For seventeen years I lived a lie, though if you want to get technical, it was more like forty years.
When I was ten years old my family migrated from Chile to Australia. That was in March of 1975. That was when the lie really began.
You see, I grew up in a violent home. My dad was an angry and bitter man, full of remorse and regrets, a man constantly reminded by his family about all his unfulfilled dreams. He felt that life had treated him harshly and that his youth was disappearing with every passing day. My parents were always fighting. My mother didn’t know when to stop, and once my dad got angry enough, to the point of getting physical with her, he didn’t know when to stop either. This kind of relationship they had started on their first day of marriage (circa 1960), and it didn’t stop until around 1978. The physical violence stopped then, but the rest of it didn’t.
By the time I came along in 1964 I was the third born so this had already been going on for a few years. The damage was done. At some point they took a wrong turn and kept going, even though they knew they were on the wrong road. They just kept going. Instilling anger, bitterness and that model of behaviour on their kids.
At the age of ten, when we arrived in Australia, something happened to us kids. Perhaps it was because we were uprooted from everything we ever knew, from school, friends across the street, extended family, culture, language, everything. My memories are fairly clear from March of 1975 on. Not so much before that. Because of that reason I think when you experience a drastic change, or some kind of traumatic event, your awareness, your consciousness opens up, it expands, so you tend to consciously capture and retain more. At least that was the case for me.
As a new migrant family in a foreign land, with a foreign language and a foreign culture, with people from all over the world arriving in this country at that time, and since WWII, my parents, as everyone else did, levitated toward a sporting club that was put together by other Chileans. We spent a lot of time with those people in the first two or three years but then my dad decided that the club was turning into something not to his liking so we removed ourselves.
During this time I observed my parents pretending to be a normal, happy family in front of the others. I think a lot of people had the same problem. I don’t know. But I do know that my own family was one big pretense. We would be all good and happy in public, but a concentration camp the rest of the time. A place of anger, hatred, fear and contempt. This was hard for a ten year old boy that was far from street smart to understand. All I knew was that I enjoyed the times we mixed with other families because at least during those times we seemed normal.
Back to the lie.
At the age of ten I learned to pretend like we were a happy family. At the age of ten I was more conscious of not only my own behaviour but also my parents’ behaviour. I got so good at reading them that I knew when to hightail it out of there. Even at that young age. To this day I don’t know if this skill, this ability, is a gift or a curse. Now I can read everybody, and believe me when I tell you that this gets very tiring and draining on the system, especially when you can read people at work, in the shops, in the street, at home etc.
Because I had learned to read people so easily at an early age, I learned to anticipate when they were going to get angry. This curse/gift followed me for the rest of my life. For a long time I dealt with people by being funny, a clown even, but not so deep inside was the beginnings of depression. Yes, even back there in 1975. Perhaps from even before that.
Though I’m naturally a very energetic kind of person, very talkative and animated in my manner, I became tired. Tired of trying to put fires out even before they started. Tired of seeing people for who they really are. Tired of seeing their true emotions and energies, even when they’re trying to hide them. They can’t hide them from me, and I can’t close my eyes, nor can I close my ears, or my extra sensory perception if you will.
From March of 1975 until June of 2013 I lived that lie. The pretense. The clown. The joker. The listener. The nice guy, but also the hard guy with a short fuse and sharp tongue. It was exhausting but that’s all I knew. I didn’t know how to be any other way. Looking back now it seems to me that the boy that I was, that eventually grew into the man that I was, was always in a state of fight or flight. Those of you that have read my book Taming Life – Happiness Is Not a Myth, would know how bad it is to be in a state of fight or flight even for just a couple of hours, let alone for four decades.
Factor into the fight or flight state a mix of being angry, bitter, scared of everything, lost and confused. You really don’t have much of a life. I never had much of a life. When you are in this state of confusion, with low self-esteem, low self-worth, self-loathing and also being your own worst critic, and therefore your own worst enemy, you are susceptible to be taken advantage of by anyone. This was the case for me.
It may sound contradictory when I say that when you can be so angry and yet still be taken advantage of, but it’s not. You see, when you are in that state all you want is to be liked and accepted. You want to be respected and looked up to, so you will do just about anything to achieve that. By doing this you think you will achieve peace from the external world, from things, from successes, and from others. When you behave in this manner you tend to expect things from people, not from all people, just from those that you put yourself out for. From those that you go out of your way to please, honour and respect. When those people disappoint you, when they let you down, you tend to have very little to no tolerance for them. And this is when you run into trouble.
People have no obligations to you. It took me four and a half decades to understand this. One day I just understood that if you expect something from someone, a lot of the time they will let you down and disappoint you. Of course you get upset at them but the reality is that you should be upset at yourself because it was you, not necessarily them that set those expectations.
My whole world changed when I began to have these wonderful realisations. At the time I had been married to a woman, with whom I had some wonderful children. She is a good woman, she just didn’t have any respect for me so her behaviour hurt me to the core for the full duration of our marriage, and she knew it. Her bad behaviour nearly ended me many, many times during that marriage.
During that time I didn’t have the courage to end the relationship. I did have the courage to talk to her about her behaviour though, but she really didn’t care. Even though I had told her numerous times that all I wanted was to die, she told me that she was the way she was and was never going to change. I was in a severe state of depression at the time and the thoughts of committing suicide were present in my mind all the time. I knew that I had to do something or die. Problem was that I didn’t mind dying at the time so I was in a hard situation. That is some of what can happen to you when all you want to do is to please others, and almost always at your won expense.
Back to the lie again. 🙂
Eventually I built up the courage to end the relationship. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I did it. I was tired of living a lie. Of wearing a mask. I was tired of wanting nothing more than to just drop dead, but then having to put on a mask in front of others. I was tired of the lie. Tired of a lifetime of wearing that bloody mask. It was torture. I had had enough and I had to stop it.
I guess the final straw for me, other than my ex-wife becoming physically violent, because her emotion abuse, lies and manipulation weren’t enough, was when I went for a long motorbike ride with my friend Daniel. I took off from where I lived on the Gold Coast (Australia), and went north. I swung by his place in Brisbane (about 100kms away), and then we rode up to Noosa (about another 110kms further north). We had a great time, I had never ridden with someone else before. He had a nice Honda and I had an even nicer Yamaha, though Daniel would disagree.
After a VERY long day we rode back home. We pulled up just before his exit on the freeway for a quick chat while I lit a cigarette, and then we each went our own way. On my way home, and still on a very long and lonely freeway, I could see a new overhead bridge they had just finished building over this newly extended stretch of freeway. The massive concrete pillars resembled a sky scraper. In this particular stretch of freeway there were three lanes each way, separated by maybe around 60 to 65 feet of grass and bushes. I was on the far lane and began to drift slowly to the inside lane. As the bridge got closer to me, and the pillars became bigger and bigger, I began to drift toward that strip of grass and bushes between the two sides of the freeway. My speed slowly increasing the closer I got to the pillars. The only thought running through my mind at that moment was “I won’t even feel it”. The scary thing was that I felt no fear, only relief at what was about to happen.
Quite literally, at the last moment, the image of my kids crying desperately entered my mind. I quickly released the throttle and got back on the inside lane. At this stage I was already on the shoulder, just inches from the edge and just meters from hitting the pillar. You would think that I would have felt a sense of relief, but I didn’t. I felt tremendous despair. I knew that by not going through with it I had to face more of my torment.
Time went by and eventually I decided to end that marriage, but not for another three years. It was one of the hardest decisions I had ever made in my life but I knew I had to. I couldn’t keep living the lie, wearing that mask, enduring that torment, pain and severe depression. My friend Daniel never knew about that and my co-workers at the time, at Currumbin RSL, had no idea I was living through this. They just saw the happy, bubbly side of me. The mask.
After my liberation I got into a small two bedroom unit, furnished it with second hand furniture and enjoyed a peaceful 7 months before deciding to move back to my home town of Melbourne, Australia. Big mistake. HUGE mistake, but I guess something good did come out of that decision. I met a wonderful, loving woman, with whom I’m currently enjoying a peaceful life. Sort of.
Living a lie, not living your own life is painful and can be destructive for some. For me, it is hellish. In 2015 I decided to write a book to share my knowledge, wisdom, experience and tips with the world. I didn’t even want to attempt to have it traditionally published because I wanted the whole world to be able to read it, so I decided to offer it as a free PDF download, with no catches or strings. Since then, it was downloaded over ten thousand six hundred times so I did the next logical thing, I uploaded it to Amazon.
Just after writing the book, and after having been unemployed for three years, I was offered a job. This job is quite a few levels lower than I had been used to, both in position, responsibility, as well as in pay, but it was a job so I took it. Because I got this job I stopped doing the marketing for my book. I put it all on the back burner. At the same time I began to fall into a groove. Not my groove. Someone else’s groove. Someone else’s idea of what I should do with my time and energy. This has been bothering me tremendously for quite a few months and it has been getting worse. The mask came back out of mothballs and the pretense began all over again.
This weekend I had a long talk with my partner. I told her exactly what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. I also reminded her of what I want out of life, and what I’m not prepared to put up with any longer. About 13 months ago my decisions and false promises and assurances from my siblings ultimately lead me to be homeless. After all the years of work, after all the income, the ladder climbing, successes, I was homeless at the age of 50.
When you find yourself in this situation something happens to you. Perhaps it was the fact that I turned fifty. I don’t know. What I do know is that in December 2014/January 2015, something happened inside of me and I promised myself that I would never allow myself to be in that situation again. I thought about all the pain I had experienced in my life. About all the injustices I had experienced, the torment, the homelessness, the poverty and social stigma, and I decided that I would take steps toward creating a future for myself in which none of this would be possible ever again.
Things were looking up. I had a job. Income. I was enjoying what I was doing. You’d think I’d be happy given what I had experienced just months earlier, but I wasn’t. I felt myself being dragged into a life not of my design. I had it all planned out and this job got in my way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying my job, I get to help people on a daily basis, but it’s taking me away from my dream, and from my decision to change my life into one by design, not by default.
This weekend I decided that I would no longer settle for anything less than what I want out of life FOR ME. My life was always miserable because I never did what I wanted. How could I? I was too busy trying to please others and then being disappointed and being taken advantage of.
While speaking to my partner I reminded her of my plans and my rules. I had shared all this with her when we first met almost three years ago. I told her everything about me and I told her what I wouldn’t tolerate from people, society, life or a partner. Surprisingly she understood what I was saying and where I was coming from. She told me she wanted the same things from life, so we made a good team right from the get go.
Today I got back on the tracks. My plans, ideas and dreams back on the front burner and I’m not intending to go backwards.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I think it’s important for people to understand what can happen to them when they don’t listen to themselves. When they put themselves last. When they take and take crap from others. When they wear the mask and live a lie. People might think they are successful at living the lie but the truth is that they are not. On the outside we might appear to be like everyone else – normal. But the truth is that we are far from normal when we don’t include ourselves in the story of our lives. We MUST include ourselves in our lives because if we don’t, we are squandering a life time.
I don’t know a hell of a lot but I do know this one thing, after I’m done in this world, there is no way I’m going back to the collective full of regrets, anger and bitterness. I don’t feel that any more but only because I have plans. Should I allow myself to fall back into that crap I will most certainly leave this world with all the above to lament about, which is nothing to brag about.
If I can leave you with one suggestion, that would be for you to live your life for you. Be it a complex existence or a very simple one, as long as it’s because that’s the way you want it, the way you design it because it makes you happy, then do that. Please don’t be a robot. You have been given the privilege of this human life in order to experience this trip as a human being. Don’t squander this tremendous opportunity. Don’t let the governments or corporations or even other people tell you what it means to be a human. Your soul already knows what it means to be a human. Listen to it, it knows. Live your life FOR YOU.
Author of Taming Life – Happiness Is Not a Myth.
All rights reserved. © 2016 Tony Jarrah