In the Shadows

“Happiness lies in your own hand. It took me much too long to understand how it could be… until you shared your secret with me.” ~Madonna

A secret is a complicated thing. We spend so much of our time guarding others from things that might hurt them that we don’t even realize we’re keeping secrets from the people we love and appreciate. We see things that we probably shouldn’t see, and we don’t share them because we know that in the sharing we will wreck another’s outlook, especially in this age of social media.

We keep secrets because we’re afraid of what will happen if they come to light. Secrets connect people in a myriad of ways. There are those who have secrets, those who keep the secrets of others, and still more who are the subject of secrets.

The biggest question those who have secrets have to ask themselves is, “Is it worth the lies I might have to tell to keep this secret?” The biggest question those who keep the secrets of others have to ask themselves is, “What harm would it do if this secret got out?” Would a good friend tell the secret, knowing that it will hurt someone else? There are no absolutes, and secrets lie in that gray area between the two extremes.

When I was younger there wasn’t such a thing as a secret — not really. There were so few opportunities for someone to keep a secret in my community, which consisted of the church, the school, and the neighborhood. If someone in church had a secret it would eventually come out through gossip. At school the rumor mill was alive and well, and a 7am secret never lasted until noon. And the neighborhood was a shout away from exposing even the darkest of secrets.

So I didn’t have many secrets back then. There was this girl I liked, but pretty much everyone knew it, including the girl, so that wasn’t very effective. There was that time I spilled the Kool-Aid all over the kitchen, but my sister ratted me out. And there were even fewer secrets that I kept for others because I had no one who trusted me with any. I remember wishing that I could get a friend just because that was one of the rites of friendship — the keeping of the secret.

Eventually I did get some friends, and I was entrusted with some secrets. That’s when I realized I hadn’t known what I was wishing for all those years. Keeping other people’s secrets is incredibly difficult, not because I want to spill the beans, but because I have to now watch myself when talking to others because I might accidentally say something that gives it away. It’s just another headache that I hadn’t realized I was lucky enough to avoid.

And now I’m an adult, and the adult world is full of secrets, both big and small. It’s a series of landmines laid out in intervals across our path. I try to keep my ears and eyes closed as much as possible. It takes care of the static out here in the shadows. Because secrets aren’t all they were reported to be. Some of them are just nooses waiting for someone to hang.

Sam

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