A secret can be a sacred thing – something that deserves to be hidden away, held precious, close and carefully. But in turn, some secrets need to be shown the light – gently and gracefully. Some of the secrets we hold are keeping the dampers on life: releasing them is like turning up the colour, the volume, the taste of it.
Some secrets are like a kiss; so intimate they bind us to each other and their keeping is a safety net, a close retreat.
I think of my soft-hearted friend, whose empathy is a gift to the world but they struggle to reveal it through insecurity and bravado. They keep the secret of who they are tucked away, asking me to keep its hiding place quiet too. The secrets of ‘what’, ‘how’, ‘where’ and ‘when’ really matter much; but the secrets of who we really are – those are the ones that need the most wisdom.
That’s the lesson about superhero super identities: who you reveal your deepest, secret self to is probably one of the most important decisions you can make. Those people will either be your worst enemies, or your very best friends.
Considering how much I’ve written about honesty and being honest this year, it’s only fair to keep things on a level footing. Here’s the truth of it: life is full of little secrets. Things we keep to ourselves and things we keep hidden for other people. I keep a lot of secrets. Maybe it’s not so bad, a little mystery. Or maybe it is.
It’s a beautiful paradox between two friends (or lovers, depending on how you want to tell the story). Sometimes, I know exactly which part I’m playing.. and sometimes I’m not sure.
1. I’ve got more secrets than you think.
Openness is just another kind of mask. Seriously. It’s so easy to appear open, to share just enough. I wear that mask a lot. Not everybody gets to see the whole of me. My digital footprint depicts angles and moments – but there are very few people who get to see the whole of me, without guard, without filter. The honest, raw and complete me with ‘rambling stream of consciousness’ conversation or sometimes silence, the few people with whom I let my mouth run free.
2. I’m very good at keeping secrets, but I’m selective about who I’ll keep them for.
Friendship is a lot about knowing which secrets to keep. Also, knowing when someone is keeping a secret from you. Sometimes these small secrets are necessary. It’s become the proving of trust, the rebuilding of a wall. Sometimes you have to let someone keep a secret from you knowingly, so they know you don’t have to know. It’s a fleeting gift, and makes the sharing of them sweeter.
3. If you’re surprised and horrified by what I say aloud…
You possibly shouldn’t get too much further inside my head. Sometimes it’s dirty or messy or a little too sharp in there. I take the time to polish my words now, but I never did before. I’m not sure which version of myself I like better.
4. The hidden things have the strangest motivations.
I’ll often wear a garter and stockings for a man who’ll likely never see them. Once he spoke of them in a way that was so enchanting, I couldn’t help but try see what he saw. It’s not the wearing of them that’s a secret, but that habitually I think of him every time I pull them on.
5. Most people are probably more and less than what you think.
I’m not a drug user and I have no desire to indulge. But that one time I did try marijuana was with a stripper who taught me to do some pretty mean blowbacks and trails. You never know when you might need to fit in with any crowd. See Number 8.
6. I wear my heart on my sleeve but mostly that’s because my poker face is too exhausting and I resent that there are ever times I can’t be truly honest.
I’ve also been known to play way dumber than I truly am to avoid… all sorts of things.
7. I’ve been propositioned for more meaningless hookups and phone sex than actual dates.
And I still kind of take it as a compliment, even when one half of my heart feels overlooked and less-than, while the other half is just glad somebody’s seen me as a sensual human being. I haven’t figured out what the deal is with this one.
8. It’s a personal motto (and challenge) to try and keep my cool in any situation.
Once it meant keeping a straight face while my friend took off all his clothes while we were having coffee in the backyard. He hadn’t mentioned he was a nudist but I refused to be shocked.
Now, someone might take this list as an invitation or justification for a multitude of accusations and assumptions. The truth of it is, you knowing any of my secrets doesn’t change who I am. Nor does how you respond change me – I’ve been carrying them this whole time and living with myself. The difference here, is that I’d rather people live with me too – the fullest part of me, the real and unedited version. These aren’t the secrets that show you that, but often we run little tests with the people we want to trust, just to see what they’ll do.
Frequently, I find that people who live with many, many secrets don’t trust themselves. It’s rarely that they don’t trust others. Perhaps it’s that they don’t trust they’ve been making wise decisions – or that they have chosen trustworthy friends. It’s rarely about Others, mostly about them.
Then there are those who live with no secrets. People who live so openly that there is nothing sacred are often broken by others. Sharing everything becomes a tool to quickly build a sense of emotional connectedness that is falsified, disconnected from reality. Often they are lonelier than if they kept all their secrets, because there is no sharing of trust.
I am trying to learn to be in the 3rd space. Someone who has a few wisely kept secrets that are for the truest and the best. Those secrets aren’t the what and the when of things I’ve done or said or thought. The secrets I’m trying to keep are the precious ones, the ones that are sacred and unique. The moments I’ve felt most alive, the most pointed pains and the deepest joys. The secrets I love keeping most are actually found in relationship. Shared conversations, private jokes and sacred moments, but as for the rest of it – I’d like to live in the middle ground. Whole enough to keep some things between me and the universe, trusting enough to share secrets with a few and open enough to invite people into my eccentric, crazy life.