I had a blog entry that I was in the middle of writing and I had to stop because secrets.

This pisses me off.  Not because I think that the world will be miss out on any great insights because I can’t write that blog, but because being gagged is unpleasant.

I was going to be vague, anyways.  I was going to use relationships instead of names and I could have just pulled the oldest trick in the book and written about “my friend” instead of specifically describing how I knew the people involved in my story.  Unfortunately, I’m a detail person and I am sure that if the right (wrong, really) person read what I wrote they would be able to easily figure out who I was talking about and suddenly they would know something that I don’t think they are supposed to know yet.

They probably do know already, though, because that is how secrets work, isn’t it?  Everyone involved suffers silently, wrestling with equal parts smugness for being in on the secret and agony for not being able to talk about it.  Then years later when everything is finally out in the open, surprisingly arid now not that it is no longer spoken in whispers, it turns out that everyone else fucking knew the whole time anyways.

There are a lot of secrets in my life right now and none of them are mine.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t kept secrets of my own in the past.  I completely understand the “need” to keep secrets.

A couple years ago I moved in with a boyfriend for the first time and the only family member who knew for quite a while was my little sister. She agreed that it was probably best to keep my living status a secret from the rest of the family.  That’s the biggest, longest secret I ever kept and it was incredibly frustrating because I loved the person I was with.  I would delightedly check off the box on surveys that said “living with significant other”.  I was rended emotionally, though, because faceless statistics about me were better informed than my own family.  Conversations with friends bubbled because I didn’t have to be careful about where I said I lived.  I could guiltlessly express how much I loved cuddling up on the couch with my boyfriend to watch shows late into the night or stretch out playing video games while I waited for him to get home.  There was a feeling, close to perfection that overwhelmed me occasionally.  It always overtook me when I was doing something completely banal, like locking the door on my way to school or walking up the stairs with groceries and then suddenly I was practically bursting with a kind of joy and warmth that I had not felt in years, that I don’t think I had ever felt as an adult.  Living with that boyfriend at that time felt like having a home again after years of dorms, apartments and hostels that lasted at most eight months at a time.  Living with that boyfriend at that time made me feel fulfilled, it made me feel like an adult, and it made me happy. I felt like a balanced part of a perfect equation of two.

The stupid thing about secrets is that they are often kept for the “good” of whoever is being shielded from them, which is rarely something that the secret-keeper is qualified to do.

I did not share my happiness with anyone I was related to (except that little sister) because I thought that my happiness would be a source of pain for them.  Many of my family members are Christians and they take the values attached to that tradition pretty seriously.  (As a quick side-note, because I think that Christians are often unfairly dismissed for being bigoted, I want to make it absolutely clear that my family is overwhelmingly conscientious and loving and they are infinitely more concerned with living lives that reflect their values than they are imposing their values on others. I think that is awesome and I admire them for that a lot.)  Anywho.

My happiness, of course, would not have actually been the source of any of any family members’ pain, but it would have been similar (INCREDIBLY imperfect comparison alert) to telling them that I had decided to become a professional burglar or hit-person because the stealing or murdering fulfilled me in a way that nothing else I’d ever tried could.  My family would gently suggest that although they were happy that I was happy, I could probably find ways to be happy that weren’t morally lacking.

That is the way the conversation finally went down, by the way.  When I told my mom that I was living with my boyfriend she was sad.  We had a really long conversation in which I repeatedly assured her that this was making me happy in a way that I hadn’t been in a really long time.  We acknowledged that what I was choosing to do did not resonate with her value system, but my happiness made it a little bit easier to bear.  Interestingly, no other family member brought it up in conversation.  No one said that they were happy for me.  No one said that they were disappointed in me.  It was an overwhelmingly Minnesotan response.

Unfortunately, by the time I talked to my mother, the happiness that I was trying to convince her I felt didn’t exist anymore.

That is the other brutal truth about secrets.  They hurt everyone who is involved.  The secret hurt me because I wanted to be honest with my family, but I was scared, so I spent more time and energy feeling scared than I did happy.  It hurt my family, although they didn’t know it, because I was shielding them from my happiness out of concern for their happiness.  Which is ridiculous.  The secret hurt my boyfriend because how confident can you be in a relationship that is shrouded in half-truths?

There were other factors, but a large part of the reason that I am not with that boyfriend anymore is because my inability to be honest with my family about my relationship with him created a rift between us.

I try really hard to be transparent about my life.  I strive to increase the happiness of the people I love through word and deed alike.  I think it is disrespectful not to be honest.  It does not make sense to disrespect the people who you love.  Therefore, in order to actively love the people in your life, I believe it is vital that you are honest with them.

Is it not better to give people the opportunity to react to the parts of our lives that we think are incendiary and not have to live in fear?  I was afraid that my whole family would be disappointed in me for living with a boyfriend, but when they found out, they mostly said nothing.

That was its own kind of awkward, actually, but it was at least a kind of awkward that I didn’t have to feel guilty about.  Confused? Maybe.  Annoyed? A little.  But mostly it was just easier to breathe when I could describe my world as it was instead of how I thought people wanted it to be.

I will continue to keep the secrets of others, because it is not my place to decide what truths my family and friends are and are not comfortable with sharing.  Unfortunately sometimes you have to keep secrets because you love the people who have the secrets.

Truly, though, I think they would be happier if they could know their place in the world instead of just speculating about what it might be.

A secret is just a lie with a reason.  Very, very rarely do those reasons justify the silence that surrounds them.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly