On Secret Identities

I’m sure it will stun and amaze you to hear that I am veeeery used to confessing to the entire world what’s on my mind, even when it’s something personal. If we’re being fully honest, change that to “especially when it’s something personal.” I’ve learned from experience that being honest and vulnerable helps you connect to other people and it often provides them with what they need to hear for stuff they’re going through. I like doing that. I also happen to be a member of several demographics (feminist, bisexual, living with an anxiety disorder) that I feel could use more representation, and that will only come from speaking up and out. So I try to do that, too.

I’m not as good at keeping private what really should remain private.

Confessing feels good. There’s a rush when you say something that wouldn’t normally get mentioned in polite conversation and someone says “ME TOO!” Or even just, “Oh, that’s interesting.” I talk to my friends and family a lot. They know basically everything that goes on in my life. Probably more than they want or need to. I like the feeling, of multiplying a joy or halving a burden, that you get when you tell someone what’s really going on with you.

I’m starting to realize, though, that there are healthy boundaries that you can and really should establish in your life. For example: Most of the details of your romantic relationships should probably remain between you and your partner. People talk about relationships being like houses that can have some windows but also need doors that can be closed and walls that can’t be walked through (unless you’re dating or are friends with a ghost). That’s not to say that if there’s a serious problem you shouldn’t seek outside help, but just that you need to build a certain trust with your partner.

I’m decent at keeping secrets…

…if I know you don’t want them passed on.

I have to know that, though. I’m not always great at gauging whether or not a given fact or occurrence should be shared and with whom. I’m outspoken enough about my sexual orientation, political leanings, relationship status, and health that I have a hard time sometimes realizing that other people wouldn’t want me to be as outspoken about theirs. My first instinct is to share–not to gossip, not to say anything malicious or untrue, but just to share true stories in case the information is helpful or interesting to other people.

I’m working on that. More than that, though, I’m working on setting up some boundaries in my own life. I still believe that there are aspects of my life that are personal that I can and should talk about in an unfiltered forum on the internet. I think the benefits of being a proud feminist, advocate for the understanding of mental health issues, bisexual woman, and believer in the rights of all people to live with the same basic rights and privileges far outweigh any costs.

All that being said, there are some areas of my life for which I am going to claim a secret identity.

Superheroes have them, why not me?

One of the areas of my life that, at least in terms of the blog, has always been established as firmly behind the velvet curtain (pay no attention to that woman!) is my romantic relationships when/if I have them. See above. No airing of dirty laundry, no naming names, no talking in anything other than broad generalities or about specifics of feeling how I feel and how people in diverse situations might feel the same way.

I’m consciously adding other aspects of my life to the list. Some of them are so secret that I won’t even say what those aspects are! Let me tell you, after two years of stream-of-consciousness logorrhea in a weblog, this is not second nature to me, but it’s something I need to do right now. It’s not that I’m shutting these parts of my life away from all other people; rather, it’s that I have appropriate venues for discussion and I am going to avail myself of them.

I’m used to confession being liberating, and I didn’t expect that privacy could be the same, but I’m starting to realize that the ability to say “no” is one of the most freeing things there is.

I don’t have to give lengthy explanations or excuses when a person asks me about something in my life.

I don’t have to get into debates I don’t want to have or to put myself in uncomfortable situations because I can’t think of a way to talk myself out.

I don’t have to engage with every person who wants to engage with me.

All that stuff can be so exhausting. It’s really cool to realize that I have a choice. And it’s hard to argue with “No, thanks.”

It’s possible that at some time in the future I will want to talk about some of the things I am not going to talk about right now, and that’s cool. Nothing is set in stone. It’s cool, too, to know that I’m fully in control of that choice, and that I can wait until I’ve established trust with someone (or with the internet, or with myself) to share.

I’m building my secret identity, an identity so secret that she doesn’t even have a name yet, although like Clark Kent, people in the know will probably think she’s pretty obviously me in a pair of glasses with no frames. She doesn’t even try to disguise her voice or wear a wig or anything. It’s pretty ridiculous.

Have a great weekend, everybody–heroes, villains, and incognito mutants alike.

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