Coping With Loss – Chapter 14 : Secrets

Everyone has a secret, but once you die, those secrets tend to go with you, except the ones you leave behind. My mother wasn’t what you call secretive, rather, she was very selective of whom she told things too. Some people were informed about certain things, while others left completely in the dark. To this day I still carry secrets she once told me, which I will respectfully keep until I myself die.

One of my mother’s biggest secrets, at least to me, was how early she claimed she caught her cancer. When she was originally diagnosed, she told me that she caught it rather early. I came to find out later that she had lied, and instead was diagnosed with late stage three leaning on early stage four. She most likely told me this for because if I were to know how far along she was, I would know her chances of survival weren’t as good as she made it out to seem.

In time I learned that I was always the last to know things related to her cancer. In some regard, I tended to take a less hands on approach and treat her like she wasn’t sick. To her it might have seemed like I was living in denial, which was the furthest from the truth. I was highly aware of her ailment, and rather perceptive to times she struggled with getting through the day. I made the choice to keep quiet about it, and continue treating her like she was perfectly fine. This choice was in hopes of giving her the feeling that she could still do anything she wanted to, but in the end it made me seem as though I was distancing myself from a problem I couldn’t come to terms with.

I was the last to find out she was given one to six months to live, and admittedly it was hard to swallow. Looking at someone who lives with an expiration date looming over them creates a sense of tension and anxiety, especially if you are the one whom it sits above. There were times I panicked and would barrage her with questions about things she clearly didn’t want to think about, and others times I would engross myself with things to avoid the thought. In the end, the turning point for me was seeing my mother at her worst.

On accident I walked in on her sitting on the side of her bed, listening to some music and crying. She, like any rational person, was trying to cope with the reality of death. While she tried to cover it up and say she was fine, I insisted she talk with me about it, to which we did. She shared with me her fears, her doubts, her hopes and her regrets. She admitted feelings she had kept bottled away, worried that just speaking of them might cause problems. A flurry of secrets, and a stream of tears, filled the room for well over an hour as we sat there talking. I tried to reassure her, give her advice and thank her for everything she had done up until that point.

While it is selfish to think, there is a part of me that believes it helped her feel more comfortable, and relieved, that her death wouldn’t cause rippling problems that fractured her family or tore apart her friends. That dying wasn’t her fault, and it was okay to express herself. Ironically, I sat there, telling my mother these things and ultimately living my life the exact opposite. I held back my tears as I talked with her, I never talking about my own fears, doubts, hopes and regrets. Ultimately, letting her die without saying anything, and enduring the recoil as those very emotions let unspoken now coil around me and constrict my every thought.

I feel that everyone has a big secret that they keep, tucked away and perpetually ignored. We all have something we’d rather not admit, and yet, admitting it might not turn out as badly as you convince yourself it will. For me, I feel that my secret could cause problems in plenty of situations, and ultimately force me to choose a path I have long since stopped thinking about. As stupid as I feel doing it, my biggest secret is this; I only show one-third of the person I truly am.

For those who know me, it is hard to conceptualize, being that for almost two decades I have been essentially putting on a farce, all to protect something that might not have needed it in the first place. At my core, I am just a happy-go-lucky child. I enjoy adventure and going to new places, seeing new sights and learning new things. I wear my heart on my sleeve and can easily empathize with others. I enjoy being silly and making people laugh, as well as laughing alongside others. I am blindly optimistic and compassionate. I always want to help others, regardless of who they are, and have trouble saying no. Daydreaming is a pleasurable pastime for me and finding new worlds to engross myself into excites me.

I could go on, but by now you get the point. So why bother pretending to be someone you aren’t? Why invest so much effort into inventing some character and deceiving others who trust you? The answer is fairly simple; I did it to protect myself. Sure I could have just put on an act in public and been myself in private, but somewhere along the way, I made the choice that my personality isn’t built to survive in this world. Now I am not trying to get psychological or philosophical, not to mention highly convoluted, but there is truth to that statement.

People are generally selfish creatures, and those who are not, tend to be taken advantage of by the ones who are. You can get into a debate about merely limiting yourself to not being so easily taken advantage of, or training yourself to say no more often, but I argue that it is no different from me putting up a farce. I am still acting like someone I am not, so to me, if I am placed in a position to alter my behavior, I might as well go all out. So being my lazy self I just chose the opposite personality of myself and ran with it.

Expressing this secret changes nothing however, while acting the way I am doesn’t make me any happier as a person, going back to who I am isn’t the best idea either. I can’t simply remove decades of actions and personality that people have come to attribute as myself. I also struggle with breaking out of the farce I created, defaulting to it when I find myself uncomfortable with a situation or being around those who know me.

In the end, in the days I have to myself, I spend them being who I truly am, while on the surface keeping up a façade merely to keep things consistent. Keeping secrets to yourself is natural, but there are times that certain secrets are worth expressing even if the circumstances surrounding them might not garner a favorable reaction. It all boils down to how heavy the given secret weighs on you, and if telling it might relieve some burned from your shoulders and allow you to carry on in life happier.