I used to keep a stack of ‘Sin’ flashcards in my coat pocket. Gluttony. Selfishness. Anger. Sloth. Greed. Lust. Envy. Pride. Wrath. Neglect. Vanity. Deception. And I’d take them out and go over them, thinking how horrible I’d been that day, ranking them in order of which defined me best. When I talked to people, I wondered what they’d think if they knew the order of the cards. If they knew of my sins…
It’s been proven again and again: keeping secrets can’t be healthy. National Geographic contends that keeping secrets increases the chance of psychosomatic diseases. Research shows that those who keep secrets, even subconsciously, separate themselves from others perhaps even to the point of alienation and psychosis.
Eastern Medicine sees health of the body as inseparable from that of the mind. Stress on the psyche will manifest itself physically on the body; secrets will have their toll. Healthy boundaries may help keep necessary autonomy and a sense of privacy but only so far as they don’t stunt conversations that matter, exploration of relatable territory, or establishing intimacy based on authentic disclosure. Both written, online and face-to-face insightful disclosure has shown to improve self-efficacy, emotional well-being, and even functional well-being.
Everyone has secrets! But few will share them. It’s a massive deception we all partake in; pretending to be fine, to be someone more acceptable, to keep a stoic face and maintain a façade. But why? For what and for whom?
In the spirit of New Years, staying healthy and in humor, I decided to be the first to confess some of my secrets and sins (my lesser ones). Maybe by the end of this list you’ll feel less alone in your vices, encouraged to be a part of the whole despite your fragmenting faults, and more comfortable in sharing yourself…
Secret 1: I sometimes can’t tell if I’m alive. Psychologically speaking, this could maybe refer to Dissociation issues. One of my college roommates told me, “You’re so chill. We could throw rocks at you and you’d still be okay.” And it’s true; I can be a walking comatose sometimes. It’s not that I’m resilient, brave or a strong person—I’m just not sure I’m alive. Sometimes when people talk to me, I genuinely don’t know who they’re talking to. When I’m at the dentist, I see myself lying there, like I’m a third person watching. I know other people feel this way. Lena Dunham writes about ‘out of body’ experiences too, how she sometimes secretly feels away from herself.
Secret 2: There are only two foods I love more than fruit loops and I cannot distinguish between any kind of wine. Okay I can, but definitely not in proportion to the connoisseur’s hype. Having worked in the hospitality industry as a bartender at a wine bar, Secret 2 is also a sin.
Secret 3: I kind of have anger management issues. People may think I take Muay Thai Martial Arts classes in an attempt to be cool, sexy, suave, maybe to relate to boys. The secret is, it’s because I have trouble expressing my anger, a confidence problem neither romantic endeavors nor mere talking can fix. Suggestions included partaking in positive outlets of aggression, namely channeling it through a violent sport; I chose Muay Thai boxing. Sometimes my sisters tell me to go down stairs and punch the punching bag. I also have an Anger Management App on my phone. I sometimes count to ten and breathe deeply. FREAK.
Secret 4: I’m horrible at spelling. I’ve used Google to help me spell lamppost. I once had a half hour argument with my sister on how to spell the word segue, confidently convinced it was saguay. “Trust me Tricia, I text that word all the time because I never have a good segue,” I said.
Secret 5: I like eating alone because I eat like an animal. Enough said. I could elaborate in a really disgusting and graphic HBO way but nah, TMI. I’m sure the nature channel could film me with anthropological comments on my jaw size and strength. The rest is up to your imagination! (ew).This secret is also a sin.
Secret 6: I talk to myself. This secret isn’t really secret though. You’ve probably seen me talk to myself and perhaps the first time you met me I was having a conversation, answering a question or laughing at a joke….I told to myself. This habit comes from living in China where English speakers run scant but people plenty, where cultural thought patterns clash. Often the only thinker similar to you is you, the only mirror of familiarity against accepting insanity.
Secret 7: I live as if I already have early onset dementia even though I don’t. In my mind, I think that by beating my brain to its own demise, I can somehow lessen the shock of its destruction. In this way, it’s not a distant approaching fear of mine anymore. In other words, I’m so afraid of Alzheimer’s disease, I’ve basically gone ahead and adapted to living with it already in an extreme attempt to lessen the fear: exposure therapy. I say to myself, I already have it so, what’s to fear? For me, it’s not a competition about how morbid people are, there’re just different kinds of morbidity. And that’s mine…
Secret 8: I’m a farm girl. This isn’t a secret, but for some reason people don’t identify me as one, probably because I’m clumsy, I like cities and I randomly talk in a British accent. But I grew up on a farm in a very hardcore way; extended periods of brooding work in silence, physical labor, being so dirty I perpetually had dirt under my nails and in the crevices of my hands, having hay scratches and blisters. One guy told me he’d grown up on a farm, a card he pulled out for the ladies. But his stories paled in comparison to those from home. My idea of hard work easily dwarfed his, in both time and difficulty. I’m not impressed by laconic farm boys, frustrated by their isolated burden of old fashioned insight. I’m not impressed by slumdog millionaire tales, stories of construction toil or a day’s slavery. YAWN.
Secret 9: Guilt. When I do nothing wrong, I feel guilty. When I do everything right, I feel guilty. I perpetually feel guilty, no matter what. Probably because in Kindergarten I lied about having a pet baby chicken. Amongst other sins. At Christian School, I remember the week where I tried to rid myself of that secret guilt forever: I only ate almonds, I volunteered at the inner city hospital, I ran three hours a day, I refused to think about sex, material possessions or anything worldly. I read the news before I went to bed and cried myself to sleep while I prayed for world peace. I went to chapel three times throughout the week and also to Church on Sunday. I sat near the front and took copious notes, desperate for redemption. I gave away all my name-brand clothes and fancy earrings. My professor gave me pamphlets on martyrdom.
There you go. My nine deadly and secret sins. Maybe I’ll make flashcards and flip through them. Secret number 10? I only lost sight of that guilt when I did exactly what I wanted, lived full-on how I’d never dared before. Fearless and courageous, independent. Only then do I feel completely free. Free; like I have no secrets, like all my sins feel so good…they just might be pardoned.