Remember telling secrets as a kid? Your best friend would entrust to you who she had a crush on and you vowed never to reveal it. I have to confess I was always like Kristen Wig in the “Excited” sketch on Saturday Night Live. I may not have told the secret, but whenever the boy my friend liked entered the room my eyes would get big, I would look at my girlfriend and giggle and just make a fool of myself. I’ve never been good with secrets.
Perhaps that’s because secrets in my childhood were always tied to painful events. Happy secrets are tied to birthday surprises and spontaneous trips to Disneyland. In my household, secrets were much darker. Don’t let anyone know. Don’t talk about this. One of the biggest secrets came out when I was about 12 or so and my Mom let it slip that my sister was not my “full sister.” I was dumbfounded. My mother’s friend was at the house and her 16 year old daughter took me upstairs and explained to me that my mother had been married before and that my sister had a different father. I knew never to ask my mother about it. My mother never revealed to me or my sister who my sister’s father is or was. My sister was never given the opportunity to know anything about her father because of my mother’s shame. I realize my Mother felt such tremendous shame about this because not only of the era she grew up in but also the shame inflicted upon her by her father. But she brought that shame into our family and passed it to us. Instead of sharing with us this event in her life, she hid it. Discovering it the way I did was more painful than if she had just shared it with me herself.
We had lots of those kinds of secrets in my family. We didn’t have the “surprise!” we have a wonderful secret for you. We had the life shattering kind of secrets. Thus began my hate relationship with secrets. I did manage to turn secrets into a good thing (I hope) for my kids. We had the get dressed for school, drive past school, get on the freeway, oh by the way we are going to Disneyland kind of days. But I still had secrets from my family history that I had to find a way to share with them. Some of them, I waited until they were old enough to understand, some I couldn’t. Life forced them upon us and I had no choice but to sit my kids down and share with them some of the ugliness from my childhood. Kids are so funny, when you share things openly with them, they process what they can, then simply move on. They may come back and ask questions later, but they don’t seem to dwell or freak out when it’s presented with love and openness.
Unfortunately because of all of this, much to the dismay of my family and friends, I am a chronic oversharer. If you ask me how I’m doing I will tell you so be careful. I’ve always said that I don’t want anyone, especially my children, to hear or read something about me and say, “I had no idea?!” I am a pretty open book. Some of my friends shutter at how I can share some painful details of my life. I know. It’s not for everyone. I get that. And I don’t share to hurt or inflict pain or people who might be involved in my story. That’s not it at all. I’ve learned that tied up in secrets is usually shame. The bible says that darkness and light cannot exist together for the light will drown out the darkness. Truth out shines shame. Truth takes away shame’s sting. Truth kills shame. And I’ve found that so often when I share my truth, someone stuck in their own secret lights up and says, “me too.” Sometimes that little “me too” is one step out of the darkness.
So feel free to ask me how I’m doing. But be warned. I will probably tell you. If you are just making conversation, just say “but I don’t really want to know.” I will love that truthfulness!