Let’s Open the Vault

I can keep a secret. In fact, you can tell me something, and it’s like stashing it in a vault and losing the combination to the lock.  I honor secrets and remain loyal to the tellers of secrets, sometimes almost to a ridiculous point.  On more than one occasion, I have heard ‘the secret’ that I am supposedly keeping , from someone else, only to realize that the teller has moved on and divulged the news to others. Only then do I realize it’s no longer sensitive information or military clearance level intelligence, and yet, the secret remains tucked safely away.  Yes,  it’s true, I can keep a secret.

When we were kids, my brother, older by 9 years, found it entertaining to ‘torment’  his younger sister in a variety of ways, endlessly sending me screaming, “moooom” even though it meant he’d get in trouble.  On nights he was supposed to be ‘babysitting’ me, he would have his buddies over and they would inevitably end up smoking in the garage or backyard. I, of course was terrified into secrecy and true to form, held that secret ever so tightly.  Even when he teased me to a point of despair, my loyalty remained firmly in tact, as if some code had been imprinted upon me.  As a teenager, he tried once to light a match on our bathroom mirror and despite the fact that I can’t remember if that even works (does anyone know?), what I do know is that for years of Saturday after Saturday doing chores with our mom, during which she would ask if I knew anything about the two scratches on the mirror, I would just shake my head and tell her I had no idea. I kept that secret for over twenty years; not divulging my knowledge of the truth nor confessing my lies over the years until on a visit home from college one summer.

What is the knocking at the door in the night?

It is somebody wants to do us harm.

No, no, it is the three strange angels.

Admit them, admit them. 

D.H. Lawrence.

Why keeping secrets comes naturally to me is something of which I am not entirely sure.   The upside of this, of course, is that your secrets are safe with me. The  price is that I am equally adept at keeping my own secrets, and the cost is assessed when I hold my own secrets so tightly because I am unable, or unsure about what to share, when to share, and how much and with whom.

It’s been said, we have all heard it, and perhaps used it with our kids; the truth will set you free.

vault

Recently, when I shared some secrets I had been holding, tucked away tightly in the vault, for years, I was met with a couple of surprises. First and foremost, it was news to me that my secrets weren’t so secret after all. I chose to confide in a small handful of people and unanimously, they each responded with their own version of  “I am not surprised”. In the first conversation, when I heard this response,  I raised my eyebrows; in the the second conversation, the eyebrows arched a little higher. During the third and fourth? Eyebrows remained suspended and my jaw dropped, with OMGs falling out.  My secrets were apparently not so secret. Except from me, it seemed.

But what  surprised me the most? Upon telling my own secrets, out tumbled – one by one –  the secrets of those in whom I confided. I was moved by how my once hidden truths, now exposed, seemed to serve as an  invitation to each of my companions to open up and let their own secrets come out. And yes, they remain safe with me.

I found that as the secrets merged  from the shadows,  into the light, they no longer held the same power.  I had allowed the secrets to envelop me in embarrassment and fear, not to mention, an inability to take action. But when I realized that the burden of holding it all in outweighed my impulse to avoid the truth, I knew I had finally arrived at a place where I was no longer afraid of these secrets – truths really – and could finally open the door, and admit them. To myself and eventually to others. It was a series of tipping points that nudged me every step along the way, and once the truths were out, it was as if I were Dorothy when she doused the Wicked Witch of the West with water…the gripping power they had held over me  just seemed to melt.

I had it wrong all these years. After spilling my beans…

…I felt a hundred pounds lighter each time I opened up and shared the truth.
That makes sense.

…I felt a hundred times closer to the friends and family I already trusted.
That makes sense.

…I felt a hundred times more trusted, by the other person.
That makes sense.

…I felt a hundred times more empowered, more free.
It makes sense now. The truth can set you free.

I learned about my friends and family in new ways as they learned about me and we each allowed the other to spill our messy secrets upon the table we shared.

In each instance, I felt a new depth in our connection, emboldened by truth and transparency. Things we had never dared bring to the table, into the light, suddenly connecting us in ways unanticipated.  Somehow, truths shared normalized the experience of the other and I realized how much we under estimate our impact on others. How much I look to others is perhaps how much they look to me?
Honesty begets honesty. Truth begets truth.

From one of my favorite books, Broken Open, by Elizabeth Lesser:

D.H. Lawrence begs us to pay closer attention …

Perhaps you have been turning angels away from your door.

Perhaps the dangerous desires, the Sleeping Giants in the basement of your life –

are really angels come to deliver you from your shrunken dreams and your anxious self doubts.

The safe keeping of the secrets of another is a responsibility we owe to those who place their trust in us.

Keeping our own secrets from those whom we love, admire and trust, especially ourselves, is perhaps equivalent to harboring Sleeping Giants, allowing them to take up space somewhere under own surface, keeping us from our dreams, being free.

Perhaps it is only when we recognize the Sleeping Giants for who they really are, and admit them,  are we able to let them roam free, and in turn, set us free?

Do we dare to open the vault?

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19 thoughts on “Let’s Open the Vault

    • I agree…definitely, some secrets would cause more pain and hurt than anything, but, some secrets should see the light of day and be scattered to the wind! Thanks for stopping by…

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  1. After such a harrowing sibling relationship with her older brother, Bonnie went on to become a rather interesting and creative person (to name two of several positive metaphors) despite the early attempts at sabotaging her development. Gary Larson had an older brother that locked him down in the basement and turned off the light. This was followed by the older sibling speaking through the door in a sinister voice, “Can you hear them? They’re coming for you…” Larson, later on credited his older brother for his (Gary’s) vivid imagination and ability to conjure up the twisted images that he used in his wildly popular cartoon strip, the Far Side: He drew the monsters he imagined as a child while locked up in the dark. This analogy is not intended to give credit to Bonnie’s older brother for what a wonderful human being she turned out to be, but rather to underscore Bonnie’s courage in dancing with her “demons of darkness and transforming them into angels of light.” By the way, I tried lighting a match on a mirror once upon a time and have no recollection of whether or not it actually worked. I do recall that the attempt left two streaks on the mirror (still there) and one young boy fearing parental punishment. And if memory serves me right (and it will because I’m writing this), there was a witness to my deed who needed intensive instruction in honoring the SSSC (Siblings’ Strictest Secrets Code). The SSSC was a work in progress. In other words, new secret categories had to be added for each situation that required witness cooperation. The code never applied to situations where the witness was also the victim. And where do parents get off making the older teenage sibling babysit their younger sister…or brother, anyway? There’s a recipe for trouble…and maybe some misplaced resentment. Yah, I’ll open that vault, but not here. This is Bonnie’s blog. I would be remiss if I don’t say, I’m honored to be on your list of confidants, especially aft…er…hey look! Someone just closed the vault.

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  2. missing you.

    i too am a secret keeper. they’re safe with me.

    hhhmmmm, not so good about keeping my own secrets. i’m a sharer for the most part. what can i say. i think otherwise, your hiding things….sweeping them under the rug so to speak and then there is a biggo damn lump in the middle of the rug that you keep tripping over.

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    • Missing you too…it’s been a weird, busy time lately. I am so not surprised you are a good secret keeper! Love your analogy of the lump under the rug…that is definitely a possibility when things get ignored for too long! Happy New year friend! 🙂

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    • Thank you Russ, for your kind comment! I agree, blogging is a key to unlocking the vault…the space we all allow each other to share, process and think from a place we may not always speak from is surely a key….

      – Bonnie

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  3. I love the quotes here, Bonnie 😉

    It can be a burden keeping secrets, but it can also lose you friendships if you don’t. You sound like a fabulous ‘secret keeper’ and I’m amazed you kept the secret of the match on the mirror for so long! (btw – I don’t think it would have lit because it would have been a ‘safety’ match – the ones you see in cowboy movies where they can light it off anything (including mirrors) aren’t ‘safety’ matches 😀

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    • Aren’t they great quotes, Dianne! I had to read them several times to really take them in and fully grasp each and how the one responds to the other.

      I agree, friendships require good secret keepers,and what I realized is that friendships also need secrets to be shared, to really know and trust each other.

      Love the info on safety matches…now I want to try it, but on a mirror I don’t care about! 🙂

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  4. This post resonates with my heart like you wouldn’t believe, Bonnie. I, too, held onto a secret for many years, and when I finally revealed it, the “I saw it,” or “It took you this long to admit it?” or “You’re finally talking about it? Thank GOD!” comments came pouring out. I learned the same lesson it appears you’ve just learned–we may be faithful, bullet-proof receptacles for others’ troubles or secrets, but “murder will out” as they say and it can be incredibly freeing, ney life-changing, to release some of our *own* closely held thoughts. Love your quotes and your eloquent message. Sending you so much good juju for whatever life brings your way….. Hugs, L

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    • Lori,
      Thank you!! I am glad, – in that way that knows that the road you have traveled brought you to a better place – that this resonates with you. Isn’t it amazing when others see what we only see much later? And yes, freeing and life changing to be able to finally see and admit, and talk about thoughts kept tucked away in the vault. I can feel the good juju coming from you…thank you! Hugs to you xo – B

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  5. Interesting and beautiful post, my dear Bonnie. Wonderful insight that I, as a secret keeper, never gave thought to before now. I must read this book you speak of! ( And please know….your secret is always safe with me ♥) Hugs to you ♥ psb

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    • Thank you my friend…thank you. And somehow I just know that you are a great secret keeper too! This was a new way of thinking about secrets for me also…

      Let me know if you tackle the book, it’s beautifully written!! ♥

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      • Secrets are a burden. But I have thrown many a keys away in my time on this earth. 🙂 To trust a person with your secret is to give a piece of yourself to them.

        I do want plan on this read! Luv ya, girl♥

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  6. I go back a mere few months ago..How immensely proud I am of you BonBon. The courage it took to open up the vault, the determination and concentration as you fiddled with the combination on the lock, unopened for so long. You are emerging from one moment in time into another, a time that will be far lighter and brighter and sun-filled. Your post encourages others to consider following your lead – and they should – for the lesson has been so beautifully articulated by you (Lawrence provided some good quotes – but YOU wrote this)..oxox, m

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    • Thank you Mimi…I love the extended metaphor of fiddling with the lock, that felt so stuck, I thought perhaps I had lost the combination. 🙂 But, with the help of beautiful friends, and confidants, like you, it’s been remarkable to peek in and see what’s been hiding in there for far too long. The quotes by Lawrence and the book’s author, in response, provided such resonance and inspiration for me, as does your certainty about all things lighter, brighter and sun-filled! xoxo me

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