#251 Share a Secret

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#251

Share a secret

Rational thought needs to be utilized here as we don’t want to share a secret that belongs to ‘someone else’. The idea is to share one of OUR secrets… one of the things we’ve been keeping hidden for fear that someone will judge us harshly. Perhaps something that causes shame for us.

Sometimes, secrets hurt. When we hold on to a secret, we may be holding shame which, is a non-productive, harmful emotion known to be the culprit for many maladaptive behaviors. Shame can be cancerous… the longer it sits there, the more bigger it gets. Sharing the ‘thing’ that you are trying to keep hidden releases some of its power.

Be discriminate.

Letting the proverbial ‘cat out of the bag’ to the wrong person may not go well. If you are hesitant to share your secret with someone you know there are a couple of options…

  • Talk with clergy. Either your own pastor or another. Everyone in this position I’ve ever been acquainted with has an open door policy and will talk with anyone, regardless of faith.
  • Talk to someone on a ‘helpline’. There are National Helplines for almost any topic one can think of. Generally, the people there are trained to listen well and can direct you onward if you need additional support.
  • Talk with a Therapist. A psychotherapist that is… someone trained and licensed in mental health. Some therapists do not accept health insurance so ask before you schedule the appointment.

All of those professionals are guided by ethical guidelines and confidentiality unless you indicate you are going to hurt yourself or a child. They are secret keepers, dumpsters, vaults, etc…, dumping grounds for the things that we don’t want to hold on to any longer.

Live Lighter

Once you relieve yourself of the secret, chances are you will feel lighter almost immediately. A secret only has power when it exists inside. Once we share it – its power is reduced and we can seek resolution for any additional stress or negative emotions that arise. Sometimes, we just need a little perspective about the issue at hand and once gained, the energy of the secret is greatly diminished.

I once had a client who confessed during a session that their greatest shame was lust for a neighbor. She said that she had spent years fantasizing about him but had never behaved inappropriately – only in her thoughts. Unloading it from her head into the space in my office and hearing how normal it may have been gave her tremendous relief and in her words “changed my life”.  While not every shared secret will change a life, it will allow you to live more authentically. Think about it and then…

Share a secret.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

In-Between Spaces

Continued from Back to School

“One thing you can’t hide – is when you’re crippled inside.” ~ John Lennon

My family was still divided over Abee’s involvement in my marriage; so many little things had surfaced over the course of a year that it made it impossible to distinguish truth from fantasy. We hadn’t celebrated the holiday’s together and it seemed as though I saw Mom less and less. She was doing great though. She had finally acclimated into her community and made friends. She was getting involved in a number of activities and that alone may have diverted her attention but in part, she continued to be torn.

I discovered, quite by accident, that she had enlisted Hubby’s help around her home – the one she shared with Abee – to do some maintenance items. It was an impossible task for me to be unreactive as the man who had so deeply betrayed me was now doing favors for my mother… didn’t anyone in my family have boundaries?? Of course, because I loved Mom, I wanted her to ‘be taken care of’ and it was nice of him to offer but I just couldn’t reconcile it. In my mind, he was doing it for Abee too… she lived there. Was I never going to be rid of this pain? Was there always going to be this crazy reminder of how two people whom I loved deeply made a conscious decision to delude and abandon me? Was there never to be healing in my family unless I acquiesced, gave in and offered consent for this inappropriate relationship? It continued despite my pain, despite Mom’s disapproval, despite family fracturing.

I was grappling with a few conundrums… first, and probably most importantly, I came to realize I had control ‘issues’. I can hear at least a dozen laughs in the universe as I type these words and while I know that I liked to ‘be in charge’… my intent has never been to ‘control’ people – only situations where my involvement was necessary. If there were people in the peripheral… well then, they got sucked into the control vacuum. It’s important to understand, and I preach this to my clients, that control is what we utilize – as human beings – to feel emotionally and physically safe. If I can be directing my environment, then I know what to expect – I am can be more prepared for uncertainties. Without control, I am vulnerable and vulnerability means that we run the risk of experiencing pain.

I had assessed this assertion a time or two in the past when it surfaced and had been identified as problematic but this time it was in my face – I was noticing it, or rather, the lack of it and I identified the crux of the problem each time Mom told me Hubby had helped with something or if someone said they had seen Hubby and Abee together – out in the community. I’m not sure why people felt the need to disclose their observations, but it was much more common than one would imagine – they were not inconspicuous. There wasn’t anything for me to do but to learn how to ‘accept’ their transgressions. The place of acceptance was still w.a.y. down the road on my growth journey so for now… I was focusing on letting go of the things over which I had no ‘control’.

And that was my second ‘issue’. I needed to ‘let go’. Really – there were so many things that I had to ‘let go’ of that I literally, made a list. I wrote letters to people who had slighted me (but didn’t mail them) and meditated on the things that needed to go… I imagined each of them in a bubble and watched as it drifted away… I pictured each item as a leaf that dropped onto a stream and swiftly floated downstream… I cut the list into a thousand pieces. Each of those ideas worked a little and after each technique was completed, I felt a little lighter. I warn clients of the expectation some of us develop that if we commit to ‘let go’ of something that it disappears… it may not – in fact, it often does not. We need to practice letting go. Today, one of the most effective methods I use is to open my hands. The brain is powerful and if I am thinking of something and deliberately open my hands – there is a perception of letting go. For me, driving is when I usually allow my thoughts to run away and one may frequently observe me controlling the steering wheel with flat palms.

What I really needed to ‘let go’ of – was needing control. That was my prayer. It may be a cliché to say “Let go and let God” but what is the choice?? It doesn’t matter if you believe in an old man God, or Mother Nature, or an energy field in the Universe… opening your heart to the experience of vulnerability, of not knowing, is the challenge. It became important for me to chant “trust” to myself in meditation and while perfectly conscious throughout my day. I was constantly reminding myself of my most basic spiritual beliefs… that everything happens for a reason; that I was walking a specific journey; that there was ultimate balance in the universe.

I think the most difficult part of this was that almost every day there was something else to ‘let go’ of. As long as Hubby was living at the house I was aware of his movements and I tortured myself by keeping tabs on the company’s balance sheet. I still had access to the American Express cards and the checking account. I could see that when they traveled for business they were only getting one hotel room instead of two. I could see what restaurants they dined in with dates and times. Part of me convinced myself that the investigating was due diligence for the divorce – which it turned out to be – but it was entirely unhealthy. It was agonizing to watch, week after week, the manifestation of disloyalty but I couldn’t pull myself away from it.

I existed in this space between being the person I wanted to be…. strong and growing – contrasted with a person who was trapped in the anger and dismay of a failed dream. I vacillated constantly between the light and the dark. There were days when I simply couldn’t talk to anyone because I was ashamed of how negative my thoughts had become. It took all my strength to stay up…

One morning as I was driving to school I was talking to Hubby about some of the divorce details. We were at very different points of agreeableness. It was a difficult conversation and I felt as though I was getting the short end. There were days when I felt explicit loathing – as close to hate as I had ever come – even though Love was supposed to be ruling my heart. I had a meeting with one of my psych professors to discuss research I was doing for her. I sat in the parking garage and cried – again – it was almost a daily habit as we hashed out our agreement and then took a deep breath and walked across campus to her office. I was thankful for the early winter air as it quickly hid the emotional evidence of tears.

I sat down and began the dance of small talk in preparation for moving on to more specific topics. She asked me a series of questions that somehow triggered an emotive response and tears once again, sprang to my eyes despite my strong opposition. “Damnit”… “I’m sorry,” I said, “I hate it when I am this weak” … “so sorry”.  I shared that I had a hard discussion with my soon-to-be-ex-husband on the way in this morning as I tried hard to control myself and she looked at me with genuine empathy. It’s important to describe her because she was indeed my professor, but she was all of 28 or 29 years old, tiny… very petite, and gentle. She was soft spoken and quite deliberate with her words even though her smile was seemingly spontaneous. “Silly lady,” she said as she reached over to touch my hand “don’t you realize how much strength it takes to show emotion?”

The Next Move

“Painful as it may be, a significant emotional event can be the catalyst for choosing a direction that serves us – and those around us – more effectively.” — Louisa May Alcott

Hubby was full of remorse, truly exhibiting heartbroken behavior as well. He was so sad and shamed that I began to worry about him. I asked his mom to come and get all of the guns and ammo that was in our house as I was scared that he would hurt himself. He also, was overcome with pain. I found myself caring, wanting to protect him – to reach out. It’s a surreal experience to extend yourself toward the fire, daring to be burned again.

He spent quality time with our children and appeared even more sad afterwards. He knew he had jeopardized our family, our lifestyle. The fear of not being with the children full time emitted from him with palpable energy. I felt kind of sorry for him and yet it was from a distant place, another ‘me’, one who was not hurting. He said all of the right things but I was yet unwilling to move from my “Go to Hell” stance and so he left. I had no idea where he went.

Tom called me. He had a few choice words for my husband, naturally I agreed with most of them. He wanted to know if I was alright – how does one answer that inquiry? What is the definition of OK after discovering the person you love was cheating? Tom was also filled with doubts and more questions. He was hurting too. So much pain – so many people afflicted with anguish because of… what – sex? Loneliness? An Impulse? We had questions but there were no quick answers. He told me they would be moving, he was choosing to stay with her but he was taking her away, closer to where he worked. I was happy to know they were gone but in some crevice of my mind I knew I would miss my friend.

One day the doorbell rang and it was Pastor R from church. He looked at me with a sad smile and asked me how I was doing. It seemed that Hubby had gone to him for counsel and support, R wanted to check on me. He listened to my perspective of the situation and then – as any good pastor would do – he counseled me on forgiveness. I’ve always remembered he quoted Luke, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him”. As a Christian, I was called to forgive this man who lied, cheated, and stole moments and memories from me. As a wife, I was reminded that it was “God who will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous”. That I, as a wife, should know to honor my promise – the one I made in my vows; “in good times, and in bad times”.  I was starting to resent religion but listened politely and knew that he was doing his job. He started the mental ball rolling for me though – was I really ready to throw in the towel? Did I want to quit right now?

My mother was really helpful walking me through all these questions as they ran the gamut through my mind. What would I do? I didn’t have a degree and our profession was predominately a commission only field – could I support us? We were heavily leveraged after starting a new business, how would that affect Hubby’s ability to support two households? Did I really want to have to work full time? How would I afford day care? Baby Em was barely a month old at this point… what were my options really? Mom was being really pragmatic and never asked about love or desire… she was mostly interested in the rudimentary aspects of survival. That was her gig. She was of the generation of women who didn’t ‘ask questions’, they persevered and plowed through marital discourse in the interest of the family at large. I was more ethereal, I loved this man. What about my dream? The children need a father. What if he is really sorry? What if this was just a mistake? What if God really expects me to forgive him? So many questions still. Mom asks “What are you going to do?” I felt lost.

A few more days go by and Mom has to leave. I knew I would miss her company and support. I wasn’t ready to be alone but I understood that she had dedicated a lot of time to my needs and I was only one of the people who still depended on her. I talk with Michele every day and she takes over for mom as a voice of reason when I am too full of rage or when I can’t find the strength to get out of my jammies. Other than our mothers and Michele, no one really knows what has happened in our lives. I am ashamed of us. I am shamed – period. While rationale and reasoning would say that I was a victim here, I believed that if I had been a better wife, a better mother, a better support person, less fat, less bitchy, less controlling, etc… he wouldn’t have cheated. I was taking on a LOT of the emotional responsibility for the absence of happiness that Hubby is now claiming to have felt.

Just two or three weeks’ post discovery, Hubby and I are talking more. He continues to express remorse and regret for the indiscretion every time we talk. He wants to come home, to work things out. He loves me, he says. He found a place to ‘live’ – sleep really – in an old farm house with a few dudes … he has a room. I go there. We talk about reconciliation and how things would need to be different. He mentions that there is a counselor in the building where his office is located and asks me to consider going. I say that I will think about it.

I stand at the island in my kitchen watching my children at the dinner table.  Baby Emily is gently swaying in her swing sucking away on a pacifier, being lulled to sleep. The girls are kneeling in their chairs to reach their dinner plate and Francis is quietly eating. It is another memory burned into my mind because it is in that moment I realize I have to fight for this marriage. I realize that my children are worth fighting for. Our lives will be so very difficult if I don’t make an effort to reconcile with their father. Raising four children is a challenge with two adults in the house, and would be crazy difficult if I were to attempt to do it by myself. I wasn’t sure I had it in me. But more than that – wasn’t I responsible for teaching them forgiveness and fortitude? As their mother and role model, wasn’t it my job to set an example of courage and resilience? If I ended this now, would they see me as a quitter? I knew that I needed to try and create a marriage that was a model for determination and resolve; of love and respect. In that moment, I knew I would agree to counseling and keep trying to be Hubby’s wife.

*some names have been changed in the interest of privacy

Photo credit: alsis35 (now at ipernity) via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

The Walk of Shame

“A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect!” ~Unknown author

My intention was to ask him to dance but when I eventually found him in the nightclub he had his arm around a little blonde and I figured once again, this guy was out of my league.  I enjoyed the rest of the night with my friends and woke up in time for the Saturday morning meeting. It was a little bit like a cattle call as we all headed into the conference hall, a bit hung over coveting the coffee we were lucky enough to grab from the massive urns outside the ballroom. We had to sign in so the line slowed just before the doors.

Just as I was getting close to entering, I saw him – the guy who winked. He was tall, just a couple of people ahead of me and he had curly dark hair. I elbowed my bestie, pointing him out – attempting to be totally nonchalant. I dropped my head just long enough to provide my signature and as I walked through the doorway he was there, literally by my side with an outstretched hand “Hi, glad to see you made it through the night. I’m Bill.” I stammered some kind of hello and then quickly moved along in the flow of my friends to find a place to sit all the while chiding myself with the notion of ‘geez, what are you – in 2nd grade or something’????? Again, the idea of dating, of meeting a new person was so entirely awkward… it was almost painful.

As if I was in a high school cafeteria noticing the new boy in school, I sat at that morning conference table asking my friends to scour the audience in an effort to find where he was sitting. He seemingly disappeared, blending into the crowd as if he was a chameleon in a tropical forest. No one could find him. With a deep sigh and another notch in the belt of tough luck that I constantly wore, we forged through the day.

Later, at poolside, I saw him again. He was sitting with a large group, drink in hand, engaged in doing what all of us were attempting… having fun and relaxing. My BFF was AWOL – she didn’t come down by the pool with me and hadn’t shown up all afternoon. I was behaving like an idiot. Yes, I am being grossly self-critical but seriously, that was me… diving into the pool rather boldly, right in front of that group of people where curly haired Bill sat with his cocktail. I’m pretty sure no one payed me one moment of attention. I was experiencing humiliation that was completely and totally self-inflicted. Where were besties when you needed them? She could have saved me from deprecating behavior.

That night found us in the ballroom again for a presentation of awards to the top 10 in a bunch of different categories; sales reps, sales offices, etc. My friend group was associated with a top 10 office so we were decked out in our finest fashions with perfect hair and makeup. Again, we scoured the room on foot to find Mr. Curly Hair and again, we didn’t see him. While moving onto dessert, someone at my table asked me what the guy’s name was again, I replied with what I remembered and then looking at the evening’s program, we saw his name. He was a Top 10 rep. Shit again. That was just one more thing that pushed him out of my league. Deep breath – move on.

As is customary, these conference events went on, and on, and on. After the awards ceremony, there was a cocktail hour and then dancing with a DJ until last call. We were all drinking, dancing, and having fun. It was approaching midnight, meaning my birthday was about to begin. I was ready to bring 29 in with furor. The last year in this tortuous decade needed to be great in order for equilibrium to exist and persevere. I was dancing the night away when a gal from my home office showed up – Curly Hair in tow – and introduced us right there – mid dance – as she declared how shy I am.

It wasn’t long before we tired of dancing and trying to scream at each other over the music so we stepped out of the nightclub with our cocktails and found a place to chat. I was crazy nervous as we started to orchestrate getting to know one another. I was surprised to find that the conversation flowed smoothly and was rather effortless; time flew by. Our drinks empty and the bar closed, we headed to my room to raid the bar.

My roomie wasn’t there but there were three gifts, wrapped in birthday paper waiting on my bed. Yay! I love presents! I opened the smallest box first. It was a container of scented, edible, massage oil. O.K., next – a flat package. It was an annual edition of a male nude pictorial (later we realized it was geared toward gay men; depicting men intimately touching). The last box was about 12 inches long and 4 inches’ square. Um… everything in my body screamed – leave now; put the box down and exit the room. DANGER… DANGER.  I attempted to act on my intuition and moved toward the door, blushing and fumbling for a rational reason to find friends – any friends. “Let’s open it” he says. “That’s ok, let’s go.” “No, really – what do you think is in in?” as he picked up the box and began peeling the paper from its edges. I grabbed the box and as I did, the top corner ripped off the box to identify the contents.

Ok, kill me now. Please, God – strike me or at least give me disappearing ability, immediately. The box contained, as you have undoubtedly guessed, a dildo. All I know is that he began to smile broadly until his entire face was engulfed and with a deadly, serious voice stated “we are going to have fun, you and I”. Oh my god, can we just leave – get me out of this room. It took all of my energy to gather any remaining dignity and exit quickly. What I didn’t know is that a tone had been established right then, a seed of expectation had been planted.

We eventually ended up in his room and the make out session of all make out sessions ensued. For the first time in more than 4 years, my mind wasn’t on Rocky and my body was on fire. He played me like a violin and reminded me of JG, the man of my early years who taught me about pleasure. All of my reserves melted and I rejected every ounce of self-respect I possessed in order to satisfy the calling of my primal voice. I woke up in the morning feeling embarrassed and somewhat ashamed of myself. I didn’t want to be a one-night-stand girl. In fact, I had resisted that temptation on so many other occasions, I was pissed at myself. Since I was completely unaware of the principle of self-compassion, I beat myself up, grabbed my clothing, and proceeded to embark on a very long walk-of-shame. I had watered the seed of expectation.

It turns out that my BFF was reacting to a prank birthday gift she had received back home and wanted to share the undignified excitement with me. If she was going to get a dildo for her birthday, then so was I. We discussed the details of the prior evening and laughed until we were breathless over the absurdity of it all while we packed and prepped to leave.

Sunday was going home day. Curly hair guy and I connected and were awkwardly conversing over lunch as several people stopped by our table to say goodbye on their way back to where they belonged. My BFF was patient but strong willed as she packed us some roast beef sandwiches for the drive home (and as it turned out with WAY too much horseradish) and gave me the ‘come on’ eyes more than a few times. I was trying to save my dignity by engaging this guy in small talk and pretending that I wasn’t morbidly embarrassed from my lusting lack of self-control. I obligingly provided my phone number to Mr. Hot Stuff and left Lancaster. I secretly hoped that I would never return.

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