Monday, October 16, 2006

Too Many Secrets -- Part 2

Remember this? Remember you wanted to know what secrets I have to tell? Guess you were wondering if I had any good, juicy gossip to share, or tantalizing, wicked family tales to reveal.

No particular secrets per se to share. Actually I do have secrets, but I CAN'T share them with you, or you, or even YOU! (Randi) Why? Because we are told to keep secrets, and they are not meant for curious eyes or ears.

Psst! Can you keep a secret? How many times in your years of growing up were you asked that? How many times did you say you could keep a secret, yet told the first person you could whatever that secret was?

Shhh! It's a surprise. Don't tell anybody. I'm sure that over the years people wanted to let you in on surprises, be they related to parties or gifts, and the information was just sizzling inside you, in anticipation of the surprise and reactions to it.

I'm only telling you. Don't tell a soul. Promise? Sound familiar? How'd you do with that promise?

Often it's easy to tell secrets. It's harder to keep them. When I was growing up and my friends told me what they deemed secrets and they told me to tell nobody, I understood that they meant my peers. But secrets were like poison to me, and like a pot that begins to boil over, the secrets wanted to spill forth from my mouth. Did I tell my peers? No. But I often, at my discretion, told my mother.

Yes, I did. I didn't perceive it as not being able to keep a secret. My mother was my mother, not another kid at school. In my eyes, my mother didn't count, so to speak.

My mother is not a gossip, nor was she ever. She has always maintained her discretionary distance and respected my privacy. She is the one who always told me to look out for certain friends or certain relatives who would probe for information, looking for secrets and ready to pass them along.

Because of my mother's wonderful character makeup, I deemed her "safe." I would share information that others might've shared with me, just because she was my sounding board, a receptacle for my information, so to speak. She would not judge the people that I was telling her about. She would just listen, take it all in, nod and do nothing with the information I'd disclosed. How much better a person can you find to keep secrets safe?

As the years passed, I just didn't want to learn any more secrets. But they were told to me anyway. And instead of sharing some with my mother, I shared them with my journals. If those pages could only talk....

Secrets are a means of information. In essence a means of power. The power to control...and the power to hurt. And for that reason, I have grown up surrounded by secrets and the common phrase: Don't tell Mom/Dad/brother/brother/sister-in-laws/nieces/nephews/aunts/uncles.... They don't need to know. They shouldn't find out.

In many, if not all the cases, these secrets have not been about power, but about protection. We were continually protecting one another from the pain of knowing something hurtful or challenging, upsetting or angering. Major family medical and personal crises were guarded, monitored with protective hush-hush attitudes. We did not want to hurt others, we did not want to add salt to wounds; we did not want to bear bad news and see reactions.

For a long time I thought this was only my family's practice, but I married and saw similar practices in my husband's family's or in-laws' families. I began to recognize the practice in friends' families, too.

The secret was out!

We are often not alone in the way we live our lives, in the way we treat those we love and in the way they treat us. We have mirror reflections throughout the world -- people who have secrets just like we do, people who reveal their secrets just like we do.

The personal life of every individual is based on secrecy, and perhaps it is partly for that reason that civilized man is so nervously anxious that personal privacy should be respected. -- Anton Chekhov

The face is the mirror of the mind, and eyes without speaking confess the secrets of the heart. -- Saint Jerome


Mia said...

Great post! Somehow in my family nobody can keep a secret :). We try to share things with only one person and a few days later everybody is informed.

Always interesting is also the question if you are allowed to tell your husband/wife, many times people tell me secrets and add: you can tell Daniel but nobody else.... How come that is ok? Do we count as a unit? Do they know that he would never tell a soul?

tuesdaywishes said...

I think that when people tell you that you can tell your hubby but no one else, they are acknowledging that married people can rarely keep secrets from each other. I wanted to keep my last pregnancy a secret until some kind of dramatic announcement. Hubby saw me looking at the wall calendar and guessed what was going on less than 5 minutes after the line appeared on the stick.

BTW...When it comes to kids, I'm afraid to tell them to keep secrets. I tell my kids that if it's something I'll be happy to find out (like a birthday card) then it's a good secret and you can keep it. But if I'm going to be upset (a mess, someone hurt, something broken)I need to know right away. Then I tell them how my grandmother, at the age of 2, saw her brother, age 4, playing with matches. He closed the closet door to hide the burning clothing, but she told their mom and probably saved the house.

cruisin-mom said...

Pearl, EXCELLENT POST! I will comment time right now...just wanted you to know how great this is.

torontopearl said...

Mia: you bring up a good point re. telling a spouse. Sometimes each of us asks the teller of the secret if we can share it with our other half. Other times, for example, one of my parents might tell my husband something on the side. My husband then wants to share it. I get annoyed and say, "If my mother/father wanted me to know they'd have told me too. Don't tell me." But inevitably he does and then I might fell guilty for knowing.

Tuesday: Interestingly enough, my children -- ages 11, 9 and 6 1/2 CAN KEEP SECRETS. (so far!) The youngest had found out about 24 hours before the fact that we were getting a dog; he didn't share the news with his siblings. Our oldest found out we were making a day trip to Niagara Falls into an overnight trip, but did not spill the beans with his brother and sister. I guess those are like your kids who are told to keep a "good secret"!

CM: Thank you. Looking forward to your thoughts on the matter...or are they a secret?

marallyn ben moshe said...

shalom toronto...what a great post...and how lovely to meet you...i have to admit that i have one sister-in-law who somehow interprets the words 'please just keep this between us' to mean please tell this to the rest of the the beginning i was appalled...then i used her as a funnel...but please don't tell anyone :)...btw i still have a lot of family and friends in toronto...who knows we could be mishpocheh...i love your blog and look forward to visiting again...stay safe

David_on_the_Lake said...

omg Chekhov...! my favorite author..
Great post...I think the only difference between something thats a secret and something thats not is spoken loudly..the other

David_on_the_Lake said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
torontopearl said...

Marallyn, thanks for the visit. I love your family dynamics too.

David, your interpretation is a good one!

Sweettooth120 said...

Mia - interesting question as to why we feel we can only tell our spouses but noone else, but when a friend or family member confides in me, I usually won't tell my husband, and in turn, I also expect that from them.

It's funny, my girlfriend will often tell me something about a friend of hers that I know, but have no connection to or desire to ever be in touch with, yet, she will always say, "please don't ever say anything to so and so." As if I am just waiting the opportunity to call them out of the blue and spill the beans.

TW- I have the same dilema with my children about secrets. I want my daughter to learn how to keep a secret for a surprise but to never "keep secrets" from her parents. She is older now and understands the difference, but when she was bit younger, it was a very hard concept to explain.