Secrets, Shame and Growth

Some days (well, many days) I worry that I’ve lost myself.  Or maybe I am just finding myself because I never really had a strong sense of self, not until relatively recently.

Growing up, I was told how to be and how I should be.  A strong student. A wife with a career, but not a career that would ever get in the way of family.  A wife with a husband from the same ethnic community, to preserve the culture and raise children in the same faith.  To be smart, but not too smart as to threaten the husband.  To never, ever get divorced.  To have brilliant little children to parade around for the approval of others, like I was.

It has taken me many, many years to fully appreciate how stifling this was.  I am not angry however – I understand that my parents (my mother in particular) grew up in a certain culture at a certain time in history and with all that baggage, they did the best they could with what they had.

They did better than many in their community – at least they didn’t hire a hit man to take out any of my boyfriends.  Of course, it’s not as if they knew about many of them…but still.  They turned a blind eye to the few shenanigans I engaged in, so long as my marks remained strong.

I grew up to become a pleaser, to no one’s surprise.  And please I did for many years.  When I knew I couldn’t please, I lied in order to please. Give the people what they want, I thought.  It was just easier that way.

I’ve shed this instinct in so many ways.  Shame is a dangerous emotion. But I’m not 100% there.  I am a work in progress.


I had a lover for awhile.  Long after my divorce, not while I was married. He was my secret and I was his.  He was at the tail end of a dying relationship and I was in a very active, post-divorce dating phase.  If the timing had worked out differently, we might have ended up together but…we didn’t.  I recognize now that in so many ways he would not have been a good choice.  Still, however I am sad.

I try to figure out this sadness.  Maybe I am sad because he was one of my first truly independent decisions- even if it was a bad one.  Maybe it is because he understood so many elements of my reality.  Maybe it was his intense passion.


I really worried once upon a time about my secrets being made public. About the world seeing that I’ve made some bad choices.  I used to fret and worry because this would be The Worst Thing Ever.

But, I have come to realize that there is a heaviness that comes with the keeping of secrets.  A sense of privacy is healthy, but shame and debilitating fear are not.


And now I have made some very conventional choices that my mother, in her current state, is unable to appreciate.  It is ironic, that I am living in the kind of house she wanted for me, with the kind of person she wanted for me.  I finally made some ‘good’ choices – but choices for me this time.


I don’t know where I and this life where go.  I know that the only certainty is change.


None of this is distressing to me.  If anything, I see only possibility ahead.