UNLOCKING THE STORY OF A SECRET
Ahh, secrets. We all have them, don’t we? They are those little (and sometimes not-so-little) tarnished nuggets we keep close to our chest. Sometimes we hold onto them to protect others from pain. Much of the time, however, secrets are leaden weights, a burden heaped with shame, guilt and remorse. Secrets can be lonely and, if kept too long, have a habit of becoming corrosive and gaining a certain power over the psyche.
In my story, Siren’s Song, the heroine Joss Jones, has a secret. She believes she is responsible for her mother’s tragic death. Her burden is so great, she gives up fame and deprives herself of the one thing she loves most–performing. It is necessity (and a trip back in time to Bandit Creek, 1899) that forces her to confront her secret and to let go of the guilt, allowing her to be the person she’s meant to be. In the end, this opens up the possibility for greater things; in Joss’s case…love.
When I first started thinking about this blog post, I was stumped about what I should ‘reveal’ as my secret. I tried desperately to come up with something that was compelling enough to encourage people to read the post while somehow ensuring it related to my writing and my characters. Nothing came to mind. That all changed after reading Roxy Boroughs’ blog post on January 15th. Roxy revealed a secret–a biggie–and after reading it, I sat in front of the computer, stunned, not only by the content of Roxy’s post, but because the subject for my blog post suddenly came to me (slapped me upside the head, actually). I wrestled with the idea all day and well into the night, finally committing to the brainwave somewhere around two in the morning.
Like any story, my secret has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. But before I start, I have to explain how my secret relates to writing. I’ve dreamt of being a writer since I was a child. However, I never seriously considered writing as a career until I was at home with my two infant daughters. Every day during nap time, I would sit at my computer and write. Six months later, my first novel was complete. It is the story of a woman (an author) who, after losing her husband to cancer, shares one night of passion with the unlikeliest of bedfellows. Of course she ends up pregnant and the story goes from there. It is the classic ‘secret baby’ storyline. It’s both wonderful and terrible. Wonderful because I realized I could actually finish a novel, something that had previously seemed impossible. Terrible because…well, let’s face it, it’s my first novel and it’s terrible!
What finally struck me last night, as I considered my blog post, was the blatant connection between my first completed manuscript and my life.
You see, I was a secret baby. Not only was I adopted, but my adoption was kept a secret. The strange thing is, even though it was a secret, I always knew. At sixteen, when I secretly found my adoption papers, it simply confirmed my suspicions. My adoption secret blew wide open at a family reunion when I was eighteen. This secret was so well guarded that even one of my three older brothers (all born to my parents) didn’t know I wasn’t his biological sister until that day. Man, did he feel terrible for all the times he’d teased me about being adopted while we were growing up, never knowing I really was. What a relief it was for me to know he said those things, not because he resented me–his non-natural sister–but because he was simply teasing me as older brothers do.
My ‘secret baby’ story does not end there. Two years after that fateful family reunion, I discovered I was pregnant. I received this unexpected and rather dreadful news a month before I was to embark on a year-long tour with an international performing group. I will never judge anyone for the decision they might have made if faced with a similar situation. We all have our own journeys. For me, as a child who was given a chance at life (thanks to my birthmother–a wonderful woman I’ve since met and consider to be a kindred spirit) I could not deny another human being the same chance. Adoption was my only option.
It was the worst year of my life. Not knowing what else to do, I went away on my trip, keeping my pregnancy a secret for as long as possible. In the last few months, when I could no longer hide my growing belly, I left the performing group and went to stay with a dear friend who was attending university in the South. It was the week before my son was born that I finally told my parents. My brothers didn’t learn of his birth until years later. The day I left the hospital without my child was the worst of my life. Yet, because I was adopted myself, because I knew what it was like to be a ‘secret baby’ and to grow up in a stable, loving (albeit secret-keeping) family, I knew I was doing the right thing.
That is not the final chapter in my story. Fourteen years later, after years of unexplained infertility, my husband and I adopted two gorgeous little girls. They are the light of my life…as I write this sentence I am overcome with a strange choking emotion that hits me so suddenly it makes me gasp. I now know our inability to conceive naturally was not an accident but a form of destiny.
It is because of my beautiful daughters that I have understood three things about myself. First, I understand why my parents kept my adoption a secret. It wasn’t out of shame, as I’d previously thought. It was because (as they’d tried to explain to me) they didn’t think of me as adopted. Now I understand. My daughters are mine as surely as if I gave birth to them and although their adoption is anything but secret in our household, I don’t always share the story with people I meet. Sometimes I allow others to believe they are my natural-born children simply because the origin of their birth makes no difference.
Secondly, it is because of my girls that I am living my heart’s desire. That precious hour of writing during naptime, while I was on parental leave with two newly adopted daughters, taught me that I can be a writer if I set my mind to the task. Whenever I get frustrated because there’s noise in the house just when I’m fully enmeshed in the middle of a scene, I try to remind myself of this fact–I owe my dedication to writing to my family.
Finally, and most importantly, I now realize what a gift it is to be chosen to be a parent of a ‘secret baby’. The girls came to live with us just after Christmas 2004, and I can tell you that although there have been struggles (as any parent will admit) there is no gift that compares. I love my daughters more than I could possibly imagine and I thank their birthmother in my prayers for the choice she made, the gift she gave.
Now the story of my secret is complete. I share this, not to be shocking, but because I am finally ready to let it go. During the last 24 hours, after reading Ms. Boroughs’ post, my whole being has been screaming at me that it is time. There is no more shame, no blame, no guilt or remorse. I have been a gift, given a gift and received a gift. Beginning, middle…the end.
By clearing the space these secrets have held in my heart, like my heroine, Joss Jones in Siren’s Song, I believe I am making room for greater things.
To learn more about DL Snow check out her website at www.dlsnow.ca.
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