Dear Friend/Family Member/Neighbor/Hair Dresser: I’m keeping secrets from you.
I’m not telling you something, not because I don’t trust you, or value your input, your questions or your advice. I’m not telling you something because I don’t want to burden you; I don’t want to take up your time with something you cannot really check off your list as solved, or assisted with.
This is not because I don’t care for, or respect, or love you. It’s because I do. It’s because all of us are running as fast as we can these days. If one more guru/self-help/life coach tells us to slow down, breathe, and prioritize, we will all collectively scream. Most of us already do that—the former, not the latter—but come to think of it, I am pretty sure most of us do scream, quietly to ourselves.
Edit, edit, edit
No, in the past year and a half, I started to consider my release of information. I don’t know where this idea came from; I just know that one day I found myself reflecting on a conversation that lasted 20 minutes and yielded no answers. All that came out of it was that the other person not only lost 20 minutes of her time, but she gained something additional to worry about, or at the very least distract her from her list of goals.
His grandmother told him, “No one wants to hear about your health.” At least not in detail.
I recently came upon a neighbor of mine shopping at Target. I saw her lost in the homewares section, keenly inspecting something. That’s Targets gift to all of us, helping us get lost in the moment. Just as I was about to say hello, I caught myself. This woman is a very accomplished, super smart, and somewhat public figure who went through a horrific experience within the past year. The public outpouring of support for her was absolutely justified. We all rooted for her and her family during this time. We all pulled out voodoo dolls for her attacker. The better of us prayed for his demented soul.
This was the first time I had seen her since the incident. My inclination was to go hug her and let her know that I was so happy to see her. Again, though, I decided the bigger gift was to leave her alone, to let her have this moment to herself, to let her be. Not because I am unfriendly. Not because I was absorbed in my own Target bliss, but because, in that moment, I felt that what she needed was not my words or attention.
As we get older, we find ourselves with health challenges. A while back, I read a column on grandmotherly advice. In it a New Yorker said his grandmother told him, “No one wants to hear about your health.” At least not in detail. And it’s true; I don’t. And you don’t want to hear about mine.
Right now, while my health seems fine, just a little off, I’ll stay mum.
I say this, of course, but just today I spilled the beans to someone about my own personal challenge, which I have been dealing with silently since pre-Thanksgiving. I was not bleeding out; I just noticed something, and with the holidays approaching and a business trip in mid-January, I put it on hold and buttoned up. I don’t regret that. I saved too much time that I did not have—starting with the initial sharing and then creating worry in friends who, I might add, were going through the same holiday frenzy that I was. The same friends who were trying to capture the magic of the season—as per their guru/self help/life coach recommendations. I didn’t want to be the friend who unloaded a potential wet blanket on everyone’s attempts to reflect on the season’s joys.
Yes, if I find out there’s something seriously wrong, I will confide in more friends—on a need-to-know basis. But right now, while my health seems fine, just a little off, I’m keeping secrets. It’s something, this withholding of information. It takes some effort, but it’s worth it. Whether it’s health, or unnecessary details about my life and small struggles, I try to edit, to not share, to withhold—for the simple reason that it gives us all the gift of time and the bliss of ignorance.
Love to all,