When I was in high school, I lied to my mother.
One night, when she asked me if I’d completed my homework, I told her I had. But I’d left one assignment unfinished, and it was due the next day. I didn’t want to miss my favorite TV show of the moment (Buffy or Felicity?), and I knew the rule: no TV until your homework is done.
So I made a plan. I fibbed and felt bad about it (but not so bad that I didn’t enjoy my show) and went to bed. I then rose early, snuck into my walk-in closet, and wrote. No one needed to know I’d procrastinated. I had everything under control. Within five minutes, my mother was at my door.
How did she know? To this day, I have no idea. But this much was clear: I’d lied, so I was grounded. It was the first grounding that I, the responsible firstborn, had ever experienced.
And then, when I dragged myself to class, our teacher announced that she was giving us another week to complete the assignment. The sole silver lining was that I had a great response when friends asked why I was grounded: “For doing my homework. Seriously.”
Of course, I knew better. I was grounded for deceiving my mom. But at the time, I didn’t see why it was a big deal. I’d had it all under control, so why couldn’t she let me do things my way?
Years later, I see the situation differently. Instead of an isolated incident, I see a pattern: I hid my heart away.
I wanted to be seen as the perfect student, the perfect daughter, so I’d cover up anything that didn’t fit that mold. When I was upset, I’d hide in my closet to cry. It was a fallout shelter for my fears. The closet was where I’d go when Willie’s meltdowns got to be too much; I’d close the door and huddle in the small space like a refugee.
When I look back on my younger self, I don’t see someone who had it all under control. I see a scared kid who needed everybody to approve of her. And I see a mom who knew better than to let her daughter grow up huddled in a closet, thinking that deception was a good defense.
I’m actually thankful that she loved me enough to ground me.
Today, I’m not the same girl who hid … and, in many ways, I am. I still struggle with the desire to run away when things get dicey. (Our current house doesn’t have any walk-in closets, though. Coincidence? I think not.)
I do have brave days, when I face my fears and tell the stories that matter most. But on other days, I wrap my arms around my knees and pray contradictory prayers:
Just leave me alone. And … Please don’t leave me here. Please come find me.
This isn’t a unique problem. It is, basically, the human condition. When faced with terrible things, we run away. When we’re hurt and betrayed, we want to be alone to lick our wounds. But at the same time, we want so badly to be held, comforted, reassured.
A Wish Come Clear is a place where we let ourselves be found. We crack open the door, even though we don’t feel ready (we’ll never be ready).
Even when you’re scared, part of you — a small, fierce part — is at peace. It says: You will get through this. You have never been alone. And you are loved beyond your ability to understand or imagine.
That small, fierce part of you can only tell the truth. I know this because, when my mom opened the door that night, that part of me was … relieved. The deepest part of me did not want to lie and conceal and hide. It wanted to be found, even if being found meant being grounded.
The truth really does set you free.
Even so, there are times when it feels impossible to open the door, to act on this knowledge. If you refuse to move, that deep-down part of you — which people call the true self or God or the Holy Spirit or the Dr. Seuss creature — will understand. (It is, after all, wiser than you are.)
After awhile, if you’re still hiding, it will say, in loving exasperation: Darling, open the *?!*?!* door already!
Life is on the other side.
How do you ‘hide’? Join the conversation in the comments below!
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I hide with food. Its isolates me from myself, other people and social situations that require intimacy.
Thank you for sharing, Helen. It takes so much courage to admit how we hide … and that admission is always the first step to opening the door.
I was taught to hide everything as a child. If something “good” happened, don’t tell anyone because they will feel bad; if something “bad” happened, don’t tell anyone because the family would look bad. (Which also taught me to judge everything instead of observe and celebrate–two practices I love doing now as I honor presence to unfolding.)
So, to read these words “I see a mom who knew better than to let her daughter grow up huddled in a closet” speaks straight to my heart. This is what I do with my children (and now my inner child/self)–we shine love, light and gratitude on everything and we celebrate as we share. Which means there are many moments that feel vulnerable (and sometimes I look for a closet but there isn’t one), but also many many moments of living the reality of our heart whispers–possible only because they have space to roam free.
Life truly is “on the other side”…thank you for the example and reminder! ( You know, as I type this, I am sitting in the open doorway of our new home..and I realize I am so overjoyed to keep the door open (and the energetic symbolism of that)…thank you for prompting that insight!
Gorgeous! What a great image — thank you for sharing that, Joy. And I’m so happy that you’ve found a way to — literally and figuratively — open doors in your life. 🙂
Wow, Caroline! I never realized that you even thought about that instance. Your post is so encouraging to admit the things we hide, and realize that truth does set us free! thank you!
How could I forget? 😉 Thanks for being a great Mom – so glad you liked the post!
I hide in my house. I post non-committal things on Facebook, retreat from my friends and become withdrawn. I don’t reply to emails or other messages and sometimes just wallow in self pity. Not good I know…
How brave of you to share this, Stephanie. Thank you for telling your truth — I hope it’s a step forward into new patterns and choices. We’ll be cheering you on!
Growing up I was also taught to hide the bad things that happened or to keep those things “in the family only” so that I didn’t make their name look bad. Therefore I grew up with a terrible sense of who I was as a young woman and I ended up with no self esteem and to this day I dont have much but what I do have is for my daughter to see for an example for what she needs to be. I am doing things completely opposite than what my parents did for me because I want her to have a different life than I have. I have hidden from myself for many years and in turn made many mistakes that I cannot undo now. I have learned from them what to teach my daughters what NOT to do. Your blog brings up a very important realization that I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had done thinking that I was protecting myself from those harmful things both from my parents hurtful words, to my abusive ex-husband. Thank u so much for ur words of wisdom. I will share this with my daughters as well. As matter of fact my right yr old does hide in her cluttered up “walk in” closet to cry when I get on to her or when she is in a fight with one of her sisters. So this will b very helpful to me and my girls! Thank you.
Malena, thank you for telling this part of your story — it sounds like you have come through a great deal to get where you are now. So glad the post resonated with you. Sending big hugs to you and your daughters!