I have a secret life. There are no illicit affairs or confidential careers. I don’t possess a second family or a well-hidden illness. But, within my own mind, I keep some things tucked away.
I was well past 20 when I fully understood that, no matter how profoundly I loved my partner, we would never actually be the same person. Our love wouldn’t evolve to support telepathic thought-sharing, and we would sometimes disagree not because of miscommunication, but because we fundamentally saw things differently. I could barely believe it. At 24, this was a blow.
If I couldn’t brazenly bare my entire being – recite every nuanced sentence of the poem of my life, no matter how long I talked – if he couldn’t turn his heart inside out for me to discover every little polyp of doubt and burn them away like warts… we would never really be soul mates. How could we ever find our way to each other in the fog of all the things we didn’t know? This realization felt to me like the emotional equivalent of the mythical Catholic modesty sheets: one tiny hole to find my lover through, with all the most beautiful parts wrapped behind a thin but impermeable layer of NO.
But now. How the great world spins. 13 months shy of 30, I treasure my secret life. It is so simple, really. My secret life is the mental equivalent of a little cabin by a lake. In my cabin, I say everything out loud, even when I know I’m being mean-spirited or foolish. I can always correct myself later, because the walls don’t remember. My lake holds the most beautiful fish, and I don’t cast lines for them. I sing to them instead, like a storybook princess, and they rise shining to the surface, my fish of hopes and dreams. They make heavenly meals on the occasions when I do catch them, fully bake them, and bring them into reality to nourish our daily existence… but, in my secret life, their subtle flashing beneath the waves is nourishment enough.
My husband knows me better than anyone ever will. Except my mother. And my best friend. But even they – my trifecta of love – don’t know one definitive version of Jennie. I morph just slightly for each of them. And the metal screw that holds all my angles together as I open and close, like some mathematical compass? It’s buried in the garden of my cabin by the lake. The very center? That’s all mine.
Do you have a secret life?