He climbed the hill yesterday and looked out over the lake. The leaves have begun to change and the air has a chill that warns of colder days ahead. Fall is here and the leaves drop, matting the forest floor with various colours. They feed the earth and the circle of life continues.
We sat on the warm rock at the top of the hill and I watched our 11-month-old son pull the seeds off the tall grass around us. He has so much of life ahead of him — and in my belly I feel the kick of another baby, due in February. I think of the days ahead when all four of us will climb this hill and look out over the lake. We’ll take one of those family shots with the lake and the bright colours of fall in the background landscape. My husband has a picture of his family taken long ago, on the same hill. I want this circle of life to continue.
I think about all the things we must teach our son to make him strong. I want him to be honest and true, and I hope he grows up with the same sense of inner confidence that guides his father through life. I think my husband’s confidence comes from his accomplishments, and perhaps, more importantly, from constantly living up to the values he holds inside.
I’ve always thought that the best way to teach is through storytelling. So perhaps when our son is older I will tell him the story of a man I once knew. It’s the story of a man who lacked inner confidence because he avoided facing the truth.
The story starts with the man as a small boy, born the youngest in a large family. The boy was very funny and loved to make his sisters and brothers laugh at his antics. Unfortunately, the boy’s father was a man who continually had to prove himself. He didn’t know how to handle the boy and grew jealous of him. He kept telling the boy he was foolish, until one day the boy believed him. From then on the boy decided he had to make the rest of the world think he was smart and so he began to tell lies.
He became very good at telling lies, incorporating partial truths to lend them validity. He took experiences that others had and pretended they were his own. The lies he told made people think he was clever and experienced.
As the years passed, the boy learned how to do many things but his capabilities could never keep up to the fictitious man he pretended to be. He fabricated a past that made him seem exciting to others and surrounded himself with friends who didn’t know any better. But the more lies he told the harder it was to live with his true past, and so he moved far away.
The man didn’t believe any woman would love him for who he was, but only for what he made her believe he was. And so he continued to lie, and the more he lied the weaker he grew inside. He thrived on the feeling of pride that came when people admired him for who they thought he was. But this pride had a way of undermining his self-confidence and he began to drink heavily to feel better at the end of each day.
Then one day he met a woman who demanded the truth from him. He confessed and told her that he was a compulsive liar. And despite his flaws she wanted to help him. She could see the man he wanted to be, the man he was deep inside — and she fell in love with that man. They married and dreamed of having a large family, of exploring the world together and creating many happy memories.
But life is never easy. They struggled with mortgage payments and working long hours. The man found that being honest wasn’t easy. It was very difficult to admit that he made mistakes. He was afraid his wife would begin to see him as the fool he thought he was. His wife, however, was very strong and insisted on the truth. She forced him to live up to his promises and keep his word no matter how trivial the issue. At times the man grew frustrated and annoyed. He didn’t understand why he had to do things the hard way. Over the years he’d grown lazy and didn’t want to bother learning to do things when a good story would make people believe that he could anyway. The emotional turmoil his wife put him through was almost more than he could take. His wife insisted on the truth, threatening to leave him without it, and so the man worked at becoming honest.
Over the years his wife’s determination paid off and one day the man found that it had become easier for him to tell the truth. He didn’t have to keep track of the truth the way he had to with his lies. He began to feel stronger inside and realised that he wasn’t the fool that he had always believed himself to be. By being honest and living up to the morality inside him he had gained a sense of strength that nobody could take away.
His wife and family loved him for who he was. Eventually the man went back to school and learned to become a writer. All the years he had spent telling stories had sharpened his imagination and so he decided to write children’s stories and became a best-selling author. He had many admirers, but for the first time in his life he didn’t need them.