What’s Real: Same Question as So Often Before, Different Angle

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Curves.

A colleague has reprimanded me for acting on intuition rather than fact, even though the results were dead- on. She says I need to go with what’s “real.” But what’s “real”  isn’t  necessarily  what’s  true. What’s  “real”  isn’t even what can be verified by scientific fact or confessions direct from the witness.

The Long-Awaited Honest-to-God Secret to Being Happy

For example….

Let’s look at new information given me about a particular person  I have befriended-we’ll call him…Bob-and let’s explore how people ascertain what’s “real.” As usual,

I’m yearning for physical confirmation of something that may not ever have physical confirmation. Confused? Me, too. Very. But let’s see how it plays out.

There are things I may have witnessed  with my own eyes and ears that I thought were “real” about Bob, but then I found there was another side to things, that some- thing was hidden in the exchange, and things weren’t as they seemed. I’ve also felt things about him that couldn’t be proved.

What do I know about Bob? That he’s 30 and married to a pretty woman. I know this because he has a wedding picture of the two of them on his desk and I saw it once about 3 years ago (physical evidence). I  also know he’s married because last time we talked (6 months ago), he mentioned  his  wife’s  favorite  long-running   TV show (physical evidence). Is the information real? As far as we know. We have physical evidence direct from the source, but it’s a little bit dated.

I observe Bob at a distance, walking with a tall, pretty woman.  My instincts  tell  me  something’s  wrong.  She looks a little like his wife but the picture of his wife had blonde hair, not red, and they’re not holding  hands and he seems  stressed. He’s not wearing  his wedding band and  neither is she. They walk into a restaurant together and sit at a corner table, leaning close to talk. When they leave, he gives her a quick but passionate kiss. She glances around and pushed away.

My lunch companion is startled and suggests he’s having an affair. To her, evidence is there that he’s a cheater. She’s seen it with her own eyes. Therefore,  it’s real. She saw his wife several months ago and she had blonde hair. This can’t be her.

Back in our office, my indignant lunchmate looks him up online and finds his family website and blog, which hasn’t been updated in months but has some nice photos of  him  with  his  wife  and  their pets.  And  his  wife  is blonde. See? My lunchmate points out that he’s still married. Then she  searches the property appraiser’s site for his name and discovers that he and his wife still own their home in her neighborhood. See? See? Evidence.

A week later, I run into Bob in the parking lot and we chat for 30 minutes. I tell him I saw him at the restaurant. He mentions with a heavy sigh that he and his wife are in the midst of a divorce and were having lunch to discuss how  to  split  assets  without  involving lawyers.  She’s changed her whole life-her hair, her car, him. They’re in the process of selling their house but no takers yet. He’s just started  telling  friends  and  coworkers  about  the divorce as of today. He was really torn up by her leaving, he says, but it’s okay because he’s over it. My instincts tell me he isn’t over it, but gut instincts aren’t “real.”

So as  this  knowledge  about  his  impending  divorce comes out, it appears that one sense of what’s “real” is replaced with another.

With Bob’s permission, I relay the information to my lunchmate,  who runs to her computer and looks up his info at the public records office and finds that he hasn’t filed for divorce, contrary to what he’s said. See? He’s lying. She has physical,  legal evidence  to contradict  him. She finds a picture online of him with another woman, in a friendly embrace. More evidence, she says, but the file name for the picture is his  kid sister’s name. They have the same eyes, and he’s spoken of her to  me. But my lunchmate has irrefutable evidence. After all, if it’s online, it must be true, right? And if it’s not online in the right legal spot, then  it’s  not true, right? What’s real to her is very different from what I’m willing to accept as real.

Two months  later,  I’ve  heard  from  various  mutual friends that Bob is “feeling his oats,” dating every girl in town. I’ve heard from people who have socialized with him that he’s drunk every night. I’ve heard from women he’s spurned that he’s out every night, whoring around.

though. Nope. He jumped all over it and made the entire session about my diagnosis. I have to wonder now if he really understood what I said.

Which was why I got angry. Somehow he tied my diagnosis  back  to…something…I’m  not  sure  what,  and preached  to me for the next  hour about forgiveness.  I rarely got a word in edgewise and when I did, I got more lecture for being trapped by the ego—his take on any disagreement  with  his  opinions.  Several  times,  he  took  a break from the  forgiveness  rant to give me specific ad- vice. None of it felt right. None. Usually I can get some- thing out of a counselor’s advice but not this time. There were many things he told me but they all seemed directed at someone else, maybe even himself. Almost as if I weren’t there at all.  Afterward, I pushed the notes aside and refused to look at them.

So tonight, for the first time since last summer, I read back over my session’s  notes. His advice still does not make any sense. It just doesn’t apply to my life. It didn’t then, and it doesn’t now. I’m sure he meant  well and I know he was miffed that I didn’t agree with his counsel, but I walked out that day upset at first and then later deciding to honor my own feelings rather than his insistence that anyone who lies is in pain and deserves forgiveness and that if recognized them as lying, it was because I had lied, too. Huh?

In reading through those notes, I realize now what a terrible mistake it would have been to accept his advice at face value when it didn’t feel right. By not taking his ad- vice, I have learned so much that I never would have experienced, and I also unyoked myself  from a couple of situations that were particularly destructive.

Forgiveness is a good thing, yes, but not when it holds you in a bad place. Better, I think, to turn your back on the bad, walk away, and then you can forgive it when you don’t have to live with it in your face all the time.

Forgiveness can mean leaving something behind and freeing yourself, but it shouldn’t  mean continuing  to eat shit and it shouldn’t mean condoning wrongdoing.