There was a man named Jonny who played a integral part in my adolescence. He noticed me. He could see how guarded I was. How removed and distant. He noticed how I didn’t trust those around me. How I wouldn’t share or talk like the others. He began showing up more and more. Making a point to tell me when he was coming. And making sure he showed up every time he did. I wouldn’t talk more, but he would. He would tell me personal stories about his life, his mistakes, his struggles or failures. I began getting used to his company. To him being around. He invited me and included me everywhere he and his friends went. To restaurants, coffee shops, people’s houses, to BBQ’s. Without me saying a word, I felt noticed by him. Seen. Somehow heard. I began noticing him as well. Observing how comfortable he was. Noticing how he noticed others. How he was interested in seeing how they felt or where they came from. Their story. Or whatever story they wanted to tell him. As I watched him, I noticed he had this balance. A balance he somehow always maintained between sensitivity and seeming carefree. Between humor and honesty. Between faith and realism. He was light at times and heavy at others.
One day I heard him sharing a vulnerable story to someone who was struggling. It was a story most men wouldn’t openly share. His openness impressed me. His courage inspired me. He noticed me notice. Afterwards he said to me, “We are only as sick as our secrets.”
It would be a phrase he would repeat often, one he took to heart and one that never left me. Jonny since has passed, but I think about him daily. I think of that day often. Especially when I get scared to speak a truth. When I have self doubt. When I question if I should share. Especially at those times when all I really want to do is button up.
There are days, many in the recent, that I been insecure about writing. Scared to keep sharing. There are days I wonder what the point is. Other than what I gain. Which is invaluable in itself. But I wonder why I share. I mean… the thought crosses… who cares? Who cares what I have to say or think? Does it even matter?
Then I think about Jonny.
I think about the stories Jonny shared with me. I think about how different my outlook and my life would have been had he never shared them with me. Had he thought about keeping those stories “secret”. I think about how much he and his stories deeply impacted me. I think about how special that connection was. How I cherish it decades later. How each secret, each story, bonded us in some way leading me to trust again. How those fleeting moments etched him permanently into my heart. I think about how his stories made me laugh. I think about the fears those stories removed. The times I related. The times I felt less alone. The times I felt comforted to find out I wasn’t the only one to feel a certain way. The power in that sharing that changed the course of my life and molded who I am today. Those stories gave me a second chance at a time I believed I was too wounded to ever fully recover. And I think about what if he never told them? What if he never took the time to share with me? What if we never shared with each other? I don’t know if I ever would have opened up to the level I can today.
Sharing with him, our stories, connected us. That connection saved my life in many ways. He restored my faith in people. He restored my trust in men. He left a very high bar in which I have tried to live up to. He has left a legacy in me to keep sharing. And when I doubt myself, to find the courage I need to continue.
I think about how those stories could have remained secrets if he didn’t take the time to notice others. If he didn’t take the time to notice me. If he didn’t make the effort to listen to those who weren’t comfortable speaking. If he didn't notice those who felt unseen. How he shared with those afraid to open up. How much that mattered. How important it was that he cared.
I find myself, once again, wanting to inch back into my shell. I want to button up and not share. But I have done that. I have been that girl too scared to speak. Too timid to open up. I have experienced the disconnect.
Jonny showed me how to do the opposite and the crucial importance of that. He exposed how sad my world would be if those secrets kept were our stories. I have to keep sharing. I need to stay human. I want to connect.
So, to anyone out there who wants to be noticed, who wants to be heard, or seen… tell me a story. Whether it’s in a comment, or slip me a DM, or an email, a sentence, a paragraph, however you want to do it, tell me a story. Share a shitty thing that happened to you, or something frightening you read or saw, something hysterical that broke a moment, something that enraged you to witness, something unexpected that you saw the beauty in. A sunset, a fart, a nuzzle with your pet, the smile on your child's face, something you have overcome, something you have failed. I would love to hear you. I would love to share your story.
With Jonny’s advice in my mind, I will continue to share my secrets and my stories. In any way. In any fashion. In this blog. Those stories might touch someone who needs to hear them. Those stories could help someone in a way that nothing else could. How we could connect over something shared in our heart or mind. In one sentence. One thought. One dream. One wish. What a gift, a beauty, in sharing those secrets. What a gift in sharing our stories and a blessing in the chance to make more.