Out of Sight, Out of Mind

When I left my parents’ house and was living on my own in an apartment, my father said he never worried about me. It wasn’t so much that he thought I could take care of myself. It was that when I was out of sight, I was out mind. This sort of philosophy has followed me much of my life. People always enjoyed being with me, but when I wasn’t around, they seldom thought to call. (When I was in my mid-twenties, I had a lot of friends who seemed to like me, but I got tired of being the one to carry the friendships, so one day I decided to wait until one friend called and then I’d check in with everyone. No one called. Not one person. Either they didn’t like me as much as I thought they did, or they succumbed to the whole “out of sight, out of mind,” mentality.)

Apparently, despite the spectacle I make of myself with my fifty-year-old iconic car and my fancy hats, I am forgettable. Though he denies it, my contractor forgets me, which is why, when I haven’t heard from him in a while, I text him to remind him I am still here and he still has work to do on my place. The text doesn’t get the work done because as he becomes involved in other things, I slip from his mind again. (Though to be fair, he did send someone out last week to pound down the metal edgings along my pathways without my reminding him.)

My car mechanic is the same way. Every week for the past few weeks, I’ve stopped by to find out what he’s doing about getting the part for my brakes, and every time he says he’ll drop by my house to take a photo of the necessary part. (The part he ordered didn’t fit, even though it was supposed to.) And every week, as soon as I left, he promptly forgot me.

I’m being halfway facetious with this “out of sight, out of mind” scenario because I could nag the poor workers until they finally showed up. But maybe they wouldn’t show up anyway. Considering how busy they are, even if they didn’t forget me, they probably wouldn’t be able to fit my atypical jobs into their schedule. And in a way it’s okay since this gives me a lien on their time, so that when emergencies arise, I feel comfortable calling. And they are very good about taking care of emergencies.

Are my brakes an emergency? They could have been. With all the nearby fires last week and all the evacuations, I would have been in a pickle if I had to evacuate. Of course, my neighbors would have offered a ride (if they remembered me), but then I’d have to leave my car behind. Generally, though, the brakes not working don’t qualify as an emergency since I walk to do local errands, and I go with a friend when she hits the “big city” to stock up. (We joke about the big city, but it’s merely a slightly bigger town with a Walmart.)

Today, as usual, I visited the mechanic’s shop, and he seemed a bit embarrassed when he realized that he’d spaced me again out last week. So he promised to come for sure today.

And he did.

Now that he has a picture of the part he needs, it’s just a matter of finding it. I did tell him about an air-cooled-VW parts place that has a help line, so if he can’t find the master cylinder, they might be able to help him get one. You can buy all the parts necessary to build your own classic VW Beetle from scratch, so it seems rather strange that something as important as the brakes would be hard to find, but what do I know. Even though I’ve had the car for fifty years, I still don’t know a whole lot about how it’s all put together. (I’ve actually learned quite a bit over the years, just not how to fix anything.)

The mechanic doesn’t need to remember me to order the part; he just needs to look for it, and I’m sure he will do so since a part is probably more memorable than I am.

Once the VW bug is fixed, maybe I’ll start bugging my contractor more frequently to see if we can get some of the work done around here. Maybe.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

On the Q.T. at the D.Q.

I made a new friend today. We’ve actually been friends (or at least friendly) for a couple of years, but until today, all of our conversations have taken place during transactions at her place of work. She’s retired now, so we decided to continue our friendship outside of the confines of her job.

I was going to invite her for tea at my place, but at the last moment decided it might be awkward, so I suggested we meet at Dairy Queen for coffee. I needn’t have worried. We had no problem talking about all sorts of things from The Bob to religion to the slap heard around the world. (Yep, even I and my sparse contact with the world at large heard about the slap.) In fact, in all that talking, we somehow forgot to order coffee. We’d like to make “having coffee” a weekly thing, but as my tea friends are aware, it’s often easy to let life get in the way and sometimes hard to make the effort. But we’ll see how it goes.

There were only two other customers in the restaurant most of the time we were there, a couple I thought I knew fairly well, but when they stopped to talk to my friend, they barely acknowledged me. Later, they came up to me, finally smiling in recognition. I wasn’t wearing a hat, you see, which is why they didn’t recognize me at first. It was cold when I walked to our meeting and so wore a stocking cap to keep my head and ears warm, and I took the hat off because it was too hot to wear inside. Apparently, “Pat in the Hat” isn’t easily identified when there isn’t a hat on her head. I didn’t purposely go to the D.Q on the Q.T., but if ever I do need to be incognito, I now know what to do — go hatless.

Still, the couple did eventually recognize me, and we had a nice chat before they headed out the door.

These three weren’t the only people I visited with today. On the way to Dairy Queen, I stopped at the bank and saw my contractor. We had a nice visit, catching up on each other’s news (nonexistent in my case) and talking about the work still needing to be done around my place.

I’ve often wondered what my social life will be like when my job inevitably comes to an end. I don’t want to go back to the senior center and play games. I don’t want to do the three-times-a-week lunches at the center or the once-a-month dinner put on by the churches. And, because of The Bob, it will be a long time before I am willing to be in a crowd or around a lot of strangers. I’m hoping, of course, to be able to have tea with friends more often, and perhaps if obligations aren’t tugging at me, it will be easier to make arrangements.

But then, going by today, I won’t need to do much of anything if I want to be social — just step out my door, do whatever it is I need to do, and chances are I’ll see someone I know. Of course, I’ll need to be sure to wear a hat so people will recognize me, but considering that warmer weather is coming, it’s a sure bet I’ll have on a topper.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Sad Day

I was sad last night, but it had nothing to do with Jeff or me or the anniversary of his death. I had to say good-bye to a friend who is heading back to Thailand to care for his wife until the end. The doctors’ prognoses for her have varied over the past several months, from a possible three months left to maybe a year or two, so he’s not planning on coming back any time soon. He smiled when he said good-bye, but his eyes were bleak. I cannot imagine doing what he is doing — leaving the country for an indefinite stay so he can give his wife the care she needs. It’s so very heroic. Sad, but heroic. Admittedly, he’s fine with living elsewhere, but his previous lengthy visits to other countries have been for fun and education, rather than for the heartbreaking task that is awaiting him this time. Even worse, he tries to put on a happy face since she doesn’t want anyone to be sad on her account.

I can’t help being sad over the situation because his wife is a dear sister/friend. From the beginning, although we are different nationalities, grew up on opposite sides of the globe, and had a bit of a language problem, we discovered a strong connection to each other. All I can do for either of them, the one cared for and her caregiver, is to continue looking after their house to give them one less thing to worry about.

Not wanting to feel sad (because even if the end is coming, my friend is alive and happy now despite her infirmities), I kept myself busy all day. I went for a walk, cleaned my floors, cleaned my clothes, cleaned me, fixed a nice meal (a salad and an overloaded-with-spinach frittata), and did various other small chores.

And now I am here, dumping my sadness into the ether where I have deposited so much sadness over the years.

After today, I intend to honor her wishes and think of her at home in Thailand. Happy. With her husband and family and old friends.

But first, I need to get through today.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Grief is Universal

I got an email from Germany today from someone I didn’t know. It was written in German, and one of the few words I recognized was “sex,” so I assumed it was some sort of spam. (The subject line in the email was: Trauer, Sex, Hauthunger und Minimierung.) I was scrolling down to find the “unsubscribe” link when I noticed a translation of the email, and realized it actually was a message to me, a response to my blog post: Grief, Sex, Skin Hunger, and Minimization. I wondered how he got my email, but when I checked that blog, there it was, posted for all to see. (It’s actually not an email address; it’s more of a forwarding service that WordPress offers.)

Until I saw my email address in the body of the post, I thought I got his comment via email in error, so I went ahead and posted his comment on the blog. I hope he’s okay with that, because he had done what I asked in the post — added to the discussion about sex and grief. I did respond to his email and told him what I did, so if he wants me to remove the comment, I will.

Two things came to mind when I read his comment.

First, that intense grief over the death of spouse seems to be universal. The lack of information not just about the realities of grief but also the various affects grief has on us and the additional losses (such as the loss of sex and the problem with skin hunger) also seems to be universal. We all tend to suffer in silence, thinking we are the only ones who are dealing with such pain. Although I mostly kept quiet in my offline life, here on this blog, I’ve been anything but silent, which turned out to be a good thing. Now people all over the world know my experience and my belief that grief is hard, grief takes a long time, and grief should not be suffered in silence.

Second, many men don’t remarry and aren’t interested in remarrying, despite the prevalent idea that men who lose a wife immediately remarry, not just to have someone to take care of them, but so they can have sex. Some bereaved men don’t miss sex in general, though they intensely miss sex with their wives. Some men do remarry, but often it’s to have someone to be emotionally intimate with because for many men, their spouse is the only emotional support they have, the only person they feel comfortable hugging or talking about personal issues with.

These are just generalities, of course. Although I have learned that despite the cliché, not everyone’s grief at the loss of a spouse is different from everyone else’s — grief for many of us followed the same pattern and timeline — when it comes to marriage and new relationships, the cliché is true: everyone is different. We will each of us find our way to a new relationship when we feel the need, when the time is right, or when we meet the right person.

In my case, it’s a done deal. I’m okay most of the time with the idea of growing old alone (the idea of it, you understand; not necessarily the reality of it). I certainly don’t want to have to deal with the possibility of caring for someone else in their old age, especially since I’d be old myself. Besides, there’s no room in my house for another person, and I won’t give up my house for anyone. But this sort of life isn’t for everyone, though it is forced on so many of us without our having a choice in the matter.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Upcoming House Anniversary

One week from today will be the third anniversary of “wedding” my house. It seems a weird way of describing the purchase, but the house offers me much that has been missing from my life since Jeff’s death — stability, a home, comfort. It also offers safety and security, at least as much as is possible in turbulent times. Of course, it can’t offer companionship or conversation or love, though it does give me something to love and care for, which is important when one is alone and hasn’t any inclination for pets.

Because of this upcoming anniversary, I feel as if I should get the house a gift, though the house is spoiled enough as it is, with all the money I’ve lavished on it — not just a new foundation for the porch, but a basement floor, landscaping, sod, a garage, and a whole slew of minor gifts.

Still, if I think of something, I might consider getting something to honor the occasion.

The traditional third anniversary gift is leather, though there isn’t anything of leather my house and I need. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember the last leather thing I bought. I doubt there is even a single strip of leather on my shoes.

The modern third anniversary gift is glass, but even though I do have and do use things of glass, I don’t need anything beyond what I have. I wouldn’t mind another goblet to add to my collection of miscellaneous goblets, but there isn’t room in the cabinet, and besides, I seldom use stemware. My water receptacle of choice is an old glass peanut butter jar because I can put a lid on it to keep from spilling and to keep bugs out in the summer. (Too many times at night I’d reach over for the glass of water on my bedside table and miss. By the time I got out of bed and cleaned the mess, that would be the end of any chance of sleep. Even worse are the times I accidentally drank a bug a night. Eek.)

In the end, I doubt I’ll get anything to mark the occasion. After all, I celebrate this wonderful house and home every day.

I did get a present from my sister, though, which is very nice. She thought these bowls would make me smile, and they do. The house has yet to let me know what it thinks of our gift.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Things I Don’t Want to Write About

I’m sitting here mentally sifting through possible blog topics to expound on for today’s posts, but there’s so much I don’t want to write about, I’ve already written about, or don’t know enough to write about and don’t care to delve deeper into the matter.

I don’t want to write about is the advertisement that appears on top of the page when I have opened a document in Word. I bought the program, so I shouldn’t have to deal with further encroachments from Microsoft, but as discreet as the ad is, it still appears and there’s nothing much I can do about it. Well, I can click on the X to remove it, but it appears again the next time I open Word. So, there’s no real point in talking about something I have no control over.

I also don’t want to write about the “nothings” that are exchanged with a spouse. I had lunch with a friend yesterday (she brought a picnic to my house, which was a real treat) and we got to talking about all the nothings we say to a spouse in passing. Her example was walking by her husband when he was watching the news, catching what someone was saying, and commenting, “Oh, she’s such a liar,” as she passed on by. These nothings aren’t anything you can really call and talk to a friend about when you live alone because then the nothings become a something. You’d have to explain the situation, explain why you think the person is a liar, explain why you’re telling your friend, and a passing comment becomes a huge discussion that quickly gets out of control. It’s an interesting topic, these nothings, but I’ve already written about it, already written about talking to the photo of Jeff, just asides — the nothings — as I make the bed when I get up in the morning or unmake it when I get ready for bed at night.

I still don’t want to write about The Bob. Despite everyone thinking they know what is going on because of whatever “research” they have done, so often the research is at odds with what people experience. I know people who got the jab and then died of The Bob, but that sort of thing is shoved under the carpet because it doesn’t fit the narrative. I suppose The Bob has been around long enough that the truth might be out there somewhere, but this is an example of something I don’t care to delve deeper into. Nor does it matter. Whatever truth I would find (assuming there is such a thing) wouldn’t change anything, and since it wouldn’t make any difference, I just let it go.

Something else I really don’t want to write about, at least not in a whole post, are all the death dates in my head. Or that were in my head. A couple of blog readers are coming up on the anniversary of their spouse’s deaths, and I remember the dates, but soon those dates will be gone from my memory, which is good. Otherwise, practically every single day I’d be reminded of someone who lost a child or a spouse, and it’s too much for one person to handle. It’s enough for me to remember my own dates (Jeff, parents, brothers) without heaping other people’s sorrow on top of my own. Though, to be honest, I do remember everyone I’ve spoken or written to about their grief over the death of their loved one, just not the exact day of their loss.

Well, what do you know! It turns out that I ended up writing about all the things I didn’t want to write about after all. Just goes to show . . . hmm. I don’t know what it shows other than that I have something to post for today’s blog.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Stitches of Togetherness

Small talk — conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters — is a staple of my life now. When I visit with friends, we talk about small town life, ourselves, their pets and children and grandchildren, people we know. The only time I have a conversation about something more vital is if I know they more or less feel the same as I do because I simply have no energy to discuss anything anyone feels passionate about. Their passion for their beliefs about the “issues” of the day exhausts me.

For many years, I didn’t engage in small talk. At least not that sort of small talk. Jeff and I talked about everything that was important, both in our lives, in history, in health, in myth, in the world. We generally agreed, and if we didn’t, we’d discuss things, listening to each other without interruption, until we came to a middle ground. Mostly, though, through the decades, we formed our ideas in tandem. These ideas weren’t based on feelings but on in-depth reading (thousands upon thousands of books) on a multitude of subjects, including many things we didn’t necessarily agree with but wanted to know more about.

Then there was the other sort of talking we did. Small talk so small it wasn’t really small talk, more like the stitching that holds two lives together. You know the sort of thing I mean. Things said more or less in passing: “We didn’t get any mail today.” Or “I saw so-and-so today.” Or “They were out of something at the store today.” Or “I’m home!” Nothing of importance beyond the moment.

Several years ago, I wrote that one of the collateral aspects of losing a life mate was having no one to do nothing with. Although Jeff and I worked and played and talked for more than three decades, we often did nothing together. We were just there, a presence in each other’s lives. I’ve found other people to fulfill some of the roles he played in my life, such as someone to do something with, but I have no one to do nothing with.

I’m now realizing it’s the same with talking, and why I so often talk to his photo. I have people to talk with, both small talk and sometimes larger talk, but there’s no one around for the smaller than small talk. If I am sad or lonely, I can call someone, or I can go to the library and chat with the librarians while they check out my books, or I can do any number of things. But there’s no one around for the sub-small talk. I can’t call someone to say, “I didn’t get any mail today.” Just the effort to call would turn the idle comment into something it wasn’t meant to be and would give my not getting mail an importance it didn’t deserve. And yet, a shared life is made up of these passing comments, these “stitches” of togetherness.

Those stitches are another of the many things no one really notices until they are gone. In my case, other things were so much more overwhelming — not just the pain and angst of his being dead, but the silence of my life, the yearning for one more word or smile from him, the lack of someone to do nothing with, the stark aloneness of being alone (it’s completely different having alone times in a shared life than being alone in an unshared life).

When grief started leaving me, I became engrossed in other activities, such as dancing and traveling, moving from place to place and trying to figure out what to do with my life. So many of those activities are no longer a factor. I’ve bought a house and moved to my perhaps final home, so now the subtler and more permanent aspects of living alone after the death of a life mate are making themselves felt.

And apparently, this lack of “stitching” is one of those aspects.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Tired of Being Nice

I’ve been mulling over a rather strange concept recently. The other day, I was helping someone, and I heard myself think, “I’m tired of being nice.” That rather shocked me because I don’t often have stray thoughts hijacking my mind, and besides, being nice is sort of my defining characteristic. I am unfailingly pleasant and agreeable, not overly effusive or extravagantly generous, just . . . nice.

I wouldn’t even know how to be not nice, assuming I could figure out what that would be. Rude? Selfish? Unpleasant? Disagreeable? I couldn’t be those things — I am too empathic, too aware of other people’s feelings to purposely upset anyone even if they don’t deserve my consideration. (Like people who are rude to me.)

Even when I border on being not nice, I am still nice. For example, a few weeks ago I had to visit the house I’m taking care for an absent friend and fire the fellow who was working for him because the friend needed the money for an emergency. The fellow was distraught, pulling his hair, wandering in circles, frantic about what he was going to do because they had no food to eat and he wouldn’t be able to buy the phone card he needed.

I felt bad for him, but I also got tired of listening to his problems, so I gave him money for his phone card and some food. I also gave him ten dollars to do a couple of small jobs for me (paint a doorframe and a part of the railing leading up to the house). It does sound like much pay for the jobs, but they should only have taken him about fifteen minutes. I know because he never showed up and I had to do the work myself, and that’s how long it took: fifteen minutes.

The point of the story is that yes, I was nice, but not for a particularly nice reason. Still, he got his phone card and some groceries, so that was good. Unfortunately, it didn’t solve any of his problems. I saw him a few days ago, and he had another slew of problems to lay on me. This time, I just listened and said I was sorry for his troubles. When he said he intended to pay me back, I told him to forget the money and went about my business. There was nothing else I could do; his problems went way beyond anything my niceness could solve.

After cogitating about this whole “tired of being nice thing,” I still have no clue what I meant, except to pay attention to the first three words. “I am tired.” I’d read once a long time ago that when people said they were tired of such and such, it often simply meant they were tired, and I think that’s true in this case because I fell asleep reading and slept most of this afternoon.

Some part of me might still be tired of being nice, but at least I’m not tired.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Left-Behind Secrets

A common storyline for mysteries and thrillers is the secrets one finds after the death of one’s husband. Sometimes the husband is not really dead, but faked his demise for nefarious reasons. Sometimes the husband had a secret life, such as a second wife and family. Sometimes the husband was murdered, which eventually uncovers a whole slew of secrets, including whatever he did — sometimes innocently, sometimes with malice — to make someone want him dead.

All these left-behind secrets, of course, add to the grief of the widow because not only does she grieve for her husband, cad that he might have been, but she also grieves for the illusory life she’d taken to be real.

I’ve used this storyline myself for my novel Unfinished, though the secret didn’t really have that much of an impact on my character except for the awful realization that her husband had never trusted her enough to tell her about his past.

This is a popular storyline for a reason. Often, in real life, when clearing out a loved one’s effects, secrets do come to light. Sometimes it’s a stash of love letters, relics of an affair the husband had that the widow never knew about. Sometimes it’s a financial mess that was left behind, though in rare circumstances, it’s a trove of much-needed cash that the widow never knew about.

People are always shocked to find out these secrets because they were sure they knew everything there was to know about their spouse. In a way it makes sense that there are secrets — both the husband and wife generally lead separate lives for most of the day, he with his job, she with hers. Even more than that, though, our brains tend to fill in the gaps. For example, we all have blind spots — literally blind spots in our vision — but our brains fill in the missing information so most of us don’t realize we have a blind spot. It’s the same thing with knowledge. We can only know what we know, so our brains create some sort of boundary that excludes what we don’t know when forming a concept, so we assume that what we know is all there is to know, especially when it comes to a person we’ve lived with for many years and think we know well.

Chances are, we do know that loved one as well as anyone can know another person, but I don’t know how accurate that knowing is. For example, I lived with Jeff for more than three decades, most of which we spent in each other’s company. We worked together, lived together, watched movies together, and talked for hours on end. And yet, there’s no way I would ever assume that what I knew of him is all there was to know. Despite our almost mystical connection, he was his own person. I tend to think that in all the talking we did over the years, I learned most of his life, but there’s no way I could ever know if there were things I didn’t know.

At this point in my life, of course, it doesn’t matter. He was who was, and a big part of dealing with grief is understanding that despite all the love and experiences two people share in a lifetime, in the end, they are two separate people. He had to go his way (to death and beyond, assuming there is a beyond), and I had to go my way. If I were to find out now he had some sort of secret life (secret from me, that is), it wouldn’t seem the betrayal it would have been when he was alive or in the first years of my grief because grief did its work, and I let him go. I still miss him and I still talk to his picture, but that is in no way talking to him. I don’t expect him — the “him” that was once my life mate — to listen to my mutterings, nor do I expect a response. It’s just a way of ending my day, enumerating the highs and lows of the long hours spent mostly alone.

As you’ve probably guessed, the book I am currently reading is about a husband who was murdered and whatever he did to get someone angry enough to beat him to death. (I think it was something innocent, perhaps giving evidence of a crime, but I don’t know yet because I am only halfway through the story.)

One thing I do find interesting is that unlike most books of this ilk, the widow is still grieving a year later. Intensely grieving. Most books have the widow cry a few tears then shrug off their grief and go about their life as if nothing had happened, as if the death was merely a springboard for a change. But this author knows that grief is not simply an emotional upset but is a neurological condition that overloads the brain, changes the chemistry, and affects the neurological system in ways still not understood.

I was impressed with the author’s insight on grief if nothing else.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Truth and Secrets

I came across an interesting quote today: The truth of a person is in her secrets. I know this is true of fiction, especially mysteries and suspense. You learn about a character from what they are willing to do to protect their secrets, and what you think they are willing to do. For example, a reader could think a particular character might be willing to kill to protect that secret, but the character would not take a life under any circumstances.

But is this true in real life? Oh, not the killing part, but the bit about the truth of a person being in her secrets. If so, I have no truth because I have no secrets. I have habits I would prefer people didn’t know about, such as an unconscious tendency to bite off hangnails, and while that might tell you more about me than I would like you to know, it’s not exactly a secret except perhaps from me. If I knew I were doing it, I wouldn’t.

I paused here to look up the definition of secret to see if there is a secret to “secret” I didn’t know that would further explain the quote, but no . . . it’s as I thought. A secret is something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.

Although I might prefer the people I see regularly to know less about me than I disclose here (though surprisingly, it isn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it would be, and in fact, it’s rather nice not having to talk about the minutiae of my life since they already know it from reading my blog), nothing I write about is a secret. When I was writing about my grief, people offline did not see the same sort of grief in me that I wrote about online, but that’s just the way things were. Even if I was hurting, I generally didn’t show it when I was around people. Like every other griever, I soon learned to hide was I was feeling to protect others from having to deal with my pain as well as to protect myself from their well-meaning (and sometimes not well-meaning) platitudes, such as “You have to move on,” and “You need to get over it.”

But as for secrets? Nope. None.

Some people have accused me of being secretive, confusing secretive with reticent, but the truth is that not everyone deserves to know everything about anyone. There needs to be boundaries, and people who try to look beyond the boundaries aren’t necessarily looking for the truth but are simply being nosy.

I do generally answer direct questions, mostly because I am not as devious as I should be and so don’t lie, nor have I ever learned to graciously deflect questions, but I tend to resent probing questions, and it shows. I don’t ask such questions, either, which becomes a problem when I am talking with someone who thinks that probing questions is how one converses. These people generally don’t want to wait until I volunteer information, which I will when it come up naturally in a conversation without the resentment I feel in an “interrogation.” And they feel belittled because they think I don’t care enough about them to ask them questions.

(Jeff and I were both of the “ask no personal questions” school, and yet over the years, we learned almost everything there was to know about each other, the information coming out in myriad conversations.}

This essay has devolved into a discussion of various means of conversing rather than the topic of the truth being in the secrets, but I suppose the two are opposites sides of the same coin. If you don’t divulge personal information, the other person sees secrets rather than reticence.

But it still doesn’t answer the question about the validity of the quote: the truth of a person in is her secrets. I don’t think it can be true except in the case of someone who is nosy enough to want to invade a person’s privacy. The truth of us might be in our most secret self, but that self is for us to know, not for general consumption.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.