Vivian Maier and how everyone's a spy

Some trips have themes. Beyond the obvious takeaways of the last few days in DC (which I will go into when I have the energy to do so, although the irony is not lost on me that I went to Washington to learn about global health and came home with pneumonia), I got a chance to have into-the-wee hours conversations with several amazing womenwriterfriends about secrets.
Vivian Maier
One of the key differences between being young(ish) and old(erthanyoungish) is that when we're young, we whisper secrets to each other and when we get older, we talk about why we must keep them.

"Truth or dare," we used to say before we realized they were the same thing
As someone who is very public, I have been fascinated with Vivian Maier since first finding out about her life. As someone who is very private (is it possible to be both? I feel like like it is), I have been fascinated with Vivian Maier since first finding out about her life. Her secret life. Her private life as a collector of others' private lives. Lives that didn't know they were being collected. You can't run from the camera, characters of the world. Eventually you will be captured and found. 

And they were.

And so was she.


When you put so much of your life on display and have for so long, you begin to recognize the importance of having secrets. 

"I share less than I used to even though I share more."

"I would write about that but I feel like it's mine, you know?"

"We all need secrets. We all need to keep parts of our lives and our experiences for ourselves."

"I agree."

"Me too."


There is safety in secrets. There is safety in sharing, too.

In the post Hal wrote last Christmas, he said, "the best way to keep a secret is to tell everybody." There is something to be said for that, for sure.

But the quiet is empowering in the same way the sharing is.

The keeping.

The mystery.
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Like how opposing sides are the nearest of kin, even though their opposition is loud and codependent on the argument they don't know how to stop having. And they don't, do they? Every morning the voices wake up and yell at each other like they did the day before and there's safety in that. I push you, you push me, and so on and so forth until nothing ever gets resolved/some things somehow do.
Washington is really interesting. Even after being there for only a few days it became clear to me that in order to fly, there must be left and right wings and those wings, through their differences, flap in unison. I don't know how it's possible but it is. Something there, perhaps, to think about. The idea that we cannot function without acknowledging our opposing selves and lives and wants and needs... The public and the private, the liberal and conservative, light and darkness, secrets and shares, spies and spies.
We are never one side of an issue and to say so is such an oversimplification of ourselves. That's another thing I really took away from these past few days. I can support a cause and question it at the same time. The topics that matter deserve to be questioned. We can be optimists and cynics all in one.  God, politics, privacy, the world's torment and beauty... Both sides, all sides, outside and inside, upside downside...
Anyway, I realize I'm not alone in my fascination with Vivian and the contradicting feelings that occur knowing her secret life was released without her knowledge. She belonged to the shadows but it would have been impossible to keep her there. And yet. When a private life becomes a public collection, something tricky happens.
There is an argument here that is not unlike every other argument that exists, the tug of war between selves and ideals, secrets and shares, private vs public, left wing vs. right. Maier's story is an entanglement of perception, of the secret life as necessity and how everyone wants a piece of everyone else.
It is impossible to look away from the interesting, so we capture, we cling and we keep. We keep so that we can someday let go. Turning from the crowd that haggles and hoots and points and jeers and cheers and demands as we sneak out into whatever bit of empty space we can find to set off on our own scavenger hunts.
53-43 Happy trails.




Blythe | 4:48 PM

I love your line about truth or dare before we knew they were the same. Makes my heart sing and swell.