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Alice Rahon: La Conjuration des Antilopes (1943)
"Whatever we decide might well rely upon TheLittlestLie to survive."

I consider self deception a high and necessary art. I doubt that I could start even a little project without believing that better-than -likely would result. I tend to jump in with both feet first rather than taking tentative steps, the better to indenture myself to outcomes. I focus upon my lost investment and force my way forward thanks to my little self deceptions. Before I'm finished, though, I usually face some reckoning, a point beyond which even TheLittlestLie can't crawl forward. I negotiate myself back into some semblance of the truth again before I can continue across the finish line, or so I tell myself. The testimony of anyone as practiced at lying as I've become should properly be thoroughly questioned. My whole life might be rooted within successful self deceptions.

In truth, I've been lucky.
Most of my accomplishments were actually accidental and not evidence of either will or great gifts. I swim in myths. I eat shame for breakfast understanding that I deserved nothing of which I've benefitted. I live in awe but try to buffer my astonishment. I appear to have been blessed for no damned good reason, which irks me considerably. I continue moving forward though I understand that I actually move exclusively relatively, never forward or back, more probably over, as if actually standing on a sphere rather than a plane. There goes my self deception again. If I was actually going nowhere, how did I end up here?

Twelve years ago, I made a panicked call to my old therapist, a woman I'd first seen when in the throes of my first divorce. My first wife had found her and invited me to join her in some family therapy. My first wife refused to return for a second session because she insisted that the therapist had taken my side, so I continued visiting with her off and on for the next decade or more. I hadn't spoken with her in ages, but that morning, while writing at study desk 329 in the Library of Congress' Jefferson Reading Room, I'd experienced what I believed to have been a panic attack. My world had collapsed. We were imbedded within the early days of what would become twelve exile years and I suddenly realized that I had no idea where I was going. My work had evaporated. My home, out of reach. I had successfully deceived myself into believing that I might write and had taken up residence at what I would come to recognize as MY study desk, where my writing seemed understandably aimless. I desperately needed the services of my trusty old therapist, so I called her. She returned my call.

I can testify that she talked me through that period. She'd premised our renewed conversations with the understanding that she would not be charging me for her services, that she felt as though she got as much or more out of our chats than she expected I might get, which was a difficult pill to swallow, given that I was the one hollowed out and frightened. We continued the conversation in two-week installments for the remainder of the following twelve years. I'd ask her near the end of each conversation if I was crazy yet, to which she'd reply with regret in her voice, that I'd just have to try harder, she guessed. I suppose that ours was a tandem self deception, therapy without a patient, healthy interaction in a world lacking connection and in desperate need of intervention. The conversation was the intervention needed. The content hardly mattered. The connection counted.

We spoke this week and I had to admit that I had no complaints. Neither did she. She's retiring, firing all her patients or finding them replacements. Hers has been a long career with great successes. She counts as perhaps her greatest success her ability to chase off patients she couldn't possibly help, like my first wife had been. My second wife saw her, too, and while professional discretion prevents her from providing details, I know her well enough by now to know that my second wife was a lost cause both for her and for myself. That self deception, like even TheLittlestLie, couldn't possibly survive close scrutiny or even well-intended therapy. What had initially seemed like a successful strategy turned in upon itself when we both accepted that we were fine as we were and just didn't belong together. Only I continued therapy.

It might be that now that my exile's over, those bi-weekly conversations will end, too, though she left that question open for now. We decided to decide early next month if we retain ongoing mutual interest. Since this was never therapy, we could agree upon any premise to continue we choose. We could even choose self deception, that parent of all great decisions. Whatever we decide might well rely upon TheLittlestLie to survive. How would that make it different?

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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