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