Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 11/13/2008 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - The Secrets We Keep

Martha's Big Adventure -- The Secrets We Keep

By Martha Randolph Carr

There's an old saying, 'carrying someone else's water' that used to mean doing someone else's work. It was whipped out when a worker bee was wearing themselves out taking on things that didn't belong to them.It was also meant as a reminder to put down the water and let others take on their own consequences. Get back to your own life.

The same saying could be used as well to describe the burden that's sometimes inadvertently carried when we keep secrets, particularly those that don't belong to us in the first place. It can start in childhood when someone puts their face close to ours and admonishes us not to tell anyone because we could lose our home, lose a job, or lose standing in the community. There's the lie, right there at the end of that sentence.

That young body hasn't been in the world long enough to know that it's not their responsibility to keep a house or a job or a good name just yet. But, children start out as trusting little beings and come to the conclusion that they somehow acquired the ability to harm or help adults, so they grow silent. Enough years pass and the secrets build on themselves till there's a constant conversation inside the head, but nothing ever seeps out to the light of day. The silence has become so habitual it can be hard to notice and therefore change.

There are consequences, though for everything in life even if we are refusing to pay attention. The repercussions of silence are that we don't notice how many decisions we make about everything else in what makes up a life that are being filtered through the original fears. Opportunities get left on the table and actions never occur because somewhere in the back of our minds we're playing the game of 'what if' and standing still instead.

The thought underneath all of it is: if our actions can harm others then we need to control the outcome as much as possible. That, however, is an impossible task, which we also realize on some level. Everything we set out to do has a million possible outcomes, most of them we can't even begin to foresee.

Here's a great example and timely given the stock market's newfound ability to bounce around like a rubber ball. Plenty of people followed very sage advice and placed their retirement funds into mutual funds full of stocks that had performed well and were managed by sage advisors. But, the money was lost in the recent tumult anyway. Or, here's another one in the other direction. A young man with AIDS receives a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia, which he also had developed, and the doctors ended up inadvertently curing both with implications for millions of others suffering from AIDS.

On a much more subtle level, not speaking your mind means no practice at speaking your truth. Therefore, all of the conclusions that come up on how the story has to end are part of the lie. But if you never speak up, you'll never know.

An even better saying is, 'the truth, when set free, does its own work'. That means, when we ask for help or say no when we don't want to be doing something, we suddenly allow for the possibility that we don't know how things will work out. Even better, we actually make it possible for things to work out better than we could have imagined. At the very least, we stop trying to control or manipulate ourselves or others, which is an impossible task anyway.

Then, the options we never spotted because we were too busy forecasting the future or lamenting the past, become visible. This doesn't mean that somehow we are transformed into beings who aren't afraid or never find ourselves feeling resentful anymore. But now we are aware we have the means to find our way back to a more honest spot, our own voice. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: Martha's Big Adventure coming soon to World Talk Radio and Voice America. Email Martha at: or visit

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