Saturday, May 5, 2012

From the Latin secretus - set apart, withdrawn, hidden

People tell me secrets. Friends and acquaintances, some, but strangers way more often than you'd think. Like people I've just met. Like people I sat down next to on the bus five minutes ago. Some people just get told secrets; maybe it's something in our faces or the color of our hair. I've got a few friends in the same boat. One's an OB/GYN. Poor thing. At least most people refrain from telling me the secrets of their cooches. Most. Not all.
I don't know why people tell me secrets. Much time as I spend talking, you'd think they couldn't get a secret in edgewise, but I have to stop to breathe sometimes, and that's when they come up. I guess I'm honored. I guess I'm touched. I try my ass off to live up to the responsibility. To listen and empathize and remember and not look at people differently or judge them (or at least make it obvious if I'm judging them).
They tell me they had an affair, or they tell me what it was like finding out their wife had an affair. They tell me about their mental illnesses and their addictions and suicide attempts and the people who have hurt them, and the people they've hurt. 
But often, it seems, they tell me about rape. You know the statistic about how 1 in 4 women have been raped, how hard it is to believe it's that many? It's that many. I listen and empathize and ask permission to hug (trust me on this one - never attack hug a trauma victim). And it's not just women. There don't seem to be reliable statistics on men being raped; it's so under-reported that you'd be tempted to think it doesn't happen. But there are more than a few. I can't imagine what that's like - to have something horrible happen to you, but keep it a secret because society thinks it's a punchline. 
You try not to think about it too hard, empathize too much. You keep hearing those stories and before too long you stop wanting to live on this planet anymore. You see men on the street and you think "That guy might be a rapist," or "That woman might be a child molester." It's gotten so, while my heart breaks for people, I don't feel that moral outrage anymore, and that terrifies me sometimes.
People lie their secrets sometimes too. Sometimes I can tell but probably mostly I can't. That's terrifying too. You're listening to someone telling their secret and it suddenly occurs to you've been a sucker before and you might be a sucker now. But you chase the thought away because if they've got to lie, it's because they've got secrets too big and heavy to tell, and I can't imagine living with that kind of burden.
I'm not complaining - I guess I'm lucky to be hearing about it and not living it. And I'm not even sure why I'm writing this. I guess this is just me whispering into the reeds that the king has horse's ears. 

1 comment:

  1. This is interesting...because people tell me their secrets, too. Ha! I do my best to keep them tucked away. But I wonder at their willingness to blurt out all sorts of things...ahem...I believe you know what I'm talking about.
    Burnout is common in 'secret hearing'..I used to be a police dispatcher. I've heard it all...seen it all...nothing could really shock me. It can be a bit scary to realize and accept that.

    Anyhoo...I'm glad you stopped by today, and I always try to visit back. You've got a great few posts here...I read back a couple. Hope to see you again, Brigid. Great to meet you.

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