Monday, April 14, 2008

Secrets (listening, continued)

Secrets are often hard things to carry around. They weigh you down, make you old before your time and drive you into isolation. If you have a secret it's easy to think you're the only one who has suffered this terribly truth and this knowledge can change you. Mind you - not all secrets are burdens, some are joyful, but those often end up being shared in short order. I'm talking about the heavy ones. Or the ones that at least feel heavy.

If you can find someone with whom you can share your secret you'll often find that, really, it's not so bad. You're not alone. If someone would just listen to you without judging then your life might be a little better. Chances are pretty good the secret is no worse than anyone else's.

If you're afraid to tell anyone your secret, afraid no one can truly hear your secret without flinching, then there is still hope. Check out PostSecret.

Sometimes we need to know that someone is listening, without seeing their reaction. Maybe it's kind of like going to confession - you name your sins and are somehow forgiven. PostSecret encourages you to write your secret down on a postcard and to send it out. You know someone will read it. You know you're not alone anymore.

A selection of received postcards is posted every Sunday. And you know what? Every week almost, I find one of my own secrets there and I realize, I am not alone.

Through the act of being silently listened to, these revealed secrets accomplish many things. The secret teller has the opportunity to give up their burden. The secret reader may find themselves on the screen and realize they are not the only one who has carried a particular secret. And the community that has arisen around sharing secrets, via PostSecret, is impressive and has helped many people through their own dark nights, by listening to each other's secrets with kindness and compassion.

If you're reading this blog you may already know about PostSecret. Check it out again anyway. You are not alone. And if you're wondering if I've sent in a secret I will tell that yes, I have. It helped. I don't need to tell you what it is, because someone else already knows, already listened to me, already shared my burden.

Letting go of your secrets can be an act of survival. Creative Commons License

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

On dying visibly

I know I have a lot to say about listening, but life and death keep getting in the way. I have a post half written that I'll finish when I can. For now, though, there is this.

I wanted to bring a powerful article and photo display to your attention. Walter Schels is a photographer living in England. He has taken a series of photos of people in hospice care, recorded their stories with the assistance of his partner, and then took another photo after they died. This is all on display in a London gallery, but more immediately you can read an article about it here and see the photos here.

The entire exhibit is called Life Before Death and stands as a reminder that so many of us only begin to live when we know we're going to die. When I had cancer I lived with more immediacy and vibrancy than I had before. I celebrate my not-dead day (April 19th, for those of you who may be interested) to remind me that yes, I am alive. Yes, this is the only chance I get to live fully.

All that aside, these photos are beautiful. The stories are so human and stand as a testament to how alike we all are, how we all have the same needs - to be loved, cared for, to not die in utter isolation, to be remembered.

Take a look. It's not frightening but has a somber beauty, like the tolling of a bell.

(c) 2008 Laura S. Packer
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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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