A Journey to Healing… to Freedom
By: Madeleine “Maddie” Jomolca (Editor)
We conceal out of fear and shame. We fear rejection, and more importantly we fear revealing our secrets, because we are uncertain of the support we may or may not receive from others.
What if – if when we expose ourselves and lay ourselves bare – we are abandoned by our friends, our family, or perhaps even ridiculed by our enemies. We fear that our projected persona would become tarnished if we showed who we really are. We may feel that to be acceptable to others we must look good at all costs. Perhaps we keep secrets in a futile attempt to erase our past.
Growing up in an ever-expanding household of lively (and diverse!) Cuban immigrants was no easy undertaking. Not only were relatives (and friends of relatives!) flocking and fleeing the precarious Castro regime; but my mother, then in her early-to-mid-twenties, kept “popping us out” into the world faster than you can say; Orville Redenbacher! (Or “Jiffy-Pop”, back then!) Just when I felt I was fully acquainted with my fellow housemates, I would awaken the next morning to be “informally” introduced to yet another character whom mysteriously made his/her way onto one of our fold-up beds, better known to us as; “pin-pan-poom” overnight.
My father, was enrolled in University of Miami’s School of Architecture, and was a student by day, and a paid intern by night (i.e.: he wasn’t around much!) My mother worked 8-10 hours in an effort to help “put him through school”, as was the typical agenda for wives in those times. In essence they were fast times; times of great progression, and of trials and tribulations usually accompanied by novelty and triumphs for my parents and their friends. Yet in all of the excitement, planning and child-conception and bearing, I believe that something very valuable and endearing was lost… communication.
As many of you can imagine and perhaps even relate; amongst the comings-and-goings, many of us —(the offspring) were often (and frequently) left in the care of friends… friends of friends… “la esposa del primo, del marido de un amigo de tu tia lejana”… Translation: “the wife of the cousin of the friend of your distant aunt” —- further translation: a perfect stranger will care for/babysit you today!
It was, in fact this informal care, of sorts that later led to a few of my own best-kept secrets, and a deep, dark place of concealment and defense-mechanisms.
The Deep, Dark Place…
Secrets imprison, they breed suspicion, and at times they can paralyze us with a fear of being found out. They are parts of us that we hide, that we keep undercover. It’s kind of musty and dark in that place; nothing flourishes there except fear. It’s often shrouded in shame, guilt, confusion, and, even if we are the victims as with sexual abuse or not – as in the case of abortion of women (a bitter, dark secret that hinders over many women) – there may be mixed maternal messages for the woman. If we choose not to communicate, or as in many cases have no one to communicate with, not talking to anybody in the isolation of this dark place, will enable fear to mount. Somewhere in the pain and fear, consciously or unconsciously, the decision is made to conceal and to compartmentalize.
No matter what the secret may be, we employ defense mechanisms to keep the pain at bay – to keep ourselves from going to that dark place. We can avoid people, situations and anything that gets us too close to that secret. We can deny it exists, or that it even holds any power over us. We will forget, either consciously or unconsciously. We may even try harder to make up for the shame we feel: “I’ll do better, I’ll work harder, I’m going to be more successful.” It may seem that our secrets, even small secrets, are benign. Yet secrecy runs deep, and it can take hold of us in ways that, perhaps, we had not even anticipated. Protection is of utmost importance to us: protection from pain, protection from being found out. The secret, then, prevents us from intimacy, from the ability to self-disclose, and from the ability to be vulnerable with another person. It isolates, it restricts and it chokes. Furthermore, secrets usually render a “snow-ball” effect and grow, and become entangled with other half-truths.
While most secrets are generally of a serious nature; not all secrets carry such a somber tone; and some even cause us to giggle to ourselves when we allow them to resurface. Like the time Mother Superior-Sister Francis-Marie ventured out to regroup, and otherwise encourage a few selected students from the all-girl senior high school and class to “follow and embrace their calling” and consider joining the Josephite Sisterhood… and yes; yours truly, was among the chosen few.
I remember quickly becoming overwhelmed with mixed emotions. I was excited—— I was finally granted the opportunity to enter into the convent and discover how these monarchial creatures truly lived!— ( practice what you preach, sister!)… And yet, I felt equally confused, bewildered—– ashamed and unworthy! ‘This is a hoax!”, I thought. “This cannot be happening!”… I was immediately daunted with visions of angry nuns waving wooden 4 x 4’s, shouting: “Repent! Repent, you sinners!”
I truly believed (at the time) that their plan eluded to another scheme—“the scheme of all schemes” , I thought————- CONFESSION! I was assuredly being made to “fess-up’ and endure punishment for all of those mornings I stumbled into the chapel, and disrupted the morning prayer, while fumbling through a bottomless book-bag in search of my holy rosary; OR, for the time Carmen G. (as we categorically called her in order to distinguish her from the other 27 “Carmen’s” within the 12-grade class, alone!) openly flashed (exposed) our dairy-aires to an oncoming 80-year-old, legally blind (Praise God!) Sister Rene, and then hid in the freshman science lab the remainder of the day; OR the time Carmen G., Annie ‘O, Amely and I paid a most “amusing’ visit to the homes of a few of our classmates and rivals, accompanied by a few grocery bags full of shaving crème, and infinite rolls of toilet paper (you figure it out!); Or in all likelihood; I was going be forced to reveal that my purity was as far gone as a travelling fugitive after a bank heist!!! And what’s worse, I was going to be made to publicly reveal, the who?…when?… where?.. and what???.. I’m not ready——- these are my secrets!!… I muttered.
“Madeleine… you may come in now, dear”… Oh! No!… I was up!… I began to silently pray the “Our Father” followed by three-dozen “Hail Mary’s”… Mother–Superior must have sensed my anxiety and gently reached for my hand and then led me down a hall which extended out into a quaint covered patio and courtyard. We both sat down on what I remember to be the most comfortable rattan lounge chairs—ever, and she began to, ever-so softly speak … preach… prophesy… enlighten… and engage me with her discernment, wisdom and God’s plan for my life. She commented on how she had been vigil in selecting the few girls, and how “based on her observance and discernment”, she knew “that God had chosen me, among many, to serve and lead for the kingdom of heaven!”
She proceeded to describe the devotion and life of a Josephite sister, and much to my surprise concluded her forum by ‘merely’ suggesting that I “think about a life of devotion and commitment to God… and perhaps consider entering into the sisterhood” After fidgeting in my place for several seconds, I gathered all of the diplomacy and courtesy I could possibly muster, and responded in my premature business-like demeanor: “Well, I will certainly think about it… and get back to you.” She smiled… I smiled… and all was well with the world. And then, after gazing long and curiously into my eyes, she said some of the most powerful words I had, or have yet heard… words that could have been conveyed solely by the Almighty One Himself…. Words that ring truer and truer with every passing day, week, month and year of my life!
She leaned forward, placed my hands between hers and said: “You know, dear… we have an all-loving and forgiving God… a God that is not only prepared to forgive us of our sins, but more importantly sent us His son in His place to die for them. You must prepare to go through life not only forgiving others, but also forgiving yourself as God would, and will. This will allow you to let go of ‘secret’ hurt, pain, and suffering.”
And that, my friends is the only and authentic path on the long journey toward healing… forgiveness. We must stop punishing ourselves with guilt and condemning thoughts, and allow ourselves to come to our core once again. I received forgiveness, rest and peace in the safety of Jesus Christ. He has the power and authority to forgive – the power and authority to reconcile us, and the power and authority to bring restoration in our lives. We can be free men and women, authentic men and women, vulnerable men and women, transparent, truthful, fully capable of intimacy, and reconciled men and women.
Secrets are a prison. Where we cannot break down those prison walls, God will do it on our behalf.
In the Bible, Jesus assures us that: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)