I know you have a secret, and I’ve got an idea what it is. Whatever it may be, it doesn’t matter to me. You will always be my friend.
We’ve had ups and downs in our friendship, and I’ve taken the blame at times when I wasn’t at fault. I finally figured that out. But here’s the thing: I don’t blame you, either. Life is complicated, and the blame is widespread. You’re doing the best you can.
Every few months I plan a trip to drive the 657 miles from my home to my mom’s. I don’t mind long drives, even though I’m worn out at the end (at least the drive home). I’ve gotten to know the radio stations in each city, what areas have no phone reception, and where to stop for both gas and a meal.
I’ve also learned to spend that time reflecting, pondering, thinking about things I don’t have the energy to commit to working through on a day to day basis. I pray and sometimes plead with God, and discover answers I didn’t expect.
Life is a journey, and sometimes, for me, it takes a road trip to put it all in perspective. I can live a lifetime in those ten-hour excursions, only to end up right where I left…literally. But the time on the road has changed me.
Years ago a woman I knew casually was tragically killed in a senseless accident. Since her roommate was close friends with my roommate, I was in on a lot of details surrounding her death I would have preferred not to have known.
But one incident stood out in a humorous way. The woman who had died was a tough broad, whose style can best be described as “woodsman’s.” There was little femininity about her, in appearance or manner. Yet hidden underneath her bed her roommate found not one, not a dozen, but hundreds of Harlequin romances. She had her girly side, you could say.
Since then my former roommate and I always speculate what friends and relatives will find “under the bed” when a loved one dies. We all have our secrets; few in my circle would ever acknowledge reading romance novels of that genre, but who knows what they’re pulling out from under their pillow as they prepare to sleep?
Some of those secrets can be heartbreaking to learn. Discovering your loved one had a secret love could be painful, perhaps even beyond what it needs to be. Decades ago, a friend of my mom’s was killed in a plane accident. She was a flight attendant (well, stewardess, it was that long ago), and up until a short time before this flight, she’d been having an affair with the pilot, who was married. They’d called it off and agreed not to fly together again, personally or professionally.
However, she was on call to work that day, and had to work to fill in for a sick colleague. Everyone on the flight died in the crash. When I learned their story, I wondered, did the pilot’s wife know about the affair? Did she think her husband lied to her when he said it was over and he’d never fly with this young woman again? As far as anyone in the know was aware, the affair truly was a thing of the past. But that man’s wife may have lived out the rest of her years thinking otherwise.
Or she may never have known a thing about any of it.
As I write this I’m pondering what secrets I have that family and friends could learn after I die. Hopefully that’s ages away, but what if it happened sooner? I honestly can’t think of anything, yet I’m a private person, so there undoubtedly are things about me that would surprise others. Hopefully not dismay, but I make no promises.
I believe in keeping some secrets. It doesn’t need to be deceitful to go to your grave without revealing all sides of yourself to the world. Those who are left to learn the truth, however, need to be forgiving and kind, even to the departed.
(This is part 2 in a 3-part series on Layers and Secrets. Watch for part 3 in two weeks!)
The day after my brother’s wedding reception, the family and a few close friends gathered at his and my sister-in-law Ann’s apartment.
It was about as a casual an occasion as you can imagine, so I took out my knitting. I happened to be using some beautiful hand-carved needles for a project made of angora and lambswool. Ann’s friend David, an artist, took note of the needles.
“They’re a piece of art by themselves,” he commented, and graciously asked me about what I was making. In turn, I told him how beautifully he’d sung the night before, something I’m sure he was used to hearing. David has a phenomenal voice; at one time he was a soloist in the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. Let me assure you that is an accomplishment.
We had a really pleasant conversation. Seventeen years later, I still look forward to the time we speak again. David later commented to my brother how nice I was, and my brother was certain he hadn’t spoken to me. Nice? Not how viewed his sister.
I am nice, to a fault. But while I can be very, very good, I can also be horrid. Less so as I’ve gotten older, I suppose, but yes, I can be nasty. Family dynamics being what they are, I’m guessing this was a time when there was more tension between my brother and me than happiness.
A few years ago I went through a hell I’m working hard to move past, and it changed me. Initially I found I was much better able to stand up for myself, and a layer of anger seemingly charged all of my actions. The anger still exists, but it’s only a small part of the whole now.
Sometimes, though, my anger and frustration can’t help but eak out, and I have to have a long talk with myself. I choose not to become someone who resorts to passive-aggressive tactics to communicate her feelings, but in order to do that, I have to monitor what I’m feeling and and why.
I am not someone it’s easy to get to know. I constantly surprise those who think they know me well with an offhand comment that reveals I’m not so naÏve or sheltered as they think I am. I frequently hide much of myself from others and conform to their image of me. It’s easier that way.
The blessing for me in all of this is I understand people are more complex than we often realize. I tend to be less surprised about someone’s hidden talents or quirks because I accept that that is the norm. We all have layers we hide beneath the everyday aspects of ourselves.
Layers, and secrets.
(A three-part series on Layers and Secrets. Look for Part 2 next week!)
Literally. I mean that literally. Rather than sitting here writing, I should be picking up, tossing out, throwing in the laundry…you get the idea. I was house sitting for six weeks, and came home only periodically. When I did, it was generally to dump something into one room or the other, and leave.
I didn’t plan to do things that way. But first my computer crashed, and all that equipment is sitting in a pile in the corner, along with the box the new laptop came in (and the DVD player box…it’s a slim laptop with no DVD playing capabilities…grrrr). Then I learned Hancock Fabrics is going out of business, so I bought a few yards of fabric at a great discount, and that’s sitting in a couple of bags on top of the sewing machine table. Not to mention I haven’t completely unpacked from house sitting.
But this has been a good thing. I finally was able to get my tooth fixed properly, and when my computer crashed I could afford a new laptop. Now I’ve got a small savings account toward all the things I need to get in the near future and any kitty-cat emergencies. It’s a lot easier to save when you’ve got some savings started.
Life is good right now. Yes, there are some question marks. But I have my friends, my cats and hope, and that’s enough.
You have your goals, you have your dreams, you are even taking steps to achieve them. Yet due to circumstances beyond your control, whatever they may be, you are currently in limbo. Someone or something else has power in your life right now, and you cannot move forward in the way you wish because of it.
What do you do when your dreams have to wait?
Keep the dreams alive in a concrete way. Maybe you save all your pennies, literally, toward a class you can take someday. (I get it, that’s all you can afford, and even that’s stretching it. I mean, you need new underwear, and you’re saving for a dream? Yes.)
Read a book, take an online class or webinar (there is so much out there!), find a website that specializes in what you’re seeking and keep up on the latest. A lot of what’s free has a bias or may be trying to sell you something, so keep your wits about you. But build your expertise by keeping up-to-date on the world you dream of, maintaining and growing skills, and learning about related subjects.
Find those who support your dreams and keep in regular touch with them. Whether it’s a college friend, a clergyman, or your grocery store clerk, maintain contact. That doesn’t mean you gripe about your present circumstances with them, rather, you dare to voice the dream is alive while you’re waiting for circumstances to change.
Look for other fulfilling options. Unless your dream is incredibly specific, there may be multiple ways to make it come true. If you have a particular talent, look at all the ways you could use it. You don’t have to seriously consider all opportunities, but don’t cut yourself short due to a limited focus.
Consider what your dream really is. I want to write, but what do I want to write? Not poetry, I determined that a long time ago. Probably not the Great American Novel. Do I want to use this skill to further a message? If so, what’s the message?
Build supplemental skills. Any person who wants to live on his or her creative talent had better have a bit of business sense, or be closely related to someone else who does. Generally creative people need someone more pragmatic by their side, but learn enough to know who can fill that role adequately.
Cry a little. Some days, it’s okay to wallow. Just set the timer.
If you’re in limbo, rest easy. I trust it will end someday in my life, and yours as well. In the meantime, one step forward is better than standing still.
On occasion well-meaning friends will say, “I just don’t understand why you’ve never gotten married. You’re so blahdadeblah and blahblah!” Come to think of it, it’s almost always my newer friends who say this…hmmm…
Well, yes, I am all those things, but I’m also something else: really slow on the uptake. Always have been. I do not pick up on clues from or about men, and since I don’t, I’ve never had any experience in responding to them. My imagination doesn’t even go there.
I need a good wing man, but typically those who might fill that role are so stunned or amused by my oblivion they don’t step up.
I’ve been chatting with a really nice man at my church lately. Nice, good looking, successful. (You don’t know how remarkable it is I’m aware of all those things and their “value.”) Today, it’s quite possible he threw out the hook for going out to lunch after the service. I just stared at it. In all fairness, it’s been a long dry spell.
As he was walking away, I cried out inside. Bad enough I missed my chance, but it probably stung for him, and looked like rejection.
It wasn’t. It was sheer stupidity on my part.
This comes close on the heels of meeting a man who, as it happens, was also introduced to a friend of mine several months before (not for a set-up or anything, just in the course of the day). I mentioned to her I’d talked to him for a little while (it actually was a long while), and her eyes lit up.
“What?” I asked.
“He’s a good-looking man,” she said, with a raised eyebrow and knowing nod.
He is? I thought about it, and darn if she wasn’t right. Now, we all know the relative value of looks in a relationship, so it’s important to note this guy is pretty nice, too. Charming. I did notice that, although it had taken some time to register.
I had had plenty of time to flirt with him, but it’s just as well THAT didn’t happen. Like I said, those skills are not highly refined. I might end up looking like a sad character on a popular sitcom.
I have before. I know, we all have. But for most it ends up alright and another stage of relationship mortification begins.
It’s more likely than not I’ll never see that second man again, and I have no idea if the first man can be convinced it was me, not him. Sounds like a line.
So Cupid, a little extra help here. You’ve been doing pretty good, is it too much to ask for another chance with someone of the same ilk?
Hey, you little fat-cheeked pixie, don’t just fly away! Get back here! NOW! DAMMIT CUPID! Okay. Be that way.
Uh, yes, oblivion perhaps isn’t the only thing keeping the men away.