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It might seem counterintuitive, but pretending a person was perfect at his or her funeral often makes the family feel worse, not better--as if the funeral were a kind of theater piece that they were knowingly a part of. Of course, this truth-telling has to be done artfully in the context of a eulogy. There is an old Hebrew expression that in English means Those who know will understand. In other words, seek a way to say difficult things about someone that those in the know will recognize as truth yet those on the outside will simply perceive as a benign observation or even a compliment. For example, if someone was intrusive to a fault in her children's lives--always questioning their choices, often voicing criticism, and so forth--I might lay that out in a eulogy by saying, Many years ago a friend of mine told me that the worst thing a parent could be was indifferent. Yet when potential employers look at Zee's resume, all they see is a gap in employment that's several years wide, which makes it seem like Zee spent all that time doing nothing. Even some of Zee's family and friends think of those years of recovery as wasted time. We know that drug addiction is a behavioral and mental disorder, and we know that statistically, most people attempt sobriety several times before they succeed. Yet we tend to view people with substance-abuse disorders as if they're morally responsible for having them, and as if every relapse is a choice they gleefully made. This isn't just true of how we view and judge other people; Most of us tend to hold ourselves to ridiculously high standards. We feel that we should be doing more, resting less often, and having fewer needs. We think our personal challenges--such as depression, childcare needs, anxiety, trauma, lower back pain, or simply being human--aren't good enough excuses for having limits and being tired. We expect ourselves to achieve at a superhuman level, and when we fail to do so, we chastise ourselves for being lazy. This included a stage over many months, I forget at what age, where I stopped eating properly. I adopted a really bad habit of disposing of my lunches by donation to the class gannets or tossing the food away. There were times I'd forgotten to do either so to discard the evidence I'd find ingenious ways (or so I thought) of stuffing foil-wrapped grub in various cupboards, nooks and crannies at home. This plan, born in the confused brain of a child, was hardly mastermind. The decaying, rotten food was easily sniffed out by parental instincts. Wedging squashed foil packages among clothes or under the bed and mattress is like trying to hide a dead body in plain sight really, and no doubt smells just as bad.

Gradually withering down to ribs and bone, I looked like a skinny, sickly child for quite some time. When my mother figured out what was happening she strategised corrective measures enforcing a 'go home for lunch' rule or, on the days she was working part time, a visit to the village bakery where she could keep an eye on me. Both ensured eating patterns were improved, but they were a bloody long hike and, to some degree, impacted social blending, which was already a little stretched. Those who know how intrusive she was will know what I am saying and that it is true. They might laugh, they might simply nod their heads, but they will know that I am articulating an important truth, and that truth validates the family's feelings. Others who don't know will think only that she cared deeply about her children. If a man was harsh as a father, at times frightening and mean, I can tell that truth as sensitively as possible by saying something like It wasn't always easy to be his son. But that toughness was born of him wanting the best for the people he loved most. Truth-telling at the time of loss is so important. Yes, with sensitivity and compassion, but the truth nevertheless really does set the mourners free, whether that truth is good or bad or both. Our culture has us convinced that success requires nothing more than willpower, that pushing ourselves to the point of collapse is morally superior to taking it easy. We've been taught that any limitation is a sign of laziness, and therefore undeserving of love or comfort. This is the Laziness Lie, and it's all around us, making us judgmental, stressed, and overextended, all while convincing us that we're actually doing too little. In order to move past the Laziness Lie, we must confront it and dissect it so we can see the poisonous influence it has exerted on our lives, our belief systems, and how we relate to other people. The Laziness Lie is a belief system that says hard work is morally superior to relaxation, that people who aren't productive have less innate value than productive people. It's an unspoken yet commonly held set of ideas and values. It affects how we work, how we set limits in our relationships, our views on what life is supposed to be about. So now there were two more reasons I deserved a hiding: On a different occasion a couple of years on, I was playing marbles with my eldest brother on the side of the road. I had one of those rectangular leather back satchels.

Mine seemed to protrude beyond my shoulder blades further than most, possibly due to my slight frame. A passing school bus clipped it and sent me flying. I do remember waking up to a rotund, sweaty, worried-looking driver shaking me saying, 'Are you okay son, are you okay? The stew of stories, the upcoming funeral, and all the years to follow are a reckoning with the entire truth of a person's life and our relationship with that person in all of its complexity. They almost always do open up about their loved one's flaws--the stubbornness, the business mistakes, the addiction, the distance the person put between himself or herself and those he or she claimed to love. The truth, when spoken, lifts the weight of a secret. Sometimes the truth is something we would rather avoid completely. I will never forget the time I drove into the cemetery, parked in the space behind the chapel reserved for clergy, and saw my friend who ran the mortuary waiting for me to step out of the car. He knew by the look on my face that I had no idea what he was talking about. How do we get indoctrinated with the Laziness Lie? For the most part, parents don't sit their kids down and feed them these principles. Instead, people absorb them through years of observation and pattern recognition. When a parent tells their child not to give a homeless person money because that homeless person is too lazy to deserve it, the seed of the Laziness Lie is planted in the kid's brain. When a TV show depicts a disabled person somehow overcoming their disability through sheer willpower rather than by receiving the accommodations they deserve, the Laziness Lie grows a bit stronger. And whenever a manager questions or berates an employee for taking a much-needed sick day, the Laziness Lie extends its tendrils even further into a person's psyche. We live in a world where hard work is rewarded and having needs and limitations is seen as a source of shame. It's no wonder so many of us are constantly overexerting ourselves, saying yes out of fear of how we'll be perceived for saying no. The driver, climbing back in his vehicle somewhat relieved, had accidentally delivered the hiding that usually followed such abuse. I was bewildered, with a lump almost the size of a golf ball already visible on my head. Plus I was puzzled, as I wasn't actively practising any religion.

I watched as the bus drew away, the entire overcrowded back row celebrating and dishing out two fingers in contempt, disappointed I was still breathing. At least my eating habits had improved by this stage. My work now includes aspects of human behaviour and development so it's easy to identify early self-destructive, devaluing behaviours. Others, at times, still attempt to rear their heads. If we're not careful or conscious, these scars and behaviours (to ourselves or others) creep in, like saboteurs, as habitual choices into adulthood. We reach for fight-or-flight responses even when the situation doesn't warrant it or long after it serves any purpose. He then went on to tell me that the man I was about to bury died at home from autoerotic sex gone wrong while dressed as a woman in pantyhose. I was shocked because when we met for the intake meeting his sons had told me only that he died at home in his study after a heart attack. Of course, I went ahead with the funeral and eulogy I had planned, but I was sad inside. I knew that his sons were keeping a secret that I could have helped them to accept. I knew their dad, and he was a wonderful guy, a doctor who cared deeply for his patients. I could have helped them process the truth of his secret life during our conversation earlier that week in a way that might have unburdened them. I could have said something in his eulogy that would have let them know I empathized with them and at the same time not let on to anyone else what the circumstances of their father's death really were. Perhaps something as simple as He was in many ways a very private person who died in a very private way. Even if you think you don't fully agree with the three tenets of the Laziness Lie, you've probably absorbed its messages and let those messages affect how you set goals and how you view other people. As I break down each of these statements, consider how deeply they're ingrained in your psyche, and how they might influence your behavior on a day-to-day basis. When we talk to children and teenagers about the future, we ask them what they want to do--in other words, what kind of value they want to contribute to society and to an employer. We don't ask nearly as often what they're passionate about, or what makes them feel happy or at peace. As adults, we define people by their jobs--he's an actor, she's a mortician--categorizing them based on the labor they provide to others. When a formerly productive person becomes less so due to injury, illness, tragedy, or even aging, we often talk about it in hushed, shameful tones, assuming the person has lost a core part of their identity.

When we don't have work to do, it can feel like we don't have a reason to live. It makes complete sense, of course, that many of us think and talk in these ways. In our world, a comfortable, safe life is far from guaranteed. For me running away as a child felt like the best defensive option. As a mature adult, better equipped mentally and physically, making assumptions or living in avoidance, even of conversations, isn't a great resolve. I recall an incident from one of those Contiki hotel tours. The first day was always a little chaotic with so many logistic and organisational responsibilities, one of which was confirming final room requirements for the entire trip. Before we left London, approximate room numbers had been put on hold, but we might have last minute changes to consider. These were the days of more manual labour checks, less automation you understand. Given our first hotel for that very night was one of the many tasks to complete en route, I was double checking names and ensuring people had been paired together appropriately. Any friends articleed and travelling together would expect to be roomed together too. If you had any couples, you'd take note and try your best to get double rooms rather than twin ones. Something, anything, to let his sons put down the weight of their secret. Secrets are bad for a family and a community, even after death. If the death was an overdose, I find a way to say it. Hard as she tried, and that was very, very hard, she had demons she just could not slay and her pain was too great to bear. If the death was a suicide, that too ought to be said. My rabbi friend Ronne, whose son Jesse died by suicide, said it as directly and movingly as anyone could when he eulogized Jesse. Let me begin with the fact, the worst, unremitting, irrevocable fact: Jesse took his own life. No one need speak the word suicide in a whisper or avoid direct reference to it when speaking of him or to us.