Pssst….can I tell you a secret?

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“And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter— they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long.”
-Sylvia Plath

I passed by you in the aisle at Target yesterday. I was doing the usual, checking off my list, faking a conversation with my daughter, writing a blog in my head, moving quickly between the cans of black beans and the boxes of mac and cheese. We hadn’t seen each other in a while. I asked about your family, your work. “It’s all going great,” you replied. You asked me about my family, my kids, and then, well, you got an earful, didn’t you?

As I laid it all out, right there under the big red bull’s-eye, the look of shock and awe on your face almost made me laugh inside. I’m sorry, I forget that “How’s everyone doing?” is a rhetorical question.

I forget that I’m supposed to keep secrets.

There was a time when I expelled a lot of energy trying to make it look all pretty on the outside. I don’t have time for that anymore. Now my energy goes to being at peace with who I am and part of that is allowing myself to speak, to say what it is really like inside 8864 Regents Road. It ain’t always pretty folks.

There are things that I keep close to my heart indeed, but the fact that my teenager struggles with mental illness is not one of them. I refuse to keep that a secret, because there is a difference between secrecy and privacy. I’m not laying out all the dirty details of her private life, but secrets imply shame. And I will not be ashamed of mental illness.

I may have dreams that I keep inside only for me, but the fact that adoption is hard is something I won’t hide. There is no shame in struggling to be a parent, in waking up sometimes knowing you made huge mistakes the day before, or admitting to yourself that you do not have this figured out.

There are moments of intimacy and private jokes that I only wish to share with my husband, but I will not pretend that having a child undergo major surgeries once or twice a year, doesn’t exhaust me and leave me crippled in a pile of tears. Beware, if you run into me at the end of that week I’ll say, “Much better, but wow did cry myself to sleep last night.”

I no longer want to keep my words in the small cramped dark inside. Words have power. Words are freeing.

So if you pass me next week at church, or at Target, or while picking up the kids from school, and you simply want to hear Fine! after the phrase, How are you doing?, it’s ok to just keep walking. Or maybe just smile and say Hi. Because if you open the door, I might just tell you a secret.

We live in a world of lonely people. It’s a fact. Humanity needs to connect more. And I want to be real. I want to share, and listen, and go through life with other people, even if only for a brief moment. Let’s not sit around waiting for soul mates. That might just take forever.

And when I make eye contact with you – let it out my friend. I love secrets. I won’t tell. I won’t judge. I may have no idea what it feels like to be you or go through what you are, but I just might be able to relate. In all the highs and all the lows. I think it’s worth the risk.

11 responses to “Pssst….can I tell you a secret?

  1. when I hear the response “Fine” & I can clearly see that all is not fine, my response is always “I am your friend & when a friend asks how are you doing – I REALLY want to know. I can cry, laugh and/or pray with you & for you.” Thank you Jen for always being such an open book 🙂

  2. Love this, and I can so relate. I am really, really bad at keeping secrets, too. I am an open book and (since we are being honest) I often worry if that makes me appear negative to others. And for the record, “fine” is one of my least favorite words…right up there with “relax” and “hate…” and now that I think of it, I’ll add “secret” to that list as well! XOXO

  3. This is my absolute favorite thing about you, JZ. Your honesty is just so SINCERE; it makes me feel loved by you even when you’re not trying (especially when you’re trying not to try and I’m being SASSY). Great post. Love it, love you.

  4. This is my absolute favorite thing about you, JZ! Your honesty is SINCERE; it made me feel loved even when you weren’t trying (especially when you were trying not to try because I can be SASSY). Great post. Loved it, love you.

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