Another coughing fit and we started to fear the worse.
She had been suffering from a brain tumor for four years now. Sure she beat it once, but it was back and worse than ever. With our family circling that dingy hospital bed, we all knew my Abuela wouldn’t live for much longer.
She reached out for my hand. Her strength was fleeting but her grip was firm. A few hours later, Lucy Adorno, my Abuela, passed away. I wasn’t there when it happened, but you never forget the face of someone on their deathbed.
My Abuela was a second mom to me. She introduced me to coffee when she snuck it in my bottle as a baby (It’s a Puerto Rican thing. And you thought you were addicted). She even used to give me advice on how to talk to girls; something she didn’t teach me enough quite frankly.
You might not have thought much of this 5'7 curly-haired Puerto Rican woman if you saw her, but she was much more than meets the eye. Nowhere was this more evident than the secret she took with her in death.
My grandmother had another child. A boy. My mom’s brother than no one else ever knew about.
Heavy is The Heart
My mom was in her 40s when she first discovered her long-lost brother. Weeks after my grandmother’s death, he had found our phone number and made that heartbreaking call. It was a painful realization for my mom. She would never hear in her mother’s words what had happened. And what was perhaps even worse was realizing the burden my Abuela carried until she died.
That secret couldn’t have been any harder on anyone else than my Abuela. She lived in a different reality from the rest of us; from almost all of her family.
My Abuela didn’t tell a lie — but she did act one out.
She wanted to protect her daughter and her family. Or, maybe she wanted to protect herself. I’ll never know. And the emotional pain on her deathbed makes this even worse. Was this secret bouncing through her head? Did she struggle with telling us, or not? I’ll never know.
My Abuela’s death revealed something to me I’m only now finally internalizing. Lying, no matter how big or small will always make your world a worse place.
Tell The Truth. Or At Least Don’t Lie
There is an important distinction between telling the truth and not lying. Jordan Peterson was the first to point this out to me.
Telling the truth isn’t something everyone can do. Many of us don’t even know what the truth in our own lives is. Can you answer what you want to be when you grow up — honestly, truthfully? Will you ever tell yourself that truth or are you fine with procrastinating an answer?
Some truths demand a lifetime to be discovered and not everyone will find theirs. I wish my grandmother told us her truth. But it isn’t easy. Where do you even start with a secret like that?
What we can all do, however, is never lie. No matter how small, how innocent or how much it will save us from embarrassment. And, as my Abuela would attest to, this is coming from someone who was a chronic liar himself.
It Isn’t The Lying That’s Exhilarating. It’s The Thrill of Being Caught
Growing up I’d lie about everything. I did it for the immediate gratification and thrill of changing reality. My words — my lies could create anything I wanted until I’d eventually get caught.
Studies even suggest that kids who learn to lie earlier are smarter than their contemporaries. So, yeah, you know. I’m pretty cool. However, I’d soon learn in my 20s how dumb it is to lie. Unfortunately, it took that long.
Lying creates a new reality. A fake reality. And if you don’t maintain it 24/7 — if someone catches you — you stand to lose everything. Friendship, trust, integrity, maturity, love. In addition, you stand to lose sight of who you are. There is no you if you lie all the time. You’re fake news.
“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others.”— Fyodor Dostoevsky
Being caught in a lie is cathartic for the liar. The thrill has reached its painful climax and there’s no more keeping up the charade. It's over. Everyone found out who you really are. You’re in the real world now and all that's left is a sobering reality. That’s where the fun ends.
The thing is though, we’re all liars; maybe we just don’t want to admit any of this:
We Lie in Our Relationships
What do you do when there’s an unspoken problem in your relationship? Do you ignore it until you just can’t anymore? This is a passive lie. You’re acting it out and it could be influencing you more than you know. If you don’t acknowledge the problem it could turn into something much worse.
Does ignoring the truth make your lie worth living?
We Lie at Our Jobs
Are you living a lie at your job? Was it your idea to become an accountant or was it your parent’s idea? As a full-time writer, I don’t always take pleasure in this job. Even though it's my passion, there are days where I struggle; ones where I don’t want to write or I feel like I’m losing my edge.
No matter how hard it gets, however, this is what gives me meaning. Also, writer's block doesn’t exist. Conversely when your work is a lie, you won’t ever be proud of it. You’ll just want it to be over with.
We Lie Because It’s In Our Nature
Lying is the first thing my mind tells me to do when it's convenient to do so. Here are some lies I’ve been guilty of in the past:
- “I’m almost there — like five minutes away tops.” The text I used to send when I just jumped into the shower. My friends hate me.
- “Sorry I missed your email! It must have gone to my spam folder by mistake.” Shameful, yet, I don’t even want to tell you how many times I’ve used this. Hopefully, my old college professors aren’t reading this part.
- “That makes sense.” Sometimes I zone out in a conversation and I’m like ‘Yeah, totally I understand you 100%.’ Now I just tell people I have no clue what they’re talking about.
When I started reading Dostoevsky's “The Idiot” — which I swear is about me — I realized that it's far more in our nature to tell the truth; even when it's dumb or hilarious. The blunt truth is like comedy; it points to what’s real without any shame.
The truth might be painful, shocking, and devastating. But it’s always better than a lie. Protecting someone from reality with lies isn’t actual protection. You’re deceiving them. And in doing so, insulting them and their relationship with you.
In a world full of lies, the truth is therapy. Social media, junk food, porn, and spending your entire stimulus check on Amazon might bring you immediate gratification. You might be happy for a little while. But you won’t be at peace.
Not being at peace is why so many people are desperate for meaning in today’s increasingly nihilistic world. Anyone can be happy — but only a few are at peace. Telling the truth is the only surefire way to get there. I don’t know if my grandmother was at peace withholding her secret. That kills me. All I do know is that we love her.