Written by Karen D. Swim
I opened the door and walked into the cool air of the building. As I glanced to the left, I smiled and greeted a woman in eye view. Behind the thick lenses of her glasses, I saw it – that familiar glint. She rushed over to chat. “Hi, how are you?” Her shoulders sagged and she looked at me intently and said, “My daughter is addicted to meth and she’s pregnant.”
A torrent of personal information spilled forth which I shall not repeat here. She took a deep breath when done as though purged and satisfied. I tilted my head to the side waiting for what I knew would come next. As if on cue, her hand flew to her mouth, and her eyes grew wide as she whispered “Oh God, I don’t know why I told you all of that.”
This is a familiar scene in my life. People blurt out their secrets, and then cover their mouth in shock exclaiming, “I don’t know why I told you that! I have never told anyone that. I’m so sorry.” I always respond with empathy reassuring them they have no reason to be embarrassed. We all need someone to listen.
I don’t look like a police officer, and I can’t pull off authoritative if you forced me too. I tried it with NY cabbies and I collapsed into giggles. Yet for some reason a smile and greeting is all it takes for people to pull up the proverbial couch and tell all.
Now, I personally do some goof ball stuff, talk to the mail carrier with soy peanut butter on my chin, fail to realize that my zipper is down (no worries, no one was flashed) or walk into closed doors if I have not had coffee but confess my secrets to strangers? Uh oh, no way! I mean hair sticking up is one thing but raising someone’s hair with my own tales, no thanks!
My magic powers do not end with strangers. I know things. I would tell you but then… well you know the rest of that line. I am the Official Secret Keeper; yep that’s me Grand Poobah of the Vault.
I wonder if I have a glint in my eye that says please tell all. Friends and colleagues have called me Oprah. I do possess mad mediation skills. If there is conflict, I can decompress it in nothing flat, but how have I become the Queen of Confessions. It makes sense (most of the time) when people I know tell me secrets but strangers? These people don’t know me from Adam, Eve. And maybe, just maybe that is the point.
Written by Karen D. Swim
It is easy to confess all to someone who cannot hit you over the head with your own history. A stranger will just listen (or raise an eyebrow and walk away). I am always happy to listen and offer words of encouragement or comfort. I am glad that people find me approachable and somehow sense that I will not rebuke them.
Yet, it also makes me a little sad. I can listen in the moment and hopefully offer words that will help. However, what happens in the days to come when they need support? My friends have me, official secret keeper but what about the people who find themselves confessing to a woman in the produce aisle?
I fear that it is a symptom of our greater need to connect. We have lots of access points but few true connections. Rapid fire email, text and phone conversations are not meeting our needs.
We no longer have “fence neighbors” because we’re fenced in with no time for idle chatter (unless it is done online!). We don’t walk the dog and stop to chat along the way. We have friends but all too often we are too busy to really connect. Instead hurried updates are squeezed between loads of laundry and email.
We are doing ourselves a disservice. It is amazing how wonderful it is to sit and talk, really talk to a friend or loved one without distractions. When we nurture our connections with others we nurture our souls. My friendships have been enriched over the years by sharing. Tears, laughter and prayers have been woven into a tightly weaved bond that holds us together in spite of the miles.
If you have been too busy to connect, take this as your cue. Make some time for friends and family or you may find yourself spilling all to a stranger.
Have you ever confessed to a stranger? Did it help or did you regret it? Has anyone confessed to you? Care to share? The comment box is always open and there is absolutely no charge.