Tag Archives: denial

Shh, it’s a secret

Just days before my mother died last year, she revealed a secret to me, a secret she had kept for almost fifty years, a secret that flipped a light switch in my brain. Suddenly, I could look at events from fifty years ago and see them in a different light.

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The clarity was almost blinding, and I wanted to explore the implications of what I had learned, but my mother was dying, and I needed to pay attention to what was happening right in front of me instead of examining events from the past. So, I tucked her secret away.

And then one day last fall, her secret came rushing back to me like a tidal wave.

I was overwhelmed with a truth I had never even considered, a truth that explained my father’s attitude toward me after I got divorced. I realized that my life could have gone in an entirely different direction had I known then what my mother had revealed before her death.

I was hurt and angry.

Moreover, my mother’s secret dislodged a secret that I had been keeping for more than fifty years, a secret I was not consciously aware I was keeping.

Suddenly, disparate pieces of my early twenties fell into place like cogs on a gear. I had great clarity about my early life and things that had happened to me that had shaped the rest of my life.

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At family gatherings, my younger brother liked to point to my mother and then to me and say, “Tree, apple.”

My mother was great at denial and at keeping secrets. She denied anything bad that happened to her and would not risk disclosing an unattractive (or downright ugly) truth about someone, in case it might be embarrassing (or possibly illegal). She protected people who were not worthy of protection, and she taught me to do the same.

Like my mother, I am a great secret keeper, a steel trap for people’s confidences, and I have held sacred the secrets people have shared with me over the years.

What I know about secrets, though, is that the shame attached to them can turn something innocent into something sinister, and I know how shame can paralyze.  

A few years ago, when I finally said the name of the man who raped me, I realized I had been protecting him by not saying his name; I was keeping it secret.

Saying his name—revealing the secret—broke the power of shame over me.

Back to the tree…apple scenario.

I have spent my adult life trying to unlearn my mother’s lessons, trying to be more honest and forthcoming. I have gone to ACOA meetings and worked the steps. I know that we are only as sick as our secrets, and I have tried to live transparently, without secrets.

And yet now I am faced with two new secrets from my past.

But those events are no longer buried, and I have begun talking about what happened to me.

Read the neon signs

Sitting at a bar with two friends one evening, one shared that he suspected his wife was having an affair. We asked why he thought that. He explained that her job at a bank, a job she had had for many years, was always a 9-5 kind of job, but recently, she had begun to work a lot of late nights and even weekends and some overnights.

“Read the neon signs,” my other friend advised.

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That memory resurfaced while I was walking the dog this morning and begged the question, “What neon signs am I not reading?”

Sometimes ignoring reality is much easier than facing it. Looking back on my life, I can see many times when I refused to read the neon signs. I did not want to face the truth and have to deal with the fallout. I have often taken the attitude that if I ignore something long enough, it will go away, which can work.

But, living that way requires me to ignore my intuition and to suppress my feelings. It takes a lot of energy to deny reality and to pretend that everything is okay when, at some level, I know it is not.

God calls me to pull my head from the sand and face the difficulties I have been trying to avoid, the reality I have been ignoring. God calls me to live in a truth that sets me free.

Sometimes, as in my friend’s situation, the signs are pretty clear. Other times, though, the signs are not as easy to see.

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I must be in one of those cloudy periods now, because I don’t have a clue why this memory came back to me or what new lesson it is inviting me to learn. I can’t see what I can’t see, and I don’t know what I don’t know.

Could the neon signs be related to my relationship with Jesus and how I am feeling disconnected?

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Could it have something to do with my desire to move from full-time work to semi-retirement?

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Or does it have something to do with forming new relationships as I settle into life in Michigan?

Or….

I pray that God will open my eyes so I can see what is probably right in front of me—and then give me the courage to act. I want to be free. I want my life to be authentic.

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