(Photo courtesy of
I had the pleasure of visiting a tiny and quaint used bookstore over the break. W and I stumbled upon Prince Street Books & Coffee Co. after we finished a fabulous lunch at a new favourite restaurant, The Schwarma House. Our bellies full, our breath saturated with garlic (so tasty, but afterwards still tasting same garlic makes one impossibly regretful), we ventured into the bookstore, a place we both had always known about, but hadn’t taken the opportunity to visit.
It was a small place, but a booklover’s heaven. My eyes couldn’t take in all the books on the shelves, each literally filled to the ceiling with a wide variety and assortment of works by many different authors and various genres. We scoured the shelves on the lookout for two books to continue a trilogy she had unknowingly began reading and now had to find out the ending to. I, having reignited my passion for reading for pleasure, was simply looking for something different to dive into.
I came across the book Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany. It’s titled intrigued me and, reading the inside of the trade paperback, I could already feel myself connecting with the main character and her challenges of balancing motherhood and being a writer. Her best kept secret is not one that I will reveal here nor one that I personally can admit to, but I did find myself uncomfortably relating to her relationships with others and how she let very few people “in” to see the real her. (To be honest I put the book down a few times in the bookstore, only to pick it back up and, ultimately, to make the decision to buy it. I knew it was something that I had to read. I guess you could even say that I couldn’t just leave it on the shelf.)
Like the main character, Cadence, I too have felt like I have sometimes only shown parts of myself to others. I know I am not alone in this as others have expressed these same things to me in conversations over the years. We let others see the parts of us that we wish them to see. I have often wondered if this is the allure to our social media outlets – we can paint a picture of what our lives look like and that picture can show only the aspects we want it to. (Check out Down The Rabbit-Hole for my previously posted thoughts on this.)
Sometimes it’s easier to show only parts of ourselves to others because we are afraid of them seeing the real us. Opening ourselves up permits us to become vulnerable to others – to their scrutiny, judgment, and even to their expectations. Maybe we are afraid of them seeing who we really are with our flaws, our insecurities, and our inadequacies. Maybe trust has been an issue with us and we worry that if we allow others in, they will hurt us in some way. Perhaps this worry comes from experiences we have had in the past, possibly even with different people, and we are afraid of making the same mistakes or at least feeling the same hurt or betrayal.
In the same sense, sometimes we protect ourselves in our relationships with others by holding them at arm’s length, pushing them away, or maybe even placing the relationship, person, or issue we are facing up on a shelf to gather dust. We may find it difficult to reach out to those people after we have been vulnerable with them or maybe because of who we were when we spent time with them is not who we are anymore. At other times it can feel like a bridge has been burnt, a hand in cards has been folded, or even that the straw has (almost) broken the camel’s back.
Sometimes the people or relationships which we leave up on a shelf gathering dust are the ones that we often wish we could reach out to or get back to the same place with again, but yet for some reason feel that we can’t. Maybe circumstances or time has changed, making us feel that we cannot break down the wall which has been put up or find the ladder needed to reach the high shelf. Perhaps even an apology and forgiveness is in order but we cannot find it within ourselves to take the first step in giving the apology or even in accepting it.
Sometimes the people we leave up on a shelf gathering dust are the ones that we need the most. The ones that we need to tell us that we will be ok, that no matter what we are still important in their lives even though distance, time, and circumstances may change us. We may have placed these people or relationships on a shelf but perhaps there doesn’t always seem to be an opportunity to reach up to the shelf and bring those things into our view again.
Sometimes it’s hard to apologize, especially without repeating well-worn phrases which lose their meaning over time and repetition. It’s hard to bridge the widening gap between what was then and what is now. It’s hard to open up the compartments in your mind to allow room for things to cross-sect and intertwine. Our lives become so scheduled and regimented that we can lose sight of how things can still fit together and how we can make things work simply by holding onto the hope that they will.
Maybe it’s time for a little spring cleaning. Like the books so high up on the bookshelf in a quaint little bookstore, it’s time to take down those precious things we have left to gather dust and bring them back into the light. It could be time to open again those shelved books and to read a new chapter. Maybe it’s time to renew those relationships which we have left to sit on their own. Perhaps it’s time to reach out to those who we may have forgotten or who we fear may have forgotten us.
You see, that’s the great thing about dust: once it is wiped away it allows us to see the beauty of everything that still lies beneath it.