“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” – Anne Sexton
This week when we are returning from holiday breaks always reminds me of one of the wackiest stories from when I was in business with two partners and we had almost 20 employees. On the Monday after New Years Day in 2008, I was in the office when the office manager came in to say that we hadn’t heard from our program manager, JE, since the Christmas party two weeks prior.
JE didn’t work for me but in a small company, I certainly knew him. I liked him too. He was smart, quiet and diligent about getting his work done. He’d left Microsoft six months before to come work for us and except for one scheduled break in late October, he’d always shown up. It wasn’t unusual for our folks to work from home, especially over the holidays but not answering emails and phone calls was definitely odd.
Since my two business partners to whom JE did report were in Mexico on a hang gliding trip, I jumped in to help. Thinking that maybe we could find his girlfriend’s name and call her to check in, I googled his name. The top result was a memo from the United Stated Department of Justice dated in October of the previous year (the same days of his scheduled absence) that read something like this:
“<JE’s full name>, 27, of <city>, WA was sentenced to six month in prison for his role as the leader of a software pirating group. He will be reporting to <low security prison> on January 1, 2008.”
Well, that explained why we couldn’t get ahold of him! When we finally talked with his girlfriend, she said that JE would be disappointed to know we’d found out because he didn’t want to let us down.
Of course, had he quit before he went to prison, we would have never looked for him!! Granted he had bigger things to worry about in the 8 weeks between sentencing and reporting to the facility but as a logical young man, it seemed obvious that if you don’t want people to look for you, you need to break up with them first.
I think of this often when someone is carrying a secret. It is an immense burden that sometimes precludes thinking and acting rationally. And often the secret itself prevents the carrier from finding the tools to heal – because developing any depth is dangerous, lest it unearth the core of what they are carrying. The secret has a life of its own that requires it to stay buried and drains a lot of energy to support itself.
At the time of my life when this happened, I had a secret too. I was unhappy in my marriage and way of life and I was diligently trying to keep that a secret, mostly from myself. I drank too much wine and then smoked cigarettes when I drank as a way to numb myself from feeling what was really going on.
Thinking back now, I realize that I was forcing myself daily to keep walking down a path that didn’t feel right. I was in a relationship that wasn’t supportive of me, I was in a business partnership with a charismatic that was making me crazy and I had developed no spiritual depth with which I could heal these wounds. All these secrets were a prison in their own way.
As it turned out, I kept my misery under wraps for another year after JE went to prison. Then the charismatic business partner told me of my husband’s infidelities and it all blew apart – the business and my marriage. Finally, no one had any secrets left and I could begin to heal. With nothing left buried, it was finally safe to develop some spiritual depth that carried me out of my prison. I can only hope that JE was able to heal once his secret was out as well.
(featured image from Pexels)