I have parts of me that I don't want to be seen. I have parts of me that I don't you to see. I want to be seen as intelligent and funny and kind, clever and generous and friendly. And I hope those things are true. But, what is also true is that I'm impatient and sarcastic and sometimes unkind. I'm selfish and high-maintenance and unreasonable and snippy.
I don't want you to see those things. I don't like that you know about them, that you can see them. So, I hide them. But, every once in a while, in a flash of trust laced with fear, I show someone deliberately. I confess my deepest secrets that reveal the darkest parts of me, sure that love is going to be ripped away -- and the funniest thing happens.
I didn't surprise them. They don't rip their love away -- because they already knew.
When I was seven or eight years old, I shared a bedroom and a set of bunkbeds with my younger four-year-old sister, Carey. One night, she begged to switch places so she could sleep on the top bunk herself. So, we did - but then she got scared. (Truly, this is the worst story... I am totally ashamed of what is about to transpire. Worst. Sister. Ever.)
"Joey... will you hold my hand?" she asked in her sweet little girl voice.
"Sure," I said, as I reached my hand up toward the top bunk while she let hers dangle over the edge. JUST as her fingertips were about to reach mine, I was possessed by Evil Older Sister mode. I pulled my hand down a few inches, and said "Oh... I can't reach!"
She dangled her arm a little further down... and again, I pulled my hand down, claiming I still couldn't reach. So, she... leaned out... and... fell. out. of. the. bed.
And then turned green. I was petrified. My mom rushed in... Carey ended up with a broken wrist, but I NEVER TOLD A SOUL that it was my fault.
Enter years of kid guilt. I knew it was my fault.
Finally, when I was 16 years old, after dying with guilt for eight years, I took a deep breath and confessed to my mom that the whole thing happened because I was being a huge brat to Carey.
"Oh," my mom said, off-hand. "I already knew that."
I was incredulous. "You knew??"
"Well, of course I knew. I'm a mother... we know everything."
"But! But!" I sputtered. "Why didn't you SAY anything?"
"Well, I didn't want to make you feel bad." Which was sort of funny -- seeing as I'd been feeling AWFUL for eight years because I thought I had gotten away with something.
But, I think that sharing the worst parts of ourselves with people who love us is a lot like that. We think we're doing a good job of hiding the parts of us that we're ashamed of... and when we finally get the courage to share those parts of us with the people we love, it turns out that they knew those things all along...
And they love us anyway. And maybe we needn't have been so frightened.