Sunday, July 31, 2005

Click "Yes" to Shut Down

What happens when a girl who is normally very reserved and secretive opens up to her friends?

She gets burned.

What happens when, against your better judgment, things normally kept to yourself are said aloud in confidence?

Somebody tells.

Seriously, I was unaware of the Friendship Guidebook rule that said "When telling a secret, you must preface it with 'Don't tell anybody.'" I was, apparently, also unaware of the subparagraph addendum that states, "Even if the teller says 'Don't tell anybody,' she doesn't really mean it. Feel free to tell anyone you like."

In the past week I have been burned twice by my own words. I guess I should've known better, followed my normal path and kept important, private information to myself. But I diverged from my normal route and chose to talk. I reasoned that these people are my friends, and I should be able to speak of things - all things, personal or otherwise - and know that a friend will take that information and keep it. Hold it. And never let it out. But I was wrong.

What began, in both cases, as a simple comment turned into an adult version of Telephone, where my words became more twisted with each telling. By the time the game spun back around to me, I could hardly recognize my original sentiment. But the damage had been done. Words were spoken with my name attached to them, and they bit me in the ass. Hard.

No one was hurt, except for me, and things in the lives around me have all calmed down and faded back into normalcy. Except for the things in my life. I'm left to wonder: What's the point of having friends if you can't talk to them?

It takes a great deal for me to open up. I'll tell you a million stories about my bad dates, my boring single life, work, or something embarrassing I did and never think twice about it. The pieces of my life that I offer to acquaintances are merely appetizers; they're good, but there's no real substance to them. I reserve the main courses for people I feel that I can trust. I know that they'll take and devour the dishes, never to be served again. What I don't expect is for those same entrees to be regurgitated at will and offered to another chef.

So I wade through shallow friendships, offering only enough of myself to give the friends the illusion that they know me, but keeping enough of myself to myself to ensure my privacy. Many of my friends have never, will never, see me mad at them. They've never seen me truly upset, they've never seen me cry tears of complete desperation. Those, I keep to myself. I'm never exceptionally happy or exceptionally sad. I keep my most polar emotions under wraps, for fear of being judged for them. I weed out the fair-weather friends until I come up with three or four people who I know will ride my tumultuous wave of emotions with me, and love me just the same. But when I feel secure enough with someone, the dam opens. I trust completely and spill my guts. How down I can get. My obsessions. How I really feel about so-and-so. How depressed I am, how utterly joyous. They know it all.

Usually, this system works for me. By the time I've opened up, my friend has paid his or her dues, and I'm sure that whatever I've said to them will stay with them forever, cross their heart, hope to die.

Apparently, the system has some glitches.

Because now I feel betrayed. I feel like all the progress I've made by letting a few more people into my mind has just been unraveled. I feel unraveled. And I feel myself closing up. I can see me folding in on myself, keeping all of my words light and not at all personal. I only want to talk about silly things: How much I spent at Shop Rite this weekend, the great sale I found at Express. And, conversely, I don't want to hear anyone else's problems. Normally the therapist for my friends, I found myself getting frustrated and annoyed this weekend when my advice was requested. I can't talk to anybody about MY problems, why should you be able to?

And I know right where this is headed: To complete shut down. Save for one or two people, no one will be privy to my inner thoughts. It's not healthy. It's not even fun. In fact, it makes me miserable. But I feel like I've been violated. By my own words. So I just won't speak. And it's a slippery slope from there to Laurie, is everything okay? It is a question I will be asked no less than a hundred times, when my silence is louder than my secrets. And I will lie, and say that things are fine.

When really, I'm just shutting down.


Scoot said...

Why lie when people ask, L. I would just say some version of the truth: That you are merely choosing to participate at a more superficial level.

oh by the way, I won't tell your secrets unless you spill it on the podcast or something ;)

Paul said...

If you can count on three or four friends to stick by you through hell or high water consider yourself fortunate, Laurie. At the tender age of 24 you are learning valuable life lessons. Take these lessons and grow. The mistakes we make today make us stornger tomorrow. With a smile on your face and one foot in front of the other you will continute marching on. Something tells me when all is said and done you will find yourself on top of the heap. For that your have yourself and your family to thank....and a few close friends.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

It’s ok sis,
Everyone’s system has a flaw, even mine. Remember how I got caught steeling puppies under a full moon. Lol, and hey I am always here for you to talk to, I do not just have a handsome face, I also have ears.
Love ya sis,

Kristi said...

What paul said is true.
We can have lots of acquantances, but very few close 'friends'
You will grow with your years and eventually be able to live thru these life lessons easier.
Don't shut down Laurie. you've got the outlet of the blog. use it. Its your tool.
Its my tool.
Its a lot of peoples.
Just don't shut down.
You have so very much on your plate right now. It must be so overwhelming! I know right where you are coming from.
It might not get better, but it will get different. And change is always Good!

Charlie Mc said...

It's a shame, but people feast off of other people's business/hardships/secrets. I hope whomever did this to you grows up sometime soon. I also hope you feel better soon and you've learned from it.

kate said...

This happens to the best of us. I too have had my words used against me in the past and I have learned to not share too much with certain people because of it. The only person who gets the real me 100% of the time is my best friend Sue. She's seen me at my best and she's seen me at my worst. Everyone else gets the edited version of me. I learned that early on.

Casey said...

This is exactly why I don't really have any girlfriends. Life has taught me that you can rarely trust anyone completely.

I'm sorry you're going through this. :(

Anonymous said...

Paul is definately right. As you get older you are lucky you have two or three friends that you really call "friends". I lost a twenty-year friendship (or so i thought) over jealousy (theirs not mine) hurt like a knife i thought we were beyond that. There are alot of "good" people out there you've got to move on
Trusting someone is a vulnerability and we must take chances. You will find trust and friendship again it's out will just take you longer....but those are the "friends" you'll have for life! It's funny i always say....who is around when you are sick, or there was a tragedy, or you needed something, or you needed to talk at 3 a.m., the list gets very narrow.
Keep your head on straight and don't let their stupid behavior affect who
YOU are....don't let them have that control over you.....cut them off and move on .....happiness is best for YOUR soul.

Laurie said...

Casey, would you believe that it was two GUY FRIENDS who burned me? And here I thought it was the girlfriends I should be worried about!

Julie said...


I'm sorry that your trust was betrayed. But don't give up on sharing things with friends. Maybe things need to be done differently in the future...or maybe this was a one time deal. But don't close yourself off. I was just talking with a dear friend the other day...I was sharing that I was having a hard time being vulnerable lately...that I felt a little closed off and she asked me, "Where does the best stuff happen? Where do you grow the most?" And I answered, "It happens when you are vulnerable, when you are willing to go deep and really be present." Some times I have a hard time going there...but I'm always glad that I did. As for girlfriends, I wish I had more. My closest ones are scattered all over the country. I have a few in Portland with me and I treasure them like sisters.

kate said...

Two guy friends? Well, that's a whole different animal. Since I don't have any real guy friends, I'm not equipped to give advice on the matter.

Jason said...

Others here have said it better -- rare are the "true friends." I expect very little out of people I call friends, and I'm seldom disappointed. ;-)

Popeye said...

Note 1: I have never liked "When you are older, you will understand" statement comments and I am now just old enough to have been the person to have made them:) I know such things are said with good intentions though.
They've never really helped me out with the now, the present context I am in unless I'm dealing with a problem with someone who is the same age as the speaker. There are gifts, graces and wisdoms to being older and younger and certain things you have to deal with in all those contexts.
Note 2: Yep, I have a few friends that I would trust with my life (I do, actually) and they're great. Yet, sometimes I still slam shut and as closed as a clam because I think what I'm thinking or feeling is so awful.
Note 3:There are no guarantees that anyone will or will not betray you or your confidences. I've been burned and blessed by people who have surprised me.
Note 4: This is what I've been thinking about (but am quite frankly afraid to do). If it's my secrets that are biting me in the ass, what if I really worked to live my life with a whole lot less secrets? Then I'd be able to claim what I really think and feel with anyone, have fewer vulnerablities, etc. Its not the lack of secrets that make someone vulnerable but the secrets themselves. Less secrets. Less vulnerabilities.

Anonymous said...

just proves the point that you can only fully trust your family.....with your deepest secrets! Only one who really loves you would never betray you or hurt you.