The Story Economy Blog

And Now, For My Secrets

Key to secretsThey tell us from the time we’re young,

to hide the things that we don’t like

about ourselves,

inside ourselves.

I know I’m not the only one

who spent so long attempting to be someone else.

Well, I’m over it.

I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are.

– Mary Lambert, from the song, Secrets


This project I’m working on (the one stirring up The Resistance I wrote about last week) has me mining old diaries and letters. Not only did I write and receive many dozens of letters (every one saved, of course), I’ve kept a diary (in some form or another) since I was about eight.

Diving back into this world of my past, I have come to two conclusions:

1. I was a weirdo.

2. I’m still the same weirdo.

My husband and I had this conversation the other day. I had just come downstairs after spending a good chunk of the day reading my 13-year-old self. (The backstory: he gravitates toward Thomas Hardy, determinism, you are who you are, and a universe that’s neutral at best, but often hostile. I believe in Martin Seligman, free will, you make who you are, and a universe that conspires to keep us connected.)

Anyway, the conversation.

I was pacing back and forth in the kitchen, drinking wine, talking a mile a minute: “I am the same as I was at 13. Oh. My. God. The same!”

“Of course you are. No one really changes,” he said, stirring the spaghetti sauce, like some wise soothsayer (normally, he is the one pacing back and forth acting crazy).

“No, I mean, like the same. I have the same thoughts. They’re just different thoughts, but they come from the same thing. I have the same tendencies. What happened to all of that evolution? What happened to all of the ways I tell myself I’m different now? I. Am. The. Same.”

“Of course you are. No one really changes.” More stirring.

But by the last sip of wine, something pretty important occurred to me. Yes, I am the same at my core. 39 . . . 13 . . . it’s all Judi.

But I make different choices now.

A way different choice I’ve made over the last two to three years is that instead of hiding my secrets and being shamed by them, I am sharing them.

Hence, The Reading of the Letters

Freeing the Secrets

The Reading of the Letters is just a funny thing my sister and I started saying last week after I shared with her a hilarious unsent letter I found, circa 1987, that I had written to my (then) sister-in-law about my brother (who passed away in 2009), and a fight they were having.

The details are boring and hard to explain, but let’s just say, it was full of the kind of passion and total misunderstanding that only a 13-year-old girl could have.

I’m positive that a few years ago, I would have been far too embarrassed to even admit I wrote such a letter. My face would have gotten red and I would have felt that little pinch of self-contempt, mixed with fear.

But when I found the letter the other today, I laughed so hard and so long, that I knew I had to share it. I took a picture of it with my phone and texted it to my sister, who nearly fell over laughing.

And then I read it to my entire family when they came over to my house this past Sunday to celebrate my mom’s birthday.

And we all laughed in that way you can only laugh when something so poignantly funny and weird is being shared. And then I read a few more funny letters. And we laughed a bunch more.

The thing is, my dad saved everything, too. And it’s not that he never shared. He did. He loved to show old pictures and have slide shows.

But he kept so much under wraps. So much squirreled away, organized just so in file cabinets that we weren’t allowed to touch. That mound of ephemera wasn’t accessible to us. Neither were the bulk of his emotions.

But I am making a different choice. I am reading the letters.

Go have your own Reading of the Letters. Because the world may not be different for knowing your secrets, but I guarantee you will be. The same, of course, but different.

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