Secrets are generally terrible. Beauty is not hidden–only ugliness and deformity. – L. M. Montgomery
I tell you this not to elicit pity. I mean that. I am – now – very grateful for the childhood I had because it made me the woman I am, and I like myself.
But as a kid, I was really lonely. I wasn’t “girly” enough to hang out with the girls who had bows in their hair or liked to wear dresses, and I wasn’t “tom boyish” enough to hang out with the boys or the girls who could keep up with them.* I was bookish and tender and honestly loved everyone. Most of the time, though, people were not cruel to me; they were indifferent. And that was worse, in some ways.
What I could see from my place on the outside was that each of those little coteries of children had secrets that they shared with one another and kept from me. I began hating secrets right then.
Secrets exclude. They oppress. They shut out. Secrets defame and dirty and taint. They warp both the holder and the excluded with their darkness. That is their nature.
Perhaps this is why I became a writer.
I’m not suggesting that everyone tell everything to the world. I’m not even suggesting anyone tell everything to a single person. I just know that things kept in the dark entire fester – Gollum and his ring in our souls.
This desire for secrecy is one of the reasons that the legacy of slavery has lingered so long and deep in our country. We have tried to hide, to deny, to cover-up the full truth of the experience of enslaved people by justifying the practice of enslavement, by acting as if that history does not still affect us today, by claiming that “slaves had it good.” All the while, we entrench this secret horror that deforms us from the inside.
All secrets, when kept out of shame or power, corrupt us – as individuals and nations. When we eat in secret (something I have been known to do), when we harbor resentments under the fake smile of “being nice,” when we keep our depression hidden under isolation or anger, we are allowing dark things to take root in our spirits. I’ve felt those roots wrap around my heart and begin to squeeze. I expect you have, too.
I just started reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and I already feel the light she is shining opening up the dark places I’ve kept hidden because of shame or embarrassment or some misguided idea of personal responsibility. I expect this book is going to change all of whom I am in a very profound way because it is going to remind me that to write with vulnerability, to take risks with my words and my life, I have to open up the dark parts I’ve kept hidden and let myself be healed by the light.
Don’t be afraid of your dark places. If you can shine a light on them, you can find treasure in there. – Jeannette Walls
As a child, I didn’t have the wisdom or resources to step into those closed circles of children and shine my little, bookish light. . . but now, I know that if I had I might have still been excluded but it would have been because of something those children chose, not my own shame.
What do you think of secrets?
*I loathe these dichotomies that let us assign gender qualities to entire groups of people, but I have not yet found my way to break them down in language yet. Please forgive me.