And so it resumes… the commute through wilderness to work; the daily grind of other people’s problems and the challenge of finding acceptable resolutions; the weekend dash through supermarkets and the planning of meals; the kerfuffle of family life.
The post-festive hangover spoiled last week. I reeled from Monday to Friday resenting even the short days I worked and hating the commute.
That last dismayed me because for such a long time the Lang Whang road has been my weekly salvation. Calling on me from antiquity, reminding me – matter-of-factly – of the littleness of my concerns.
But last week the prehistoric middens and cairns just irked me; Carnwath’s bald, pudding bowl motte and baillie irritated with its failure to retain even just a hint of what the castle looked like; and in the mizzenly rain, the ghostly ancestors were welcome to their hunting and gathering.
Back in the office, I found that Xmas and New Year had done nothing to improve the cases which had populated every waking and working minute of December and November 2013.
Some even managed to plumb far deeper depths than I could ever have anticipated prompting a volley of fff’ing and blinding. I’ve not lost my sweary touch.
I thought I was beyond that kind of surprise. Arrogant stupid me.
It’s a fatal flaw, in this game I’m in, to ‘buy’ your clients’ narratives too well – to allow human sympathies to obscure judgement. But… in different cases I allowed myself to fill in the ‘blanks’ in my client’s case with my own lazy, short-hand assumptions – assumptions that fitted with their narrative.
I didn’t immediately cross-check anomalies. I had wanted to believe my clients. I had wanted to believe that picture I had in my own head of them and their situation.
Argh! I could thump myself. I personalised the cases. I wasn’t objective. I wasn’t thorough. I accepted too much and questioned too little.
But the blanks were filled in last week when I finally took the time to dot my i’s and cross my t’s.
The result’s are the same: the final client meeting was unpleasant and I’m no longer providing representation (I withdrew).
None of which sounds that terribly bad or unusual when I see it written down…
So what is it about what happened that has me thinking like this on a quiet cold Sunday in January? Why have these cases carved themselves on my psyche?
The people involved are strikingly different. Think: wannabe-Arnie Schwarzenegger versus Mr Bean different.
But in one important way I realise now that they are very, very similar.
They told lies. Probably white lies at first. Tiny little lies about why they thought the way they did. And then the white lies required bigger lies to back them up. And then the falsehoods took on a life of their own and started to drive action. The lies started to take over – the lies were in the driving seat. The lies resulted in behaviours that wouldn’t have been required if the little lies hadn’t been told in the first place.
We all lie. We all tell the odd porkie. Falsehood can be a face-saver; a kindness; the social grease. I’ve lied. I lie. I make every effort now to minimise the occasions when I lie. I also know that there are places, times and situations in which I would not lie and that if ever I’ve been ‘found out’ I’ve always ‘owned up’ and accepted responsibility and any approbation. But that doesn’t erase my transgressions.
And there’s the rub. That when we lie, we transgress.
Lying is one of our most despised habits. Show me a liar unmasked and I’ll show you someone contemptible: pitied perhaps, but feared and despised.
So, what does it mean for someone to lie about the big things? For someone to create an entirely false back catalogue of life experiences? To create a partner; children; holidays; deaths; careers?
You have to be very unhappy with your life to do that, don’t you?
You have to be very unhappy with your reality – with the person you perceive yourself to be – to do that.
Most unsettling of all, what does it mean when an individual – one who has been found out in a lie – continues to insist that their lie is true and that they haven’t lied at all?
I’m rattled by it all.
I think that the lies told here were about attempts to make reality fit the longed-for life. To ‘become’ (at least in the eyes of others) the person they wanted to be. They were about an initial attempt to boost the lowest self-esteem. Or to ‘fit in’. Or to attract attention and sympathy.
Instead, the lies which have been told have led to the loss of everything that socialises. In one case, I suspect that the lies told will have to be ‘justified’ if a close domestic relationship is to continue – cognitive dissonance will come to the rescue. In another, I suspect that medical help will be required. And in yet another I can imagine that I will be blamed and alternative help sought.
I did try my best. In the final meetings I gave many opportunities – face-saving opportunities – for the client to be truthful. One seemed to own up – but then made it clear that they expected me to continue with the same defence – despite knowing what I now knew. That’s a no-go. One seemed more concerned that a witness they had cited in their support now might know that they (the witness) had been lied to.
It’s back to the Monday grind tomorrow.
I cannot help wondering what tomorrow will hold for my lying, former clients. I cannot help wondering how many are still to be found out.