Everybody has secrets. This is the idea behind Frank Warren's self-described "community art project" Post Secret. I'd been dying to hear him talk ever since someone (I don't remember who, exactly, but it was more than likely Jenn) introduced me to his blog. Since I learned he was coming to Chicago, I've been keeping a list of things that I could write down to post on the display for everyone to see.
I have been known to and absolutely LOVE using the Honesty Box application on Facebook to confess things. If I get a reply to something I made, I usually reveal myself. I think it seems a little less creepy than sending someone a message that says something to the effect of, "Hey, guess what I did this weekend!" At least I hope so.
I tried to write it out four or five times before I finally got it the way I needed and wanted it to be done, and each time I tried to write it, I felt that much better about the whole thing. When I finally posted it and saw people reading it, I had the five second panic (the "OMG, someone knows") and then I felt a sense of release, knowing that my secret was out there, that someone knew. The more people I saw reading it, the more relief I felt that someone else knew and this was no longer inside of me. Seeing it there with the rest of the secrets, mine and others, made me feel much less alone than I’ve felt in a long time.
The actual act of posting them on the board was absolutely terrifying, trying to avoid the eyes of other people, waiting for someone to turn away so I could put it up and no one would know it was me. I must have written a good eight of them, all of which I had at one point told at least one other person. Except one.
See, a while back my hero Dan Savage extended his sex-advice column Savage Love into a weekly podcast. I don't typically listen to it (because even though he's one of my heroes and I adore him, I have enough things to do on the interwebs and I typically forget about it.) but one day last month I was listening to an episode he had aired back in February. Once in a while, I will see one of my own secrets on the blog or a secret resonates with me that I have to think about it for a minute. Listening to that podcast was one of the most terrifying moments of my life, because the caller was telling MY story. My secret. The secret that I shared last night. I was crying so hard, I had to pause it before Savage gave his advice. which was the exact same thing that everybody has been telling me since it started. And then I cried some more and I was okay.
I think that’s what touched me so deeply about the story I heard on Dan Savage’s podcast – It was that sense of recognition, another person sharing my story, and that sudden twin sensation of relief and heartbreak of knowing someone out there, someone in my city, was in the same kind of pain I’m in. Ever since I heard his call, I’ve found myself searching the eyes of strangers on the street, at the end of the bar, and when I’m riding the El, wondering if I had ever run into him without knowing it.
It was a secret I had apparently been keeping from myself, something that dawned on me right before I left to go to the event. Even though there were a lot of good candidates, I knew it had to be THAT one. Frank invited people to step up to the mic and share a secret. I was so moved by the other secrets I had read and other people had shared, I knew I couldn't stay silent on this thing that had been subconsciously tearing at me for almost two years. I sneaked into line right after he asked that no one else come up because they were running out of time. I had to tell. And I did.
I had never told a soul, not even the few people I truly confide in, and tonight, I told my secret to two thousand people. In his memoir 'How I Learned to Snap', Kirk Read summed up how I felt after I told my secret better than I ever could: "[Five minutes] of your own adrenaline beats the hell out of someone else's sympathy."
And he's right. I've been going through various stages of the grieving process for entirely too long. I was no longer in denial. I was no longer angry. And I'm pretty sure the people I cried to were the only people who were more sick of it than I was. When I finished speaking, I was shaking so hard when I sat down, the girl behind me held me for a good twenty minutes as she asked me to share it with her. I didn't stop shaking until I stopped talking. After I bought my book (something I wasn't planning on doing,but I was so moved, I had to) I asked her to write something inside. She did. Thanks, Amy.
For the curious, it was an object I held on to after George and I moved out of our place, which I have on my person at all times. I wanted so badly to be brave enough to walk up to the stage and give it to him. But I didn't, because I'm not ready. When he signed my book I promised when I was ready, I would send it to him.
And then I did something I didn't think I would do, but in that moment, I wanted to be rid of everything. I wanted to tell whoever wanted to hear every horrible, traumatic thing that has ever happened to me so I would be free from all of it. I've been known to do that, but I didn't. Instead, I asked Frank if I could tell him a secret. I leaned over the table and told him something exactly three people know (me, one of the people I cry to now and again, and Frank), the secret I had initially planned on telling, because it's my darkest secret.
The version I'm willing to tell on Facebook is, "When I was __, ______ thought that I was ______ __ ____ ______. She ___ __ ________. I'm going to be 26 next month, and I have never forgiven her."
One day I WILL send it in and people that I know will probably see it and tell her and she'll come up with some bullshit story about how it didn't happen the way I remember it did (even though it totally did). But after all this time, she would know how I felt. And maybe then I could forgive her.
And then something happened that had me bawling in a doorway next to the gym where the event took place.
Just before I left, I went back to the board to look at all the secrets and I seriously contemplated ripping mine off the board, taking them home, and burning them. But I didn’t. I left all of them there, including the one that had taken the longest to write down. I noticed there was a girl reading the secret and I tapped her on the shoulder, asking if I could tell her my secret. I pointed to the secret and said it was mine. She read it again before she hugged me. She then pulled out a card from her pocket and gave it to me. I read it. I hugged her. I tried to give it back to her, but she pushed it away. I put it in my pocket. After making sure it was the right one, she ripped down my secret and put it in her pocket.
I can't even begin to describe the connection I felt to this girl, this complete stranger when we embraced each other after she read my secret and I read hers. They were both deeply painful secrets - but as we embraced, I could feel a tiny piece of myself become whole again. I hope she felt the same. I will probably never see her again, we didn’t say more than ten words to each other, and we never exchanged names. I wish I could tell her that because of that, because she allowed me to connect with her for that brief moment, I think I might be able to start working on making peace with the whole ordeal, and for that, more than anything, I want to thank her. I will carry her secret with me, and I hope she does, too.
The secret was about the nightmares I had for about a month that thing that happened earlier this year, how it felt that night, and how I could hear his voice echoing, laughing with his buddies and listening to him call me what he did, over and over and over again. It's actually a lot more serious than that incredibly vague explanation (and it's STILL preventing me from doing certain things that I would do anything to do right now, like running away with Tyler.) I'm not going to post it here, but if you really want to know, message me and I will tell you.[Side Note to Jessica: Yes, it's that thing I've been promising to tell you.]
Ending on a lighter note...
1. I cannot step on cracks in the sidewalk.
2. When I eat a bag of Skittles, fruit snacks, and sometimes even M&Ms, I segregate them into flavors. I then eat one flavor at a time, but it has to be in the same order every time:
The only fruity snack I don't have to do this with is gummy bears. I do, however, always try to save all the red ones for last.
3. My roommate doesn't know that every time I say the word "Grinch" around her, I am actually calling her a Very Mean Word. Thanks, How I Met Your Mother!
Oh, okay, so I lied. One more:
You're the one I'm waiting for. And I swear upon all we consider holy that if it happens, it will not be like last time.
* * *
It takes a lot of balls to tell someone a heavy, serious secret like all of mine were. Well, ones that don't involve Skittles. I challenge you to post one for me. Tell me something silly. Tell me something serious. Tell me whatever you want, as long as it's true.
Trust me when I say I know exactly how dangerous it can be to post a request for anonymous secrets, but I can only hope that someone doesn't do to me what I did to someone on LJ. At least tell me after a few days. I did. ;)