Love in the Time of Tyranny: Secrets

Have you ever had a secret? Maybe it started off as a truth that then became something to hide that then morphed into a lie and over minutes, hours, days, years, a lifetime, morphed into its current state of just being “a secret?”

We all have secrets.

My family has secrets; my parents do. There are the stories they tell from the “other land,” which may be motherland, but it is so drastically different from the place that borne them and raised them that it hard to look at as a mother and moreso to regard it as a foreign, thrice-removed bad uncle.

And then there are the stories that they do not tell, not from that land or from this one.

Even deeper, there are stories they do not even tell themselves, not in private, not in the dark, not ever.

Why? Well. You have had a secret before, yes? How does it feel to hold onto it? At times it makes you powerful. Other times, it frustrates you, to hold onto something that once felt so simple, so innocent and easy, and has now sprouted wings and webs, talons and teeth, and it bites down on your jugular, on your throat, so your ability to voice it or the pain of it has been lost, and yet you are constantly reminded of its life-stealing presence.

Secrets tend to take control of you if you hold onto them too long. You start to believe that the telling will be even worse than the keeping. Eventually, you just get used to it and so you mostly forget that it was even a secret in the first place, and you most certainly have forgotten that at one point, it was just a true thing, just a tiny part of your story.

We need to start telling our secrets.

First, we need to tell ourselves: we need to remind ourselves of the depth and fullness of our stories. It may have been a tiny thing, a whisper between two children, or a hushed giggle at a passed note, but it mattered. The first time you had a crush; it mattered. The first time you said a ‘bad word’; it mattered. The first time you disbelieved; it mattered.

The first time you consciously recognized that you were a separate being from a beloved parent or a close sibling, and that you could disagree and not be struck down for it: it mattered.

Next, we need to tell those close to us who matter: it is so easy to wear a false mask and to pretend a coherence, to create and present an identity that is complete, and we all do it. The more secrets we have, the better perfected that false face. And so, we need to pull off that face and see who looks away and see who doesn’t. See who flinches at our warts and boils; see who draws closer.

What is the value in staying close to someone who doesn’t want to see the real you and know that? The only value is if you go in for that sort of emotional masochism. Otherwise, you get to release them from their bond to you and you get to open yourself up to those who do want to bond with you.

Lastly, if this is the sort of person who you are, if this is the sort of thing you think others must hear and know, then you get to tell the world, however you choose to do so. It need not be a front-page ad in The New York Times, but perhaps it is the boldness of your first queer undercut. Or perhaps it is the re-naming of oneself on social media. Perhaps it is the sitting across from a new person, at a table, in a place for eating and companionship, and saying:

“This is my story. A long time ago, I…”

Secrets start as true things and then we let them die. We think they protect us when they hurt us. We think them powerful, but instead they make us weak. Secrets are the worst frenemies one may ever know and secrets are never worth the effort it takes to keep them.

Do you have a secret? Do you promise finally to tell?

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