A while back while she was in the midst of her yoga certification, my young cousin reached out to ask me a question about the relationship of her grandparents (my great aunt and uncle) who had by that time, divorced.
Without much thought, I answered her with the truth as I knew it—the facts according to my mother and Oma. When my Oma, Opa and mother had first immigrated to Canada from Austria in the 1950s, they shared a house with his brother and new wife, a 20-year-old from Berlin (my cousin’s grandparents). The two couples worked more than one job, learned the language and hustled to build their lives. It was a rocky road.
Neither me or my cousin had grown up with any first-hand experience of certain, ugly family lore. But unlike in my house, where the gory residue of experience coated our lives in drama, my cousin grew up around a fake, fairy-tale silence filled page after page of what was never spoken of again. When I asked why she was asking, she didn’t give me a clear answer and I chalked it up to the discovery that happens when you start to do any inner work. Yoga means union and she had begun to reunite with her whole self. She was becoming visible.
From this vantage point I would have redirected my cousin back to her grandmother and mother, since it wasn’t really any of my business and the facts I knew were second-hand. But at that time, I was self-righteous about the “truth” and was over all of my family’s secrets and just kind of blurted it out in relief. This cousin had long struggled with her weight and I could tell in the presence of her grandfather, she wasn’t totally at ease. Her body knew things that her mind was unconscious of, and she was eating the unspoken anger of all of the women in her family. I thought the truth would be helpful and set her free.
Secrets have energy. They live in the ether and shape us long after the experience of them is done. For some secrets keep them invisible. For others secrets allow life to be lived to the fullest without the cost of shame or judgement. What we don’t know keeps us innocent or ignorant depending on your vantage point. But either way, holding onto the energy of what happened, even when you think you aren’t focused on it, keeps the vibration of the secret alive, and present, as a magnetic force.
For me the most powerful thing about a secret is what happens when you tell it. I love the transformation opened by release. That’s why this week’s episode “A Lesson on the Things We Hide” with Matthew Chavez is so interesting to me. It’s also a milestone because it’s the first time we invited a male guest onto the podcast.
Chavez started his Subway Therapy project in the New York city subway with a table and two chairs, a table where New Yorkers would sit and share secrets while the trains went by. The day after the 2016 election, he brought sticky notes and what happened at that table went viral.
Something magical and miraculous happened that day and Chavez describes the experience as bigger than him as an artist.
Isn’t that exactly how the great work of your creative business should be?