in and out of the closet

Since my book came out, I am a favorite person to tell secrets that were never told to anyone before. “Your secret is safe with me,” I tell them, “I am a vault.” It’s true. After years of working in research ethics and compliance, and my current work with sick patients, confidentiality is something I do very well. I would never disclose information gained in confidence.

Still, I can’t help but wonder why some people choose to live with certain secrets. It takes work to hide the unsavory elbow, the objectionable hand, or the entire family anatomy behind an obscuring veil.

That which is kept caged will continue to feed. Stating the simple truth of your life sets it free. Accepting all the parts can lead to a new wholeness. It takes confidence and stamina to grow up to be yourself, closet-bones and all.

Perhaps no one is to blame for that which is kept hidden, but it’s a choice to continue to hide it. No one wants to appear outside “the norm” or be associated with anything that might be a social stigma, but the concept of a “trouble-free normal” is a fallacy. Some problems are just not outwardly apparent and so it’s easier to keep these problems in the closet. Yet, the more we share openly about our lives, the more we realize we are fundamentally the same.

The “Instagram life” we prefer to present to the world, filter and all, is a mask that shows life as idyllic and softened around the edges. It misses the point that the goodness, happiness, fulfillment, peacefulness, and achievement we have in our lives was not inherited or bequeathed. These things were earned. We earned it.

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The first thing that falls away when I am unafraid of fear is my worry of what others think of me. I am the heroine of the story I write about myself. If I were to discard the unflattering chapters, the ending might be less sweet. In the end, each story is a story of survival. We are individuals negotiating our life circumstances — including those stored in the closet — to find an acceptable peace.

You are the journey that leads to yourself. You will spend your life getting there. No one else will reach your particular destination. Each life is a beautiful pilgrimage. For some, the first step of the journey is the one that leads out of the closet.

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