Two dogs stand on a chair, peering out into the neighborhood, gazing up trees, hoping that the physical boundary of glass would miraculously dissipate and they would be free to roam in the everlasting pursuit of the great mystical squirrel. I feel their despair and frustration. But they hold no secrets. They cannot really plot or scheme behind our backs, though there are times I have thought Nellie has left presents in my office out of spite. No, they are dogs, and their needs are simple. Their personalities are large, but their needs are predictable, workable, manageable. With the right training, for them or for us, as it may seem, our lives are peaceful and enjoyable.
When it comes to people though, things get a lot more complicated. As predictable as we can be, wearing our habits good or bad on our sleeve, every person has a layer of hidden secrets. Smarter people than I will spend their lives dedicated to the pursuit of learning what makes people tick – why we think what we think. Why we act the way we act. Why we can be still lie, cheat, and steal even after a life spent being a saint. I propose not to understand why this is, nor even fret or complain about the secret lives of others – good or bad. Instead, I would like to celebrate the secret – the one you won’t tell me.
Think back to being a child, learning from your parents or guardians. Think about all the things you thought about those people who taught you, loved you, disciplined you, held you during the stormy nights and smiled and cried tears of happiness when you won the trophies. Each of these people meant something to you, they WERE someone to you. You could predict their behavior from the cereal they’d eat for breakfast, to the steak they’d order for dinner. You knew how they would react when you wrecked the car; and you knew how pleased they would be when you got your first job. But truth was, you only knew small bits of their life. You didn’t know about the “C” they got in Algebra because they skipped class to make out with the cheerleader under the bleachers. You didn’t know about the time they snuck out and went to the concert. You didn’t know that they had a deep rooted fear of spiders when they were a child, or that they once won a pie eating contest at the county fair.
These things, these secrets, well, they just were not all that relevant to your upbringing. So as parents or guardians, the stories, lessons, situations, they just did not need telling. And therefore, there was a whole slough of events and feelings that were kept secret from you, yet they shaped who these people grew to be. Their fear made them stronger. They laughs made them happier. Their tears made them feel.
So we all have secrets. And hopefully by now you’re realizing that this is not something to necessarily fear. Of course, if your husband or wife comes home smelling like the last whorehouse in Texas, it might be time for a chat. And despite this rather unfortunate scenario, learning secrets of friends and family may be a great awakening for some. I believe the reality of life is that as much as we try to hide our secrets, those we protect with all our hearts, there will be a moment in time that comes with the right person where that secret can be unveiled without drama or embarrassment. These moments are priceless for the giver and the receiver. It can change our perception of that person, strengthening the bond. It can become a secret that only the two of you will share. Or it can be a complete release, the kind of secret that is broadcast live TV, in front of a live audience, in front of the Queen. Either way, it will be memorable.
But I rather like the secrets that are small, sneaky, and are not discovered through direct conversation. For instance, learning that your wife can write her own story so well, poignantly telling her life in a blog so well that you find new ways to fall in love with her. She didn’t know she told me this secret, and that made it so much more special.
Whether the secret is between friends new and old – coworkers who act based on their knowledge, making financial decisions of the mind and the purse – or between old lovers rediscovering the feelings of young love, it is these hidden treasures that can really shape our memories of life when we hit our old and gray years. Because our memories of the people we meet, those are our greatest secrets of all.