I have secrets. Everyone has secrets. Some are horrible in a sophomoric, disgusting way. Others are beautiful, like a rare jewel that I keep buried in my heart. But still others are a central part of my everyday life.
Therein lies my problem.
Because I think deep down, I am lonely and want to connect more with others. But having secrets, and keeping them, is like tiptoeing around the elephant in the living room when I am establishing connections with others. It makes it difficult to really feel as though my new friend (or old friend) is a true friend, accepting of me with all my warts. When I keep a secret, I manufacture distance when all I really want is closeness. I sabotage myself.
I know that people like me when they meet me and that I come across as a direct, open person who is not afraid to talk about most things, about what she really thinks, how she really feels, and what she’s done in her life. But those secrets that I choose not to speak about are so deeply buried that most people would not guess that they are there. They have no idea what’s not being said. So while others may think our connection is deep and intimate and uninhibited, I know differently.
The ironic part is when I DO choose to share my secrets (very selectively, mind you), more times than not, I find the connection I so desperately want. Far from being repulsed by my truth, others are drawn to me because of it. In turn, I feel closer to them because they have seen the real me, not my public face, and still love me and–perhaps more importantly–like me. They still think I am a good person. (Yes, I still like others’ approval, even at my ripe old age. I don’t NEED it, but I do like it and getting it always gives me a little boost).
Our culture has an element of shame with respect to secrets–think “dirty little secrets” or tabloids blaring headlines about drug overdoses, sordid sex scandals, or financial ruin. When I see these, I don’t feel the schadenfreude that perhaps the editors and writers intend, that little frisson of superiority because the mighty have fallen and at least I’m not that bad. I feel, instead, a sadness and think there but for the grace of God go I. These people, these human beings (because even celebrities and public figures are human beings, have been exposed in the most humiliating and public way. Their secrets have been ripped from their psyches and plastered all over the world.
But it’s the fact that they have these secrets that put them in harm’s way. Acknowledging the truth, saying, “Yeah? So what?” instead of calling press conferences, uttering mea culpas, and falling on one’s sword would probably take away any public indignation. You can’t inflict shame if the target refuses to feel it.
As a person who has very few people interested in her secrets, I’m not under the same scrutiny as, say, Demi Moore, Whitney Houston, or John Friend (What? You don’t know who he is? You obviously don’t practice yoga). Each of these people had secrets, they were exposed, and they either suffered or are suffering through a public outing of their own making. I don’t have to worry about that. I simply have to make sure I choose to share my secrets wisely.
Ana Forrest, who advocates speaking one’s truth (and who practices this with a sometimes startling and even off-putting candor), still tempers her advice by choosing one’s words and one’s audience wisely. The fact that it’s true and a secret doesn’t mean I should open up to just anyone. No, I need to choose my audience and protect myself while opening myself up. Nor does the fact that it’s a secret and it’s the truth mean that it needs to be disclosed to someone in a hurtful way, or to whom the truth would hurt. Words can hurt just as much, if not more, than physical actions and painful secrets must be disclosed in a compassionate way, if at all.
I’ve shared very few secrets willingly. Most of the time, I’ve been caught in lies or prevarications and have simply decided that telling the truth would be easier than continuing a fiction that most people wouldn’t believe anyway. Regardless of how my secrets have come to light, however, and regardless of how others react to them, there is always a sense of relief–sometimes huge, sometimes tiny–that comes along with the fear of opening up.
Right now, my blog is one of my best friends and I share things here that are hard to say to anyone else. But I still don’t share anything. There are some things that I don’t know if I ever can. But I do want to start trying harder, so my secrets lose their power when they cease to become secrets any longer. I just need to find the courage to start.