I’m super excited to have been invited to join a blog group alongside three talented bloggers. Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.
Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:
This week’s topic comes from Moma Rock, who asked: Are you good at keeping secrets? Describe a time you were able to keep a secret, and another time where you were unable to. What were the outcomes in both scenarios? Here’s my take:
Would it surprise anyone if this week’s subject immediately reminded me of a Bon Jovi lyric? It’s from Not Old (Just Older), and it goes: “When we took on the world, we were young and brave. There’s secrets that we’ll take to the grave, standing here shoulder to shoulder. ”
So, yes, I am able to keep a secret, but I don’t particularly enjoy doing so. It is just much too much work.
Now, don’t go thinking, “Oh, no, I can’t tell Loose Lips Keliuotis anything,” and don’t fear if you’ve already confided some deep, dark secret. Chances are, I’ve probably forgotten it, anyway (I’m kidding, I’m kidding). I’m actually pretty good with confidential information (you know, that pesky attorney-client privilege and all). It’s just that, sometimes, I hate the responsibility that comes with keeping quiet.
I can’t exactly give an example of a time I kept a real secret without, well, divulging the secret. But there’s one faux secret I’ve carried for years that absolutely cracks me up and that I can share here. Many, many years ago, when my older sister was a teenager, she lied to my parents and told them she was going somewhere when she really went somewhere else: to see a Scorpions concert. I knew, but I was sworn to secrecy. For some reason, my sister still doesn’t want my parents to know this, decades later, even though she is a grown woman with a grown child and even though my parents can’t exactly take away her car keys. This amuses me to no end. A few times, at family gatherings, I’ve jokingly threatened to tell my parents, but my sister seriously gets upset, so I let it go. I’m guessing she doesn’t want to blow their image of her (as if they’ve forgotten all the other stuff she did as a teenager), but her need to hide this ancient fact completely baffles me. Isn’t half the fun of getting older admitting the crap you pulled as a kid, knowing they can no longer punish you? Sometimes, isn’t the joy of a secret found in finally, finally letting it out?
Although I’ve kept my sister’s “secret” (and a whole lot of real secrets as well), not surprisingly, I’ve dropped the secret ball on occasion. The most recent time I can recall happened at work, maybe a year ago. The last law job I held was at a small firm where, often, interoffice drama abounded. Seriously, it was worse than high school – and I attended an all-girls high school. At any given moment, someone was upset with someone else. Or sleeping with someone else. Or about to get fired. Or fighting in the ladies’ room (I kid you not – that was a fun Christmas party). I got along with the vast majority of my co-workers, and I was older than most of them. I’d also worked at the firm for a while. All of these factors turned my office into a veritable shrink’s waiting room. Once, one of my co-workers told me something (don’t ask because hell if I remember) and I completely forgot she’d told me it in confidence. I assume my reason was simply that whatever she had said hadn’t struck me as particularly important or confidential, but it was and I blundered. I did not and would not intentionally blow her confidence; I just forgot to file the info in the “don’t talk about it” part of my brain. I slipped and said something to someone – who immediately blabbed it to someone else. In the game of office telephone that was my professional life, the factoid got back to the original source, who immediately came to me. She was upset, but in the end understood that I messed up and felt awful. I apologized – but what I really wanted to say was, “No more secrets!”
Part of my issue with secrets is the fact I am a verbal processor. The easiest and most effective way for me to make sense of information is to talk about it, pure and simple. I’ve always said I could never practice law alone because I need someone to bounce ideas off of. I’ve actually found myself in the middle of discussing a complex problem and, as I’m speaking, the answer just popped into my head and I was like, “ . . . and oh my god never mind I totally know the answer!” (Remember that, Karen??) This is true both when I’m trying to work through a legal concept and when someone has told me something emotionally heavy. Within the legal paradigm, I can and have reframed the facts into a hypothetical, or masked the relevant names, thus protecting any sensitive information. But when the subject is personal, it can be a bit more difficult. More than once, a friend has confided something that rattled me, and I’d felt the need to bounce the information off of someone else, simply to make it make sense. With some exceptions, I tend to subscribe to the Seinfeld rule that sharing a secret with someone who is coupled is as good as telling that person’s other half, which means I feel okay talking to my husband . . . most of the time. But every once in a while, a secret is passed on that I’m fairly certain isn’t meant for him, leaving it to roll around in my brain because I’m not supposed to let it out of my mouth. In those moments, I struggle.
I understand the role of secrets in life. Not all information is meant for all audiences. Sometimes we keep secrets to protect ourselves (like my sister and Scorpiongate), and sometimes we do so to protect others (I can think of a very specific example of that . . . but I can’t tell you). And, more than that, the keeping of confidential information can actually breed intimacy. I mean, I certainly appreciate when someone else trusts me enough to confide in me. Recently, I took a big leap with a mom friend I’d known for about a year and really like. I shared some private information with her, and my openness prodded her to confide in me, as well. That result wasn’t intended but, in my heart, the information exchange changed our relationship for the better. Mom Friend became simply Friend because I know she trusts me, and she knows I feel the same.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less inclined to pass along “secret” information to someone else. Generally, I’m more guarded with personal facts, and I choose my audience carefully, but rarely do I utter the words, “You can’t tell anyone else!” When I do, odds are the recipient is one of a small handful of friends and the statement is almost already implied. I don’t know; perhaps I’ve grown boring and simply shy away from situations that involve any kind of subterfuge. Or maybe I’ve just had enough drama for one lifetime. But maybe you have not. So, if you have a secret to share, feel free. I’ll take it as a compliment . . . and I’ll do my best to take it to the grave.