Barbara: A friend posted a question on Facebook the other day that got me thinking. And thinking. And thinking. So much so that I thought it would make an excellent topic for conversation here today.
The question was: have you ever revealed something important to someone only to regret your honesty afterward?
My short answer was: Yes.
Yes, I have over my many years felt the need to share a secret, a discovery, a heart-wrenching truth only to immediately regret it because the response was so … unsatisfying. Painful or disrespectful or just plain “not enough”. I’ve also shared secrets that I later regretted because while the conversation itself may have been satisfying enough, the relationship didn’t stand the test of time, and I was left with that forlorn feeling in the wake of the break, like they’d run off with my baby blanket or something.
But. The real truth is that, in the big picture that is my life and my life’s journey, I don’t regret it. Why? Well, because what I needed to learn, what I need to remind myself of on a regular basis, is the healing benefit (for me, mind you, maybe this won’t apply to everyone) of speaking of my most painful experiences so I can, at some point soon, let it go. Let go of the anger, the hurt, the fear, the sadness. I always picture the words coming out of my mouth as small buoyant balloons, lifting the dead weight of my pain, making it lighter, sometimes even floating it away. There is something about the process of revelation that shines a light on my pain, whether it is to myself or to the greater world or to both. Those few times that I experienced that flinching regret after a bad conversation (they didn’t get it, they made light of it, they glossed over it), I found that the horrible sense of betrayal faded much more quickly than I could ever have imagined in the moment. And why? Because I finally realized that my journey to recovery, my journey, period, is in my own discovery, my own growth, my own acceptance of my own truth. And part of that journey is finding THE RIGHT PEOPLE with whom to share my secrets. And part of that journey is “testing” many different people. And part of that journey is realizing that there is not one person with whom I share all my secrets, but different people who are perfect for different kinds of secrets. And, of course, there is also the seeing and accepting that some people are not good for any secrets. Not my problem, but theirs.
At this point in my life, every one of my secrets has found a safe and blessed harbour in at least one very important other heart. But I had to learn how to share. And I had to learn with whom to share. These lessons all required trial and error. It’s as simple as that. We can’t find our diamonds without a lot of mining. Not every effort is going to pay off in the way we want it to. Not every person is going to be perfect for us in every situation.
But it is worth every effort, every heartbreak, every pulled emotional muscle to do this work. It has made me more honest with myself and with others, it has made me braver, more resilient. It has made me a better person in every way. There were some bitter pills in the past, but in the end, they were good medicine for my emotional health.
Still, it does require going on a journey out into the world. With any luck, with lots of honesty, vulnerability and grace, you will find your fellow journeymen.
Deb: A tough subject for me, Barbara. I would love to say I have no regrets in this area, but I do. You see, the problem with me is, I love a good story. I love hearing one and I adore telling one. Sometimes a secret is just too too interesting not to tell. A good friend of mine always says, “A secret is something you tell, one person at a time”. But I have told tales out of school. I have huge regrets over them and try to heal them bit by bit. But I have also been successful at keeping huge secrets and been so proud of myself, only to have resentment laid at my feet by friends for not divulging. My thing that I try really really hard to do, is to not tell other people’s secrets. I share good stories, but I try not to tell what I think someone else would not want told. I do this with mixed results, I am ashamed to say. But as always, I try. Always try. Sometimes it is best to simply not have the information. Good topic. I think I might have to add to the Dancing at the Shame Prom!
Barbara: Yes, Dancing at the Shame Prom! Here’s a link to this wonderful and fascinating book that our friends Amy Ferris and Hollye Dexter edited: it is a series of personal essays about its writers' most shameful experiences. I just got my copy and we will follow up here when we’re done reading. PS I hope you guys know I was talking about revealing my own secrets, heartaches, and troubles to people!