Monday, September 06, 2010

Secret Lives

Most of us have secret lives we keep hidden behind doors in our beings. I've come to realize it's not an intentional shutting out of others, it's a protection of our selves.

Occasionally, we let people glimpse those worlds, through a crack not fully obscured. Sometimes, people get a look that we didn't anticipate.

An ongoing debate I have with my friend, Martha, is that my life is spread out here before you, in plain view on the world wide web, available with a few mouse clicks and some time to read. She thinks what I share here is very personal.

While I think it can be personal at times, I don't see it in the same way she does. I see it as pretty straight-forward, the typical things people are thinking about. I think the difference is just that I write them down.

This good-natured debate has continued between us for the past couple of years. Maybe I don't think it's personal because I know the secret life beyond what is visible here. I don't have a dark and mysterious past, just the normal accumulation of broken bits you might expect for someone who has been interacting with the world for more than four decades. Of course, this is all relative, too. Some might view my life as disturbed while others might see it as blissful.

The idea of secret lives is something that has been coming up in different circumstances for the last month or so. I'm sure there's something I need to explore in this concept.

Just recently a friend was telling me about traveling to a town by himself and what he did while there. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but he mentioned striking up a conversation with someone in a restaurant. Of course, it's something we've all done at times, and while it's usually not particularly significant, it's a moment in time and space that won't ever be repeated.

I was suddenly aware that although I know this person very well, he is having experiences all the time that add to his secret world. They may not be dramatic or life changing, but they blend into the tapestry of what makes him who he is.

When he told me this story, I was reminded of an experience I had in Paris a few years ago. I shared a moment of vulnerability with a stranger that I've never told anyone about, and only written about in my private journals. It's part of my secret world. It was a moment of simple, but sacred, interaction that neither of us had any inkling of when we awoke that morning. I do not remember how the woman looked or what she was wearing, but I remember how I felt. I'll always remember how I felt.

It's those little bits of life that create the people we are today. Our secret lives may contain stories of valor or dissappointment or trauma, or they may be filled instead with the sacred ordinary. Regardless, they're adding a rich background to who we are. And we would not be the same people if we didn't have those secret lives.

Maybe we don't share our secret lives because without them we would become less ourselves.

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