What we say and allow people to know about ourselves is really only a small slice of everything that has happened to us. Perhaps a few percent.
In this canyon-like gap between what we say and what we don’t, between what we know and what we cannot or choose not to see, resides the most fascinating parts of our lives.
If you’re a woman, you have had to face different challenges than men growing up. Being a child up in inner-city London will leave you with a different outlook to those who grew up in a rural community. Having a stable family results in a very different approach to life than if you were bounced from foster home to foster home.
What happens to us shapes us, but it doesn’t have to define us. The events, the sagas, the dramas are a part of our story, but not the whole story.
This is never more clear than when we get the chance to tell our stories to others. We choose how pervasive the reach of these events are. We choose what to reveal and what not to. The richness of life is buried in that impenetrable blackness between what we share and what we obscure.
A life is full of so many moments, so many encounters, so many connected and unconnected events, thoughts and actions, that we can never say we know someone completely. Some things are remembered, most are forgotten, many are influential.
We could spend a life time trying to understand another and still never get to read the whole text. Nobody is an open book. We are all closed to some extent.
When I was a child, awake in the middle of the night, I used to hate going downstairs. I was hungry and wanted to eat.
Everyone would be in bed and looking down the stairs was like looking into the abyss. It was black. It was silent. I had to walk down into the darkness.
I mastered that descent into the darkness because after I completed it I got to stuff my face.
Getting to know someone feels like that. You look into their eyes and realise how little you know and how much more there is and it’s scary and you don’t want to do it. And then you share something and learn something and your life is better.
When I was a child, I was scared of the darkness. Now I understand that darkness can only exist in an absence of light.