I used to move through life guarding a secret.

If a stranger locked eyes with me I’d wonder if they saw my soul and knew my shame. Hope would shimmer fleetingly that they might save me from myself, but then some primal reflex would pull my shoulders forward to protect my heart as I escaped.

Later I changed my life and a furtive happiness clung to me.  I feared my fragile self would become visible before its time, so I kept my head down to avoid notice.

Now I am learning to walk in my truth. It’s an oddly freeing, like having empty hands when I’ve left my phone at home, or driving one of those cars that doesn’t need keys to start.

These days I smile at those who meet my gaze. My instincts are outward, not internal. If I see eyes of sadness or shoulders shrouded in shame, I send out kindness.

Don’t worry fellow traveler. I don’t know your secrets but I do see your pain. I see you. I see you and I wish you well.

One day, when age and frailty give weight to my words, may I be so brave as to speak such things aloud. May I have the courage to lay a spotted shaking hand gently on the forearm of a stranger and offer wise words peace and strength.