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Maria Louise Kirk: Cover Illustration for the 1911 American edition of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden.
" … mostly redactions in any transcript."

I live three simultaneous lives: a public, a private, and a secret one. I might refer to my public life as my nine-to-five life. It entails my out-there encounters. My private life's the one I primarily live at home; me and my family're privy to this one, along with my very closest friends. My SecretLife includes all my activities I mention to nobody, ever. It includes more than nose-picking, and entails much of what I find embarrassing to tell. We each maintain all three of these lives, in varying proportions and degrees. A mid-career professional might allocate much more than half their time to maintaining their public presence. Newlyweds slip into full time private time when they depart on their honeymoon, then, over time, allocate a much smaller proportion to engaging in their relationship. Through it all, we each maintain at least a small part of every day to our secret activities, if only for the sake of maintenance. Nobody ever gets to watch me shave. I understand that some families (shudder) maintain an open door bathroom policy which both my privacy life and my secrecy life abhor. I'm a dedicated bathroom door closer, myself.

During normal times, a rhythm emerges and seems to maintain itself, with public, private, and secret times seeming to balance themselves.
A week of forced overtime or a lengthy business trip might temporarily throw this balance out of whack, but proper proportions soon return and all again seems right with the world. Extreme introverts like me occasionally suffer from too much public presence, and we need to flee into privacy to recharge and recover. Extroverts like The Muse find excruciating too little public airing of their business, and find themselves aching for human interaction (shudder) after working in Zoom isolation for even as little a seven consecutive months. She recharges her batteries in public, gaining energy from both seeing and from being seen. Severe sociopaths, I suppose, spend most of their time in secrecy, sneaking around unseen. They live beyond simple privacy and seek to never even be suspected of whatever they're up to. Neighbors tell reporters that these people always seemed so well behaved, when they'd only mastered a nefarious invisibility before they shot up some schoolyard. Who could have beforehand suspected the breadth of their SecretLife?

The SecretLife's not normally nefarious, though when dominating an existence, it tends to become so. I might say the same about any of these three most prominent forms of living. Someone over-invested in their public life might be properly classified as suffering some serious psychological disorder, narcissism, perhaps, but some similar diagnosis might fit for someone who's private life dominates them. I'm seeking balance between the three. For many, This Damned Pandemic has rendered normal-times balancing unattainable. Lose work and the public life might become impossible to maintain. A doctor or nurse, working double shifts for endless months, might reasonably wonder when their private life might return. A SecretLife might even become most dominant when living under mandated isolation. Solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual for just this reason.

I think it serves little positive purpose to disclose the contents of anyone's SecretLife. It's far too mundane to be of broad interest, and besides, everyone's is very likely pretty much the same. Those truths which might seem too embarrassing to speak of, are very likely universal and therefore banal. Unless taken to unreasonable extremes, no therapy's indicated to help one rid themselves of what might under more extreme circumstances be labeled Bad Habits. When one lives at altitude, as I do, one blows one's nose frequently and sometimes simply must engage in deep excavation, a very public and very private secret. The bathroom's perhaps the most sacred space in any house, the room especially set aside for the SecretLife. I find it extremely embarrassing, for instance, to step into anyone else's bathroom, for just seeing prescriptions lined up on the counter, seems an invasion of more than privacy, but of another's SecretLife. When someone visits, I cede my secret bathroom space, scouring it first, then emptying it out, and I might then attempt to share The Muse's Secret lair, a situation we both find instantly intolerable.

Over a lengthy marriage, some of a spouse's SecretLife will inevitably slip out. It's proper, I figure, to engage in some studied not noticing whenever this occurs. Nobody needs remedial instruction in proper comportment for anything that's supposed to be secret. The spouse's sacred responsibility seems to be to simply let it lie, stifling any acknowledgement. Scold, instead, on that choice of tie, or anything intended to accompany their public life. And private stuff, too, also remains largely fair game for mentioning when one's attempting to maintain a long-standing relationship with anyone else. I suspect that by now, my SecretLife is not so very secret to The Muse, nor her's to me, but I consider what I know about her and her about me to be classified at the highest levels of secrecy, mostly redactions in any transcript. Happiness seems largely comprised of a certain sanguinity with our SecretLife and the secret lives of those closest to us.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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