Wednesday, August 5, 2009

He who gives up the smallest part of a secret has the rest no longer in his power. ~ Jean Paul Richter

I love that quote. I've been thinking a lot about secrets because of an email I received from my youngest sister. She did what is NEVER done in our family...she shared something personal that might make her vulnerable.

In her email to me she said, "The reason I decided to share my illness with you is because historically our family has kept anything ... well guarded, not only from outsiders but from each other as well. It's as if we were trained to present this perfect life. If our children do something wrong we don't speak of it. If we are ill we don't speak of it."

She is so right.

In our house, if there was a problem, it was our fault, plain and simple. We could also be blamed for the problem of another sister or my parents. My father, in particular, would always say, "There's no such thing as an accident." Fault and blame were the game and we all learned to be good at it. There was no such thing as support; no such thing as sensitivity; no such thing as help, comfort and problem solving. Kindness was out, criticism was in and there was more than enough to go around. With little reason or provocation, our family could and would pick you apart until you bled, so why give them more ammunition and tell them that you might have made a mistake. So we grew up being great secret keepers. We learned to solve problems on our own and what couldn't be fixed (because we didn't know how) was merely hidden until it worked itself out, if it ever did.

The sad thing about what happens to a person psychologically and emotionally is that you begin to think you see those blame-traits or ulterior motives in everyone. You distort everything everyone says into some sort of attack, even if the other person's intent is actually completely innocent. So you hide and pretend, and, at some point, almost begin to believe your own lies.

It's a lonely way to live. And it's a lie.

I have always said that Tom saved my life. While we've not had, by any means, the perfect marriage (is there such a thing?), he has always been patient, supportive, caring and kind, even when I would wrongly accuse him of the same ulterior motives I would so quickly assign to others.

Tom is sort of an out-there kinda guy; a real extrovert. Why shouldn't he be? After all, he wasn't raised by my parents. I always saw him as too open, too honest, always revealing way too much. I would cringe when he would tell someone something personal about our life or our kids, then everyone would know OUR FAMILY ISN'T PERFECT!!!

It scared the hell out of me. But, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I learned that secrets are counterproductive. Even if you think you are protecting yourself or your spouse or your children or your parents, you're really just pretending. And the more you pretend, the less likely you are to really take a good long honest look at your problems so you can at least attempt to resolve them.

I learned that everyone has problems; no one is perfect, as much as they'd like you to believe otherwise; everyone makes mistakes, sometimes little ones and sometimes whoppers; everyone needs support and it doesn't matter a wit what other people think.

And, yes, there are such things as accidents.

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