean that the concept of “a minor” would be at the forefront of my awareness. And on some levels, for liability’s sake, maybe it should be, but it hasn’t been. The only minor I ever see is my daughter, whom I am allowed to see. My daily life prompts no other contact with any other minor. And since I don’t find myself ever preoccupied with the concept of someone “under-age,” I hadn’t considered the possibility that a “minor” might be able to contact me through the website that published my editorial. Simply put, it didn’t occur to me because I’m not preoccupied with kids – it really is that simple. Thus, I’ve received a parole violation because of my lack of preoccupation with kids. The irony is staggering.
I don’t blame my Parole Officer because the situation was obvious and he didn’t have a choice but to administer the violation. I broke the rules – though inadvertently – and I’ve chalked it up to being a lesson learned. It is what it is. And if I’ve unintentionally let my guard down because I’m simply not preoccupied with children, then I’m okay with that. Sure, I will be more cognizant in the future, but in retrospect, the root cause of my violation is simply that I live and think like a normal human being, paying no more attention to kids than to anyone else.
People appreciated and complimented the editorial I wrote, and I expressed my gratitude. That one “thank you” message led to the first and only blotch on my corrections record – ironically, not because I was being deviant, but because I was being “too normal.” So, keeping that all in mind, the narrative of my life continues. Every protagonist faces struggles and set-backs along with successes and triumphs, and every protagonist learns lessons as a result of peculiar, odd, or ironic experiences – I am no different. And while I may not be a “likable character” to most people, I feel like an amalgam of “Holden Caulfield,” “Tyler Durden,” “Raoul Duke,” “Y___,” and “Howard W. Campbell.”
In his novel Mother Night, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” Maybe that was my problem – maybe that’s what led to my “violation” – I’ve been spending my first eleven months of freedom pretending to be a normal regular guy, living a normal regular life. Perhaps I was lying to myself; perhaps I’ll never be “normal” again; perhaps the lies can become truth; perhaps not.
Lesson learned – Everybody lies.