Have you ever looked at a wonderful website called Postsecret? If not, I recommend you do (on the proviso that you realise some of the content may be of a more sensitive nature).
Basically Postsecret is an online project started in 2005 by American Frank Warren. The site was designed to be a public art project and allows people to submit their secrets anonymously on a homemade postcard.
Select secrets are then posted on the PostSecret website each Sunday, or used for PostSecret’s books or museum exhibits.
It has now has now become a valued part of Sundays for me to switch on the computer and have a read at the newly uploaded secrets.
All manner of life comes across in those self designed postcards.
Some truly are intricate works of art - where it is clear the sender has spent hours piecing together something so beautiful that even without words it can take your breath away.
Others are simple - scrawled on the back of receipts, or memorabilia from a past life - but can be equally as powerful.
Some are photographs - a picture really speaking a thousand words, and some are just short notes - with heartbreaking honesty.
There is humour. There are postcards which, at times, perhaps skim the boundaries of public decency.
There is love, and grief and strength. And every week when I come away from the site I feel a little better for having had a glimpse of all humanity in a way that has challenged me, made me laugh or made me cry.
The simplicity of the concept is what makes it so very successful. It allows people to unburden their secrets in an anonymous way but it also manages to reach out to countless others.
There have, of course, been many occasions on which I have not been able to directly relate to the person unburdening their secret even if I have been able to relate to the emotion they may be feeling.
But every now and again there is a secret which resonates very deeply with me; which is enough to make me feel less alone in whatever it is I am going through at that moment.
We like to consider ourselves a very open society these days.
Most young people document almost every aspect of their life on some form of social media. My four year-old godson even has a t-shirt which says: “My entire life has been posted on Facebook” and he wouldn’t be far wrong.
There are days when a trawl through my own Facebook news feed would reveal tales of who is dating who, who has eaten what, what so and so’s child said which has been amusing, what their plans are for the weekend and reflections on what they were doing in the past.
Life is literally an open book for so many people and yet so much is still secreted away. So much is still taboo and so many people still question themselves on a daily basis.
I’m sure, for each and every one of us reading this, there have been times when you have found yourself in a situation genuinely wondering if you were the only person to ever see the world in a certain way or feel a certain way.
Sometimes it is nice to read a secret penned by someone else and enjoy that ping of recognition, even if the recognition is sometimes a sad thing.
Other times the recognition is hilariously funny; a simple observation which strikes a chord with you.
The imagination and talent in each secret - not to mention the bravery in sending them - is something impressive.
And I suppose the nosey part of me simply also likes a voyeuristic glimpse into someone else’s world. It’s like curtain twitching but with full permission to ogle over someone’s deepest and darkest secrets.
The site, on more than one occasion, has proven to be a real education for me (again, I say only visit if perhaps you aren’t easily offended.
And the postcards sometimes contain scenes of nudity or of a sexual nature so perhaps best viewed away from the gaze of unsuspecting children.)
I inevitably however come away feeling inspired by the strength of the human spirit, which is no bad thing these days. People on the site have said sending in their secret, or reading one which they can relate to, has helped them make real and profound changes in their lives.
Some credit the site with them being able to let go of past hurts or to accept themselves for who they are. With an emphasis on responsible use of media, Frank’s site has also helped those who have found themselves feeling utterly alone and even suicidal.
Give it a chance, and make it part of your Sunday tradition. And if the notion takes you maybe you may feel like sending in your own secret. Sure it is anonymous and no-one needs to know.
Visit PostSecret at www,postsecret.com