You may have heard the term “gaslighting” bandied about in today’s discourse. It is a psychological term used to describe a very specific type of manipulation style in which a person attempts to make another person or group of people doubt their own judgement by manipulating situations, facts, and memories. Proficient gaslighters can make others feel as if they’re going crazy, to doubt proof that is in front of their eyes, and generally doubt their ability to judge a situation accurately. It is a tool that abusers use to control others and it is a wretched thing to go through. Perhaps you’ve known one or two in your lifetime.
I’ve been doing a lot of opining recently for the days of yore. You know the kind I’m talking about. The days when you would sit outside at a bar or house party after a long week of work, perfect weather, drinking cheap brews, smoking cigarettes, and talking shit before heading out for some food and more imbibing later in the night. When opining, these nights are always perfect. Nobody got too drunk or made an ass of herself. At worst, somebody got a little too gracious buying rounds, but ce la vie. When the night draws to an end, we take our happily buzzed selves home, crawl into bed, and wake up the next morning fully able to function. Perhaps there’s a slight headache, but nothing a cool glass of water can’t fix.
This memory is mostly false, as is the case with all memories. We pick the pieces that seemed good and fill in the blank spots with the fluffy half-truths necessary for a pretty picture. This unicorn of a night may have existed once, but what’s more likely is that somebody took a stumble, or had to throw up in the bar bathroom before heading back out for round seven. It’s more likely that the food run was some high caloric burrito you had no business eating and probably saw again after lying down and getting hit with a mild case of the spins. It’s more likely that somebody got talkative after a few drinks and said something embarrassing about herself or someone else. It’s more likely that a regrettable text message got sent or a number given out to a total stranger you had no intention of seeing again. Or maybe that stranger came home with you. It’s more likely that the next day didn’t start until after lunch and you couldn’t really get going until it was time to hang out again and you had your “get right” drink.
As Lent approached this year, I started to think about what I might give up. I do this every year, much like I do with resolutions. I’m a big fan of goal setting, but a D student when it comes to follow through (and that grade may be gracious). It’s not that I’m a religious person. I’m not, in the traditional sense anyway, but I do love the ritual of giving up things we don’t need to focus on our own nourishment whether that be spiritual or emotional. I appreciate the art of clearing space for what better fills us. If I’m being honest with myself, I’m probably more drawn to the poetry of fasting, giving up things for Lent, and resolutions than I am with the actual process itself. I know this to be true because I am a tragically predictable quitter.