The End of Secrets

I am a blogger who is good at keeping secrets. Believe it or not. Even in this world of the overshare and the commodification of experience, even through two years of writing out my life, still: I’m like a vault. I have held on to certain things I do not tell, and I have kept up a creative practice I call “places for tigers to hide.”

I was completely unprepared for the wave of grief for this. One day–and I’m turning 36 this year, just so you can put this in perspective–I felt a wash of grief, overwhelming, for all the things that I have kept, unshared, untold.

The cracking open heart.

Take it from an expert in keeping secrets, they are a great place to unfold. A silence and a hiding is a defense against the madding crowd. I have healed and unfurled in dark places, hiding under rocks.

Which is why I was so shocked when I was driving down my snowy hill the other day, and all this sorrow came rushing through me. I felt nothing but sadness for my secrets, and you’ll just have to take my word for it, that isn’t me at all. It was like I had changed places with somebody else.

But I heard a whisper, too, that this isn’t about me. This is about these truths connecting with their sister and brother truths in other people. This is about fragments of sacred, yearning to fly home: the interconnectedness of sacred reality, and what are my fears and my self-protections next to that?

Can you blame me if I felt I couldn’t breathe?

I have healed and unfurled in dark places, hiding under rocks.

I have kept my humanness in my secrets. I have made them the sanctuary of my self-worth: the place the critics cannot reach. I have woven my own healing, strand by strand and breath by breath.

I thought of birds, leaving a nest.

Don’t doubt that in my secret spaces I have hidden ugly things. My long history of disordered and obsessive eating, childhood shame, perpetuating self-destructive and addictive tendencies, one particularly unappealing past mistake.

But I have hidden beautiful things, too. The silent shelter of tall trees and light on grasses. The astonishing beauty of survival. Perseverance. The breath of life, rising and falling, against a backdrop of mortality.

It is almost unbearable, the beauty of the things I have not shared.

It drives me crazy when people get all self-help-ish and smug and say that if you’e not getting what you want it’s because you didn’t really want it. But when I think about how long it has taken me to write a book and get it published, I do have to consider this whole thing.

As a person, I really don’t want to reveal myself. I don’t want my self-worth to be set up in the public square, and subjected to the slings and arrows of what passes for the public discourse.

It is almost unbearable, the beauty of the things I have not shared.

But the wave of sorrow says, “It isn’t about you. And it isn’t about the slings and arrows, either.”

These secrets I have kept aren’t truly mine. They are collective property, intersecting with corporate sin as much as the crimes of any individual. And the broken world aches for more truth than any one of us can bear.

It isn’t, I don’t think, the forever end of secrets. But I do feel that is the year that I unlock my vault. And I realize, now, that maybe this is what my secrets were always for. To be kept in quiet hospitals, fed time and breath, then released full feathered into this living world.

Esther Emery