The Project of Secrets

I’ve decided to transform this blog that I don’t really use anymore to something more than a place to vent my frustrations to the world. Because I learned something…

No one is listening.

There are enough complainers in the world. I want to do something more productive.

Now, my idea is far from original. In fact people have been doing similar things since the days of Post Secret… does that still exist anymore? After I finished writing my 2016 National Novel Writing Month novel, an idea came to me in a lightening bolt. An “ah ha” of sorts after talking with an acquaintance who I originally thought I had very little in common with. Turns out, I was wrong.

The “ah ha” was that there are SO many things that we keep secret for one reason or twelve. We keep certain things about us so close that few (if any) people know about the things that are the closest to our souls. The things that shaped and formed us into who we are.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of not know how to bring it up or maybe it’s just not deemed “appropriate” to share, but sometimes there are darker reasons we keep things hidden.

 

The problem with all this silence is that we then feel isolated. All of us feeling alone about things that we are not alone about! Why? Why don’t we share?

We are afraid.

We’re afraid what people will think of us, what people will think of our family. We don’t want people to look at us differently or pity us. It’s uncomfortable.  It’s embarrassing. We are so afraid to be open with each other that we would just rather be miserable in our self-imposed isolation.

Now, I realize I’m not talking about everyone.

There is a lady that told me her entire life story while we were waiting in the checkout line at Meijer. There are people who post about everything from what they had for breakfast to the seedy details of their family dramas on social media. But honestly, those people are a relatively small part of the population.

And there are others who have been blessed with extremely fortunate lives who don’t feel like they have to keep anything hidden from anyone.

And still others who do not suffer from the same feelings of isolation that many of us do surrounding sorrow and trauma.

So, my plan for my next novel was to write about all the things we don’t talk about. Here’s the challenge… people don’t talk about the things people don’t talk about.

Or do they?

I reached out on Facebook for people to give me ideas of things that people don’t talk about. Over 40 people responded to the post when I asked them the first thing that came to mind when they heard “no one ever talks about…”  I got everything from religion to rape. And it exploded from there– people messaged me on Facebook telling me they wanted me to tell their stories… I have to admit it was overwhelming. I had to put it off until the summer (I do this strange thing called teaching during the rest of the year), but I scheduled over 30 interviews with co-workers, acquaintances, former students, and parents of former students ALL willing to talk about “the things we don’t talk about.”

I cried with people I barely knew. I held former students while they cried. I had matter of fact conversations about extremely difficult topics.

Two interesting things I came away with from those interviews:

  1. Though I am not extremely close with any of these people, they were will to talk about these VERY heavy topics when given the opportunity.
  2. Every person- every one of them thanked ME. (insert WHAAAAAT face here) Some thanked me for listening. Some thanked me for being willing to address topics that they feel no one else will. I was expecting a lot of things doing these interviews, but I was not expecting people to be grateful to me. I was grateful for THEM being so open.

This leads me to believe that we don’t want to be silent and isolated about these things. We just need someone to listen. WHEW! Mind blown.

This month I’m attempting to do justice to all of the stories I heard and I know I will fall massively short. Another thing I didn’t count on with this project is how many people want to see it already. I have told a few people that when I let someone read what I’ve written, I kind of feel like I’m dancing naked in front of them. Because even though these are necessarily my stories… my heart is in them. And, let’s face it… after rejection letter 32 came last week, I’m becoming doubtful of my writing abilities. 🙂 But that’s another blog post.

So— Here is my part. As a thank you to those who have shared, and in the spirit of sharing things that we don’t talk about… here is what I don’t talk about:

I don’t talk to people about the paralyzing fear that I have that may not ever find someone who will love me. I see friends and coworkers get divorced or become widowed and get remarried and still I sit – single as the hair on Charlie Brown’s head.  I fear that there is something tragically wrong with me. I know I am loved by my parents and my son and my friends and even my students. But in the nine years that I have been single, not one date has worked out. And it’s been over a year since I’ve even been on a date. I am a nearly 40 year old, over-weight, single mom.  Let’s just be honest, I am not the kind of person that someone sees across a crowded room and goes over to talk to.  I work at a high school where my co-workers are married or WAY too young. I go to a church filled with people who are married or WAY too young. I don’t go to bars. I go to coffee shops– but that’s not really the place where someone comes up and says, ‘hey, can I buy you a latte?’ I tried online dating MULTIPLE times and only received completely inappropriate comments (even–scratch that, especially on Christian Mingle) or men in their 60s who live in Wyoming. I’ve been set up by friends only to meet the person and never hear from them again. So in my brain the logical conclusion is that there is something undeniably rejectable about me.

Whew. Thank you for listening…. er… reading.

My challenge to you: Talk to someone about the thing(s) you don’t talk about. It is surprisingly therapeutic.