I’m a lesbian. I have not one but two ex-husbands. I am 50 pounds overweight (down from 60, so that’s something). I’m fine with the Jesus thing but I’d rather hug a tree. And right now, I’m writing this article instead of doing the dishes piled up in my kitchen from yesterday and the floors and bathrooms look like a bunch of cats and teenagers live here without parental influence (It’s nothing I couldn’t fix with an hour or so but still).
So there, you know some scandalous stuff about me and now, you know the truth… we both have stuff that would be tempting to keep secret.
I didn’t share it because I necessarily care if you know all there is to know about me, although I don’t mind if you do. I did it because… well, I’m watching secrets destroy people every day and I think that shame is a stupid way to go down.
In September, I started a clutter clearing program for people who are sick of being stuck and ready to make a change. The first step was to take pictures of their space and send them to me. I wasn’t sharing them. I received so many pictures that I could never tell them apart or mentally pair them with the people who were participating in the group calls or checking in on the website every day. No way. It didn’t serve me at all.
It wasn’t for me.
The picture taking was a wake-up call for them. We see our stuff, for better or worse, differently live than in an image. We need to pause for a moment to see where we are beginning to really appreciate the journey. More importantly, in sending them to me, they exposed themselves in a brand new way. They let the cat out of the bag. They told the thing they never tell. They let someone into the space that, for many of us, hurts the most.
Many of these wonderful people told me that it had been years since anyone saw some of these spaces, and a couple admitted that years had passed since anyone was allowed to come into their home. One woman threatened harm, at least partly jokingly, if I ever showed anyone the pictures she emailed me. This is personal.
Taking the pictures is a huge step but sharing them with someone else is epic.
Telling your secret is a freeing move… sometimes even life saving.
Continued: The reasons that sharing means freedom.
First of all, the secrets never ever feels as bad on the outside as they do on the inside.
Second, the reaction from others (if I choose my listener well, which I do out of respect for myself) is always more loving and accepting than I imagined that it could be. The reality is that everybody has some baggage. We’re all human. We’ve all had trauma of one kind or another and we react in remarkably predictable ways.
Third, even if their reaction isn’t what we’d hoped… it’s still out there and there’s so much more room to deal with “it” outside of my body than inside.
Fourth, once it’s out there, I can now cultivate community to help me with deal with the fallout from my secret. If, of course, I actually need support. Some secrets are more intense than others. I can find people who get it and learn how to heal. Plus, eventually I can support others who are going through the same thing. There is little I love more than using my own coming out experience with my life coaching skills to support a woman through the coming out process.
Lastly, we have the energy factor of secret keeping. When I share my secrets, I get to redirect the volumes of energy that I used to spend holding the secrets in.
It’s exhausting to keep people away because your house is a mess. It is our nature to be in community. We long, certainly on varying scales, to be with other people. We want to be known and accepted. We want to be loved. Isolating ourselves because we are ashamed of our space is understandable but it’s not a solution. Nobody deserves to live that way.
It’s exhausting to carry the secrets about abuse of any kind, past or current, whether we are the victim, abuser, or witness. And it’s not just the knowledge of that incident or incidents, which is certainly plenty of baggage to carry, but we also try to hold in the ways that every violent incident changes us. When we are bullied, we have the baggage around being bullied and also, we try to keep in the automatic reaction that the previous experience created, the impulse to bully others.
It’s exhausting to creep around and have an affair and then try to keep it under wraps… forever? Who has the energy for that? And what about those who’ve been cheated on. If you stay, good luck feeling open to talking about how the one you’re still with treated you so badly. And if you leave… well, it never feels good to say that someone you love broke your heart.
It’s exhausting to keep in any emotion. All they want it to be released, to be honored, to be recognized and go on their merry way but the shame keeps it all corked, building momentum deep within our bodies. I’m not saying that you have to post your business here for the world to see but find a trusted confidant to witness as you lay this burden down.
We don’t need someone else to fix us. It’s our job to take back our lives and if we need support, we have to be willing to open up and let someone else in. It starts with admitting to ourselves–first in your mind, then your journal or whispered into the mirror–and then someone else.
Free yourself. This happened and it wasn’t okay… I’m not okay. I need help.