The Secret Pocket
I watched surreptitiously. Not sneaking a peek, really, but watching unaware. I was young and as such not regarded. But the hand went to the belt, and then returned. I was not sure what was there, but I knew that it was something worthwhile. Worthy of keeping, but not to be shown. Years went by. The behavior didn’t stop, and it didn’t change, even though the places and people and times changed. I was older now, but still not clear on what was transpiring. So, I asked.
“Grandpa?”, I started, “why do you do that?” “What is going on?” He was surprised, but only a little, at my bold and direct manner. We were able to see into each other’s eyes… he knew he could not put me off on this. “It is my secret pocket”, he said. “A place that I don’t show to others.” “You have one as well, but it is in a different place for you”. I pondered a bit, but I had no places that were secret. No spot in my belt, no extra part of a regular pocket, no locket that I kept quiet about. I didn’t understand. “You have a place that you hold in reserve, and only look through on occasion.” “Sometimes for reference, sometimes for remembrance, sometimes simply to balance things out so you can continue on.”
I pondered for a while. “Where?”, I enquired. He said that it was in my mind. A place that I stored and sorted and processed things. Different times and different speeds and different results. “Why do you have a place on your belt?”, I pressed. “I am old, my friend… I need a mnemonic to remind me where it is stored.” “Sometimes to remember what it is that is stored there.” “Give me an example, if you would?”, I asked, never short of boldness.
“There is a place that is reserved, private if you will. Kept aside for only a special visitor to see.”, he began. “Remember that time you were the champion speller, well I put that into the secret pocket.” “It is a precious place to store things of value, memories, pains, joys, hopes and sorrows.” “It is secret because I need to guard it, for my own protection, but I will let others see from time to time.” “Special Others, that earn the right to be shown, and to them perhaps only some but not all of the contents.”
I was beginning to realize the double play. The place that was secret, was the abode of secrets. Not only kept as a private place, but a place of private things. Things told by others, but to not be shared. Things that were experienced firsthand, and things only heard about. Experiences, and hopes, and broken things. Personal and private kinds of stories, and not for public display. Stories of weakness and impotence, stories of struggle and sorrow and the story of the work of keeping them in that place, that place that was a secret.
Lament. A different kind of word. A word that is pregnant with emotion, waiting to bring forth it’s tidings. A word that is needing a time and a place and a phase that is required to process and develop. And then it comes. Lament is a term that begs for the receiver of it. A “mid-wife for the pain”, to carry on the picture. Someone that is willing to be a part of the mess, knowing that it is worth the labors and the struggles. Sometimes the items in the secret place are dormant, for a long time. And then they awake, to end their time in hiding. To come forth and into the light.
There are stories that are secret which you hope are never told. Like, the reason your friend has so many traits different than their family… but you never asked. Stories of the past daring-do that were a bit shady, or outright illegal, but were never told. Tales of the visits in the night by the neighbor, and the money that came for the trip south. There are tales of the hospital, the friends that know but don’t tell. The stories of pain unresolved and the stopping of going to church anymore. Of betrayal. So many bad things get put there. To process. To hide…
We talk about the joys, so they may be there, but they get mentioned from time to time. But what of the secret lover that restored your soul, that time you needed it so… That time in that place you should not have been and the friend that retrieved you… That knowledge that they would never break silence. One of the secrets is actually the fear that the secret would emerge. Unexpected, undesired, unbelievable, but here it is. The sentence, “Hi, I think you are my dad”, and then you have to sit down for a while. This secret place is a place of secrets.
It requires a lot of energy to keep them there. Hidden. When the cold is high enough even the molecules stop moving… Absolute zero… until you are exhausted, one day. It usually goes like what happened to Job. First his children, then his slaves, livestock and homes… Worn down by repeated blows, and then the friends. There is a curious statement after this bit of news that Job makes, “That which I feared has come to pass.” It is the secret behind the secret… We know it can come to pass. Deep down we know, and are afraid… Later on, it is an interesting thing that happens, God comes along for a conversation and says that Job was a bit prideful about his life and needed to own that bit of reality. You will find, if you think about it a bit, that there are two compartments for the secrets. One is that which holds the stuff that are part of the life and friends that we have lived life with. Alzheimer’s, deaths, failures and struggles and sorrows of our days. They are secret, but mostly because each day is filled with the stuff and mostly we keep to our own about it. The other side is that which we perpetrate as violations of character. Violations and betrayals and scheming to suppress others and elevate ourselves. These are a different version of secret. They pollute and defile and corrupt. They are not the stuff of the everyday and are the root of the shame in the telling thereof.
If you were to tell of the miscarriage, others have had that and will talk quietly with you. Often with tears. Tell of the misappropriation of the church funds for a trip to the casino, and that is different by a long way. Tell of the time that you were angry at God and why, and you will get a “yeah, me too…” from a friend. Tell of the time you fleeced your friends and took their ideas for personal gain and you will be ridiculed as a lout. Tell of your needing to raise your granddaughter because the drugs had caused the daughter to lose custody, and your real friends will weep with you. You understand… too many stories to continue.
Let’s go back to lament for a moment. The idea of sorrow at being caught is notably different than repentance and lament at your pitiable state. When the second group gets thawed enough to come out, then you can lament about it. If it comes too soon, then you will just be angry that you were exposed… Big difference. If you are the “listening friend” kind of person, you need to know the difference and how to apply it. If you are about to be exposed, then lean into it. Own it. Accept it. You cannot get to the healing without the labor of it. It will be messy, but it will be better. You will have a pocket for someone else’s secrets. You may give birth to a friend. Perhaps it will even be yourself.
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