Saturday, October 24, 2009

the secret keeper; or, my lips are sealed

I have been avoiding this blog. It is not, as might seem the most obvious reason, because I have had nothing to say; instead, it is because I have had too much to say. I was afraid that the burden of other's secrets might be too much for me and I might give something away, but, now, after much soul searching I don't fear that anymore. so here I am, writing again.

In recent months, I have become a secret keeper. Friends and family have been confiding in me. This, in itself, is nothing new. I am a compassionate friend and a good listener; and frankly, I have been blessed with the gift of insight, so I am a natural sounding board. The problem is that with the blessings of positive attributes the balance of fate and nature demand that there will be negative ones as well. Thus: I am a talker. I process thoughts and feelings by talking or writing about them. If it happens in my head, it usually emerges from my mouth or pen into words, print or voice, but always a story. In my life, things are not real until they are a story. In the past, I have gotten myself in trouble for sharing secrets. Mostly, because I was young and trusted my chosen confidant to do what I could not: to keep my second hand confidences.

I justified this to myself, and to others if need be, by telling myself that I was the kind of person who just couldn't keep quiet. Now, I know, that more often than not, people will talk. Everyone has their own reasons for spilling, each thinks themselves justified in the telling. Some, like me, have a prediliction for storytelling, or tell secrets because they want to help, and yes, there are those who like the power of having secret--and perhaps dangerous--information to barter. I do not know all the reasons for blabbing, but I do know, that if you truly want something to be secret, you have to keep your own mouth shut.  I have learned--mostly because of a couple of incredibly difficult experiences--that no justification is ever good enough. There is power in telling, this is true, but there is also power in silence. The real power though is in the choice. The power to do one or other. So, now, despite my seemingly natural instincts to share every thought and emotion that flickers across my personal horizon, I take responsibility for the decision to tell, or not to tell.

I have been saying that the act of silence is not natural to me, and for years I believed a story about myself as incapable of discretion that is not true. It began when I was about seven years old, maybe even a little younger, my father bought my mother a new living room set for her birthday. My mother, who is quite good at manipulating people, used my inability to keep a secret to her advantage and pressed me until I revealed too much.  She kept asking me, until with the ignorance of a child, but the earnestness of someone who wanted to be trusted, I gave her a "hint."  I said, "I can't tell you what it is, but you can sit on it."  Well, that doesn't really leave too much to the imagination, but I was a child, so to me, it seemed enigmatic enough.

To this day, my family repeats that story alongside claims that I cannot be trusted. They cite the thirty year old story of my blabbing about that birthday gift as proof of who I am. For years, I too invested in that myth that I was not to be trusted. I thought it was funny to say that I had a big mouth and I still catch myself making jokes about my supposed lack of discretion. But, the truth is that I am a font of untold secrets. My own and others. The identity as a blabber mouth who cannot keep secrets is both unfair and untrue. Children do not often understand the importance of secrets, and now, I know, I am not a child, and definitely not that child anymore. I refuse to believe or comply with that story about me any longer. I refuse to reify a version of me based on a faulty premise.

So, here I am, brimming with secrets. My own, and others'.  It is my choice what I will tell you, whether you are somone who knows me only through this blog, or you are a lifelong friend, a new acquaintance, whatever we may be to one another, know this: these secrets are my own, and like everyone I have the right to disperse them as I may. But, more likely, I will keep the lid on tight and let nothing slip through. The real power is not in the secrets, the real power is in the understanding that I an in control of my words, the words are not in control of me.