We all live, walk, and breathe while carrying secrets.
Some are big, but most are small. The secret of saying you’re fine when you’re not, of saying you can when you can’t.
We tell ourselves that these secrets are ok to keep, in fact they must be kept so as not to burden those around us. After all, these are small secrets. Who wants to hear about small things? The fact is, we just don’t feel we have time for others’ secrets as well as our own.
You see it when your friend’s eyes glaze over as you’re telling her how you’re frustrated with your love life. You see it when your partner’s eyes dart over your shoulder when you just can’t put your finger on why you’re feeling unfulfilled at work. You don’t even realize it but you learn to stop. You learn that people pretend to listen so that you’ll pretend to listen later. In one ear and out the other.
So you keep your secrets, you dwell on them. Small ones pile on top of tiny ones and before you know it, your entire being is composed of secrets that you no longer have the ability to define nor share.
But then someone will ask you about them. They’ll look you in the eye when they ask but you won’t believe it. The first time they ask you’ll gloss over one little secret with a laugh. That usually works. But they ask again, intently. This isn’t fair, you think. Why would you ask for my secrets when I know you won’t care? Why make me go through the pain of defending them when you don’t really want to hear them?
But they look at you and ask again. This time, you allow your suspicion to show and you ask them if they’re sure they know what they’re asking. If they’re sure they want to see a part of you that’s insecure, lonely, or sad. If they want to see a part of you that while soul-defining is not charming, or positive, or attractive.
They say they’re sure. Steady, attentive, waiting. You’re going to tell them now, but you feel tears prick the backs of your eyes out of fear. What if they don’t think of you the same after this? What if your delicate balance of keeping secrets has been ruined? Or worse, what if they betray their indifference?
It’s too terrifying to tell your secrets and tolerate their eyes staring so directly at you so your gaze rises to the ceiling, falls to the floor, lingers just past their shoulder as you talk so you don’t feel the full force of their unwavering observation all at once, you’re not trained to take such concentration.
But you take the risk and you tell them. And when their attention doesn’t flicker and their eyes fill with sympathy rather than indifference, the sense of relief you feel is powerful enough to forget all the other people who didn’t listen.