Secret Keeping


My parent’s generation did it. Almost anything was fodder for secrets.

Keeping secrets is a strange dichotomy for most of us, and if you grew up in a home where keeping secrets typically meant there was some serious shame involved that shame can transfer from the secret bearer to the secret keeper.

It’s true of course that there are times that minor innocuous secrets are kept, i.e. Surprise party, gender of an unborn child, and maybe even keeping confidences can be seen as secret keeping. But the secret keeping that can scar a person are the kind that cause a sense of desperation and may even be motivated by shattered heartbreak or shame.

Family secrets especially are secrets that in the end can scar our heart and souls. Many of us carry the burden of a family secret. From illnesses, betrayals, deceased siblings,  to arguments and sexual orientation —I know that some will argue that  there are legitimate reasons to hold back information or hide the proverbial family skeletons, but I wonder if the health hardships behind keeping the peace by keeping secrets have been considered.

It’s true that most everyone has had one, you may have one now, sitting there in the back of your mind, or on the tip of your tongue waiting to come out. Secrets are all around us. I think we should ask ourselves what can bearing and sharing secrets do to people and their relationships with others? Certainly there will be both negative and positive outcomes and they affect some people in different ways than others.


Keeping a secret involves at least two main characters  The Secret Bearer. The Secret Keeper.

The Secret Bearer:

The bearer of a secret faces many obstacles to finding the contentment of self peace. Harboring inside a secret holds us back from peace, keeping things bottled up inside usually makes people unhappy. Understanding that the burden of holding on to a secret is exhausting mentally and spiritually is no stretch, yet we have little understanding how this can impact us physically. There is of course the actual physical sense of a weight on our shoulders, shouldn’t we listen to that?  Secrets take so much energy to maintain and they can beget mistrust and suspicion which sure can interfere with how we live our lives. All of this can erode away any personal desired connections. Everyone needs to be able to make informed decisions and choices in their relationships and they need enough accurate information to be able to do this. Secrets often get in the way of any credibility.

The Secret Keeper

Many of us grew up where secrets were simply part of our lives from an early age and became our normal, the lack of honesty or authenticity became our norm. The family secret may be that a parent drinks too much, or says or does inappropriate things. The secrecy may be about illness or how a family member actually died.

My own family had a secret, and to this day although my siblings and I know about the secret we have little information about how our 3 year old sister died. We still are not talking about it. I thought when our mother died we’d have a long talk, that has never happened. Even more curious is why my siblings and I seem to be perpetuating the secret keeping, (for instance my adult nieces must come to me for information because my brother, their dad, won’t talk.)

I think we make the mistake in believing that if we remain silent our children won’t be hurt by what they do not know, but on some level children sense there is a secret and most often they have an idea of what the secret is. Yet because of the family rules about secretiveness, they feel that they can’t say anything. This dynamic makes for a very lonely isolation and feelings of being deceived by not giving them an honest answer. Or we simply deny what their feeling. We should perhaps give our children more credit that we have raised them well enough so that they can handle information about shameful and painful events.

Secrets and lies are toxic to relationships. It may seem to lighten that heavy weight on our own shoulders, heart and soul by asking another to bear witness to a secret, but now we’ve placed a burden on another by creating a secret keeper.

Even more damaging are the life threatening secrets kept.

Despite the dangers, keeping secrets is part of human nature.

However now we know….

Neuroscientists now believe it’s biologically better for us to confess our secrets, or better, just to refuse to be party to someone else’s.  Reason being that holding on to secrets puts our brain in an awkward, compromised position.We are hard wired to tell the truth The “cingulate cortex”- essential to our emotional responses, this “logical lobe” signals other regions of the brain to share information so it can move on to more important functions, like learning. But when we keep a secret locked inside, we’re not allowing the cingulate cortex to perform its natural functions. Instead, the cortex becomes stressed, and our body responds accordingly.

So….keep in mind….considering whether to take on the weight by locking away sensitive info or not is ultimately a healthy exercise — and that’s no secret.



Defining Moments

There are moments in our life that make us and set the course of who we’re going to be.
Sometimes they’re little subtle moments. Sometimes they are big moments we never saw coming.
Not everyone asks for their life to change, but it does.
It’s what we do afterwards that counts. That’s when we find out who we really are.

Be Brave

Laugh out loud, even when you feel too sick or exhausted.
Trust, even when your heart is screaming NO and you think it could break you.
Sing, even if others take on that smug smile like their singing doesn’t sound like crap.
Dance, even if you can’t keep time and you suddenly grow two left feet.
Smile, even if you really feel like crying. Tears only blur your vision.
Frolic & meander, even when you are made fun of.
Kiss your lover while others are about and may be staring.
Sleep, even when you’re afraid of what your dreams have been bringing.
Run, even when it feels like you cannot possibly lift a another foot and run an inch.
Never forget a moment, even when the memories tug at our heart string’s and leave a hole. Because of all the pain & joy we experience we become the deep feeling kind of person we are meant to be.
Without our experiences we are void of our emotions, a vital missing link.
What makes us brave is our enthusiasm to live through our trials, tribulations and hurdles in life while we still make the choice to hold our head up high the next day.
We become even stronger after all our experiences and painful moments, stronger and more whole than ever before.
Let us not live with fear of life.

So This Is It….

reminded of you

Being reminded of you…. still….

It’s the dark o’clock early morning hours that have become empty, and I am reminded again how I wish there could be one more song.

So this is it….

I still miss the hours we shared when the rest of the world seemed absent, my 3am was a time of music, intelligent conversations and inspiring challenges that without had left a hollowness I could not wrap my mind around. Let alone my heart.

But I am accepting now that you’re gone. Though it’s not been easy to hide… this pain inside…the anger is gone now too….like you.

I think I found the words… I think I can say now…to you.

Maybe there is a reason you came sweeping into my life on white shirt-tails of music we both were passionate about, on cascading words that both inspired and challenged me. Maybe I am the writer I am today because of those dark o’clock interchanges of vulnerable intelligence.

Maybe I grew in that environment of raw emotions and challenged feelings by you. Yet, strange how that can make people feel what they’d rather not. I continue to wonder if that’s why you went away again, this time, our final parting.

It will be two years soon and I am grateful that the emptiness is finally being released in ways that I would not have dreamed when you left.

The gifts you gave me shall remain in my heart and in all my words, for those moments shared impact me still.

I thought you should know.





The New Normal




Ever notice how purses are conspicuously missing at family gatherings?


….your lifelong friend is raising her grandchildren after needing to retire early from her career to do so?


….that having a restful night means that is because the addict in your life is either in treatment or is in jail?

These are NOT a few of our favorite OR normal things…..

……however….these ARE the new normal in our communities and families today.

Dedicated to my late friend, “The Junkie” (1955-2017)


The New Normal:

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in 2016 about 948,000 Americans reported using heroin in the past year,…and losing just one loved one to a self-injected overdose does nothing to stop the ongoing growing number of developing addicts. It doesn’t take long to become one of the ranks.

Today the average age of a heroin addict is 27 years old female and the sad fact is that 99% of Heroin addicts leaving a treatment program clean will still relapse within weeks.

Though the first heroin high might seem like a choice, this just is not true for addicts, because after that first few highs for an addict it rapidly becomes no longer a choice. The potency of today’s insidious heroin is so toxic that in just a few weeks of use the drug’s chemistry changes the brain and tells the body it needs the drug like it tells the body it needs food. When the addict’s body no longer has a level of heroin it begins to crave the drug and becomes dope sick. No one ever strived to be a junkie. Most say “it happened before I knew what hit me.”

If there was a formula to “cure” addiction parents would use it. The terrorizing life lived with an addict can feel like there is no choice for family and friends as well. It is said that the family and friends of an addict are addicted too. They are. We are. We are addicted to our Addict.

We practice our addiction by enabling. We practice our addiction by preventing consequences for the addict. We practice our addiction by making ourselves responsible for the addicts place to live, food to eat, fines paid to courts, money for gas….even paying for their drug….We keep the addict from rock bottom.

How that applies to how we practice our addiction to our addict is when we use “bail out” measures it massages the guilt we feel for blaming ourselves….and the guilt for blaming the addict. We try to fool our brain that we are in control, because it helps us to feel in control of circumstances that we have literally no control over.

But it’s a ruse.

Blame is pointless, except to keep us addicted.

But we can look towards a brighter future: TO FIND A NEW NORMAL.

We must find hope in education and awareness. The ugly truth, not scare tactics based on false information.

We must stop blaming, it only stigmatizes and alienates

We must educate addicts before they die, and educate the people who are addicted to an addict and who perpetuate the stigma and who enable.

Just because the addict is not allowed to live in our house, just because we will not give him the $40 when asked, just because we find the courage to say “No” and to not enable does not mean we don’t love the addict in our life. It does mean we don’t love the addiction substance, and it does mean we don’t love the chaos.

Finding A New Normal.

It does means that we address our addiction to an addict and draw a line where for us at least the chaos stops. It’s not a judgment of the addict, it’s about Finding a New Normal that isn’t invaded by a drug’s addiction and the practicing addicts behavior.

A New Normal that doe not enable the addict to die.






The Riches of Change

On This Day.

Five years later, and an invested Emotional intelligence

I am not who I was 5 years ago. I am not the same person I was a year ago, or even six months ago. Tne one thing I can always count on is change.

Life is in perpetual motion, this I know, and as much as I’d like to be able to have time stand still, it’s not feasible.

Making a mantra out of; “change is inevitable ” works for me. It reminds me that I am not really in charge of life. A fact that for most of my adult graceless age I tried to disprove the point at every corner. Always resulting in epic fails as I tried to control the outcome of any given situation or relationship.

The day came finally- It was one of those moments when everything seemed hopeless, yet this time I knew intuitively that I had a tangible chance to stop living in daily chaos and to find my way to a Better Me.

And so it began.

Six months of near isolation while pursuing the logistics of making major changes in my personal and professional life; this gave me the time and emotional space to get past the fear of “How will I get by?”

The truth is the changes had begun long before I was able to come to terms with it. Admittedly the truth was that my splintered marriage had come to a broken end. The changes were slow and most seemed subtle at the time.

The transformation to this second season of my life has gratefully been smoother than the sinking realization that 42 years guaranteed nothing.


Stepping back away from anger, fear and grief that were present dally, and taking a deep breath instead kept me emotionally grounded.

Preferably not allowing the emotions to take over I was learning how to disengage and the power that comes from it is strong. Learning to let “issues” go even though valid feelings were attached seemed so enormously overwhelming at the onset. Like a tsunami those feelings washed over me and flooded my sense of well-being. But given time and space the issues and feelings attached would soon lose their seeming intense and relevant importance.

Emotions would come over me ruthlessly fast and leave just as fiercely quick. My thoughts brought feelings that constantly waxed and waned like the moon’s phases. Yet this sense of rhythm strangely reassured me. It calmed me.

Realizing that emotionally healthy people allow some emotional space between a feeling and a subsequent reaction left me with knowledge that even the darkest of emotional times will pass. Accepting this is how I became more at ease with change. Finding comfort with being able to draw lines of change where and when needed fosters a fine balance to my life.

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

January 4th 2013 I began to embrace the changes in ways I’d never even contemplated before.

Moving into my first home where I was to live alone for the first time in my life was thrilling, but as much as there was the exciting emotions there were also the fears of doubts and insecurities.Moving my stripped down belongings to my apartment on the 4th of January 2013 I had no idea what the next year would bring, let alone the very next day.

Five years later in hindsight there have been moments of blissful independence and liberation that still make heart pound loudly today. There were tears of gratitude for allowing myself the gift of self care. There were also times when fear seemed to win when doubts and insecurities overwhelmed me. I won’t lie and pretend my perception was peeking through some rose colored glasses. All good and sweetness it wasn’t. Yet in the accounting sheet of change these past five years have held more of an equitable balance between the plus and minus columns.

All things evolve.
Everything that is happening now will change into something else; every thought and feeling no matter how intense or dramatic, will one day be immaterial.

Taking advantage of opportunities to change the fear into courage, selfishness into self-kindness, and loss into fresh beginnings; I trust there’s potential for positive change in every moment.

There’s incredible lifelong riches in becoming your own powerful change.

January 4th 2018 my second season; it seemed so unlikely five years ago today.

Reflections of life’s rich changes, I thank you.

The Little Things

” Above all else it is about leaving a mark that I existed. I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a great purpose and that is why I make works of art.”

~ Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Today I know that life itself is a work of art, one in which we all have a great purpose in.

We create art in our life on a daily basis. Do you recognize that you are your own masterpiece?

I have been duly conscientious for the need to try to remain mindful of today, of the “now” in my life. It is not a new belief concept for me, but it requires patience and focus. My patience is being tested lately.
This has made me forgetful and helped me lose my focus on just the here and now, and enjoy just what I have now.
I am realizing that to also be grateful for the things I don’t think about as often would go a long way to the gentle reminders I need to remain in the now. To NOT get caught up in the problems of yesterday, the worries of tomorrow. Instead, being mindful of all things significant in my life. Better than snapping a rubber band against ones wrist.
Don’t ask. Just trust me.
I ask myself what about the little things? The things in my life I take for granted, What are those little things that serve to be reminders for me. And why are they significant if they are such little things?
There are things I take for granted in my life and when I’m suddenly spun to another world and I’m left without the things I don’t know where I would be without.
I am a grateful person usually by nature. I believe in gratitude and expressing thanks. I am often aware of feeling grateful for the obvious gifts in life. Gifts like my Faith, my Hopes, my Dreams, on being loving, on being loved, on peacefulness and contentment. These are the things happiness can be built on it is true. I am thankful each morning and night for these gifts. And for those in my life who are my gifts.
Yet there are those small, seemingly unimportant things in my life I would not want to be without. They are significant to my style of homespun happiness.
There are a few others in my life I’d like to be more aware of how significant they are to me in a mindful way. Making a point of being grateful for the “small things” and not taking advantage of or assuming they will always be there.
Just a few honorable mentions from my world in no particular order of value:
For one immediate stand out I look no further than the very keyboard I type this on. And the magic of the Internet I don’t even pretend to understand. Ironically for a lady who is not a fan of technology it has become an important form of communication for me. I know what it is like to be without though even for just a couple of days. I’ll not take it for granted, instead I will be mindful of the gifts it brings to my life each day.
I am grateful I can journal, and feel good about the cathartic expression as well as the personal growth I gain from my introspective reflections.
Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist, suggested the idea of “self observation” by making a daily self-inventory of ourselves; by asking as we bring our day and evening to a close the questions of yourself. His suggested questions work for me.
  • What bad habit have you cured today?
  • What fault have you resisted?
  • In what respect are you better?
This ritual of asking and answering for that day’s behavior & actions helps me to be reminded of the times when I am not living as graciously as I could. I am able to sort out the day’s events and process any feelings through my journaling. Tomorrow is a new day, start anew.
Cloth Napkins
I know.. I know…. threw you for a loop there did I?
Cloth napkins are an indulgence I feel good about. I rarely use kitchen paper products, specifically paper napkins or paper towels. I usually have both in my home but prefer cloth napkins and cloth hand towels. It feels like a luxury with every meal to use a cloth napkin that I adore. I’m an extremely texture oriented person and am not a fan of the feel of paper napkins.
I am most grateful for being able to use cloth napkins.
My Neighborhood:
One of the things I know I take advantage of and am rarely mindful of is when my neighborhood is quiet. There are times when I just want the solitude and false misconception that I am all alone in my ‘hood. That the absolute quiet means that everyone has left for the day. (weekends in the Summer) and I have this whole world to myself. This is my favorite time to walk about in the Hood and meet the neighbors pets, look at the gardens, especially in winter, most have some architectural designs that I admire and are only visible when the foliage has gone into hibernation.
Water & Music
I love a hot shower/bath with music at the same time. Candles are optional.
There is a restorative calm that seeps into every muscles, tendons, and my body’s entire collection of connective tissue. I am magically transformed from the moment of stepping into the hot & fragranced water and the first few chords of someone like Snowy White’s Blues guitar and voice starts to fill the room.
I am in heaven on earth then.
Yet I take it for granted and never give a thought to having the clean abundant hot water nor my Bose stereo that I can move about the house at will.
I am most grateful for the soul grabbing love of friends who know what music moves me and sends it along my way. Never forget those who give the gift of a song.
I know that you cannot create happiness out of just anything It takes creativity
I am able to touch my own oneness because of these small things in my life that are very significant to me.
They help create this masterpiece I call my life..

I’ll Shy Away by Toni Helser & Phil Kearney


Sometimes people come into our lives and with them they bring priceless gifts.

This is the case when Phil Kearney came into my life, his music struck me first and I became a fan, then we became friends. Phil has made a lifelong dream come true for me in turning my words into a song. I really don’t have adequate words to express my gratitude and fondness for Phil, he turned the “becoming a songwriter” into one of the most positive life changing experiences of my life. I’d even go as far and say Phil helped bring me to a point of full circle. Priceless!

Through the whole process of writing, recording, and final mixing Phil allowed me the privilege of being along for the journey of his process. I’ve learned so much while often just simply being in awe.

I’m in awe still Phil. Thank YOU!!

……and Phil…I’m even more of a fan.



Published on Oct 17, 2017


“I’ll Shy Away”Music by Phil Kearney
Lyrics by Toni HelserSo this is it, this is my lightship
where my sense is regained
Here’s where I find a kinship
Penetrating the atmosphere with it’s frailtySpiraling and cascading
into vulnerability
Words that flow with ease
Into fairytales of ecstasyI’ll shy away
from all the tears
No longer chained to shame

I’ll shy away
taking risk where they belong

No need to lie
no need to pretend
that I’m okay
I’m okay

It was all part of the denial
but there’s grace in my face now
No longer quietly afraid
Singing “this is no charade,
this serenity…”

Casting out the shadows
of all that I buried
Showing the scars
like some battered little thing

I’ll shy away
from all the tears
No longer chained to shame

I’ll shy away
taking risk where they belong

No need to lie
no need to pretend
that I’m okay
I’m okay

Light glimpsing softly
Shadows celebrate with the sunshine
shifting brilliance in all that’s divine.