Nov 7 • 8M

I've Been Lying to Myself

Despite all my unvarnished revelations, there was still one truth I needed to accept.

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Atoosa Rubenstein
When your life gets bat sh*t crazy, I can help. The podcast of the Atoosa Unedited newsletters!
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I have the flu. (In case anything doesn’t make sense. Have mercy on me 💀💀💀)

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Lying is often a dance. One person can’t handle a truth and enables another who can’t handle rejection.

Growing up, I always gave the “right” answer to the grownups. I was so concerned with getting in trouble (#mymomhitme) that it didn’t matter what the real answer was, I learned how to say the right answer: The one the adults wanted to hear. If I spoke to a friend’s parents, I was always on point. (“You should be more like Atoosa,” they’d say. Yeah, right! If they only knew I’d just made plans to sneak out with their daughter to meet some 21-year-old lifeguards! 🤫) If I spoke to my own parents, I just said whatever would appease them so I could get out of the spotlight. I kept my makeup at school and washed it off before I got home. Same for my cigarettes. I was voted Biggest Brown Nose of my senior class in high school, so my teachers were not exempt from the “Atoosa” act.

It’s easy to understand why I was so mediagenic as an Editor.

I’d been giving soundbites as early as I can remember.

Deception was my middle name. But I wasn’t doing it to be an asshole. I was doing to save my ass. And let’s be honest. My mother wanted me to lie. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now that I’ve taken truth serum…she’d rather I not.

Perhaps that’s what this whole thing is about.

This Unedited thing, I mean.

Why am I spilling everything, for goodness sakes?

Even some of my good friends (ahem, not for nothing but…only guys) have said that sometimes they can’t get through the column. “Sometimes, it’s just too uncomfortable.”

Listen, I get it.

That’s why so many of us go through life giving each other soundbites.

How are you? Good! 👍🏻

I mean, that’s the most obvious one, right?

Sure, it’s partly about saving face. But it’s also out of respect for other people’s ability, or lack thereof, to deal with uncomfortable feelings. If they can’t hold space for your real answer? Ugh. That’s the ultimate rejection.

I grew up lying to my mother because she couldn’t handle the truth. And if she couldn’t handle the truth, I would get slapped or hit. So, I lied to protect her…and myself. I know that many people who have been lied to feel this is a cop out. “I didn’t want to be lied to!” But they only say it after the fact, when the cats out of the bag and they have to live with the consequences of the truth anyway. Especially cuckolded spouses. Sure, once everything has fallen apart, they wish they had known earlier. But how about those frequent “working late nights” for their spouse when they could watch whatever they wanted on TV? That was kind of nice, right? We can all suspend reality to maintain a status quo that feels comfortable.

Like my mom? I’m certain she didn’t want to know I was being molested. It would have been a deeply inconvenient truth. Likewise, my mom didn’t want to know I was smoking, wearing makeup and hanging out with boys in high school. If she did, she would have had to deal with it and what with my father’s health problems and her working two jobs around the clock to make ends meet, she simply didn’t have the bandwidth. No bad guys here. She was absolutely doing her best. But we had an unspoken agreement. I do my thing, say all the right things and everyone is happy. But man, I would get it if there was a crack in my story. But those times just made me a better liar. By the time I left her house, I was a pro. And most importantly, I held onto her love. Losing her love was scarier than any slap, hit or vicious insult she could hurl.

Not anymore. Today, I’m honest to a fault.

But here’s the conundrum that truth telling causes. People who are used to more superficial conversation literally don’t know what to say. And often, the truthteller finds themselves having to babysit someone who feels more comfortable not knowing.

Like I often get responses to my column (particularly from people in my real life) like, “Are you okay?????” Or “I’m so sorry, I hope you will be happy soon.” You get the drill. I often have to reassure them that life is not black and white and that I can experience hard feelings and still be in a great place. Both/and. Blah, blah, blah. 😴💤 And then there’s the other side of the equation if your truth is something that hits too close to home for their comfort level. This has also happened with some friends: They project all their shit on you.

But honestly, for the most part the pure readership of this Substack is super cultivated and high level. You’re all people who are interested in owning your shit. I see many people who publicly put themselves out there and encounter a lot of crazy projections on social media. Perhaps because I’ve never done anything to artificially grow this audience, I’m lucky enough to have the most thoughtful and emotionally intelligent people in community with me. I just wanted to say that because I never really address you. I’m always sharing about me, me, me. But I want you to know I see, feel, and appreciate you so much. If you all knew each other, you’d be blown away. So many ding-a-lings out there on social media flapping their gums, but your letters and messages are just astonishingly thoughtful and deep. I’m filled with so much gratitude and respect right now. ❤️

Anywayzzzzz….back to telling the truth even when it’s uncomfortable.

Amid all my truth telling, I’ve been lying to myself.

The lie: I am totally fine being alone after my divorce.

My rapid-fire relationships said otherwise. I would hop into a relationship and act out because I wasn’t there for the right reasons. I was there because I didn’t want to be alone. I held on tight because abandonment is my worst fear. So instead, I was abandoning myself. I had a maximum of one day (maximum!) between my last few relationships. One. Day. That means I always had someone on ice in the background.

A few weeks ago, courtesy of the man-fast I’ve been on, I finally surrendered to this inconvenient truth: I may never be partnered again…and that is okay. And do you know what happened when I surrendered to this formerly inconvenient truth? Well, for starters, I told the Bear to fuck off. I’m not even interested in being his friend. Because that friendship was just based in my hoping that we would ultimately get back together. And I no longer have any yearning for a mismatch that I could contort myself into happening. And you may be wondering why it so easy for me to meet guys? Because I was hell bent on the relationships to work from the get-go! Unless they were an axe murderer, they were in! Well not quite, but we’re not talking about a high level of discernment: I was in a serious relationship with someone who called his daughter a bitch on our first date! Me!

And hey, one day I may be one of those ladies you know in your neighborhood who’s 75, feisty and unpartnered. (Those women are always so stylish, right?) Accepting this fact has dramatically diminished my lifelong fear of abandonment. If you suck in bed, I’m not going to pretend anymore. If your friends are immature losers, I’m not going to laugh when you tell me they passed out on the street from smoking bad weed. If you’re a shitty father, I’m not going to try to gently guide you on how to be better. I’m going to be alone instead. I’ve surrendered. No idea what lays in wait but whatever it is, I am (finally) impartial and I will keep practicing holding that space. I’m sure some days will be harder than others. TBD, TBD.

xo, atoosa

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This poem…

by David Whyte gives a whole new understanding of aloneness. A wonderful 2 minute listen.