(This author during a guest appearance on the BBC)
I heard it again yesterday - a few times. Something along the lines of "Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us," which I hear with some frequency because I'm an open book, speaking easily about my life and experiences on the radio or in other interviews, or in my friendships, books and blog.
Most of the time, when people say this to me, I'm surprised. Not that they've said it (and it's lovely that they do), but that it's their perception that I've done something unusual, or at least, something unusual enough that it warrants commenting on it.
I mean, how are we supposed to get on with each other or have close and loving relationships if we keep ourselves to ourselves?
As I keep saying on my blog, in my books and in speaking to people, whether publicly or privately, "We're all in this together" - because we are. And shouldn't we be opening ourselves up to one another and really sharing the experience?
What experience, you ask? Well, any. Life, being here, the parts that hurt, the parts that make you giggle like a little kid - and everything in between.
And if you're going to really share the experience, that includes letting people see your pain, your fears, your celebrations and accomplishments - all of it.
If you're not willing to do that, what's the point of being here? To my mind, you're just dragging your frightened little backside through this life, one painful, lonely minute after the next until you draw your last sad little breath. Like a beautiful flower that never blooms, no one will ever get to see your colours, or to experience your unique and radiant spirit.
And neither will you.
When you don't let anyone else see who you really are, when you keep yourself closed off from the world, not only do you shut other people out, you shut yourself in. When you put up a barrier that says, "I'm very closed and private", you're not just saying "I don't share myself with people." You're also choosing to restrict the flow of energy, of ideas, of conversations on a level that will allow you to truly know anyone else, or to see, to understand or to access who's really on the inside of your wall.
A pond that has no source of fresh water coming in and flowing out it becomes stagnant. It becomes a swamp, so thick with algae you cannot see into its murky depths. There's nothing coming in. Nothing going out. It's unchanging and unmoving.
I would rather be a sparkling pool of crystal clear water whose shape is gradually changed by a stream rushing into it at one side and running out at the other, constantly changing and being replenished with newness and freshness.
(Photo courtesy of this author)
Why do people choose to close themselves off and keep themselves private? Usually it is out of fear. Perhaps a fear that they won't be liked if people really know who they are, or a fear of rejection, or of being isolated.
Yet they are isolating themselves, rejecting themselves, and they will never know themselves - not fully, anyway, by not participating in their own lives as much as they could. They become what they fear.
And in doing so, they deprive themselves of really living, of experiencing all that life has to offer. Sure, they may avoid a lot of pain. But they will also miss out on a lot of joy, adventure, and the indescribable pleasure that comes from the emotional intimacy and connection of relationships with others.
Don't they see that we all have the same basic fears and desires? We want to be accepted. We want to be liked. We want companionship. We fear losing people we love. We don't want to hurt. We want to be loved.
Well, if we all share those fears and insecurities, why do we play this huge game of 'hide and seek' with each other? Why do we peek out from behind the curtains at the other kids who are playing outside and having a good time, wishing we could be out there with them, yet terrified that they'll see us at the window?
If you get brave and go outside and some of the kids don't like you, so what? Lots of others will love you.
We say that countries go to war. But it's not countries, it's people who decide to go to war, and who are dropping the bombs, using the weapons, killing each other. And when they're at war, those people do not want "the enemy" to know their next plan, their next move, their weak or vulnerable places. They want to present themselves as strong and solid. This is their only hope of survival.
But we need not live our lives as though we are at war, protecting ourselves from everyone we meet, protecting ourselves from friends, neighbours, strangers. If we do this, we are living fearful, lonely lives.
(Acrylic painting on canvas "Lonesome" by this author)
Our uniqueness is a gift from the Universe. Our spirits are precious, interesting, delightful and meant to be shared with one another. It is only in that sharing that we can fully discover and express all aspects of ourselves.
When we remain closed and private, not only are we depriving others of the precious gift of knowing who we are, we are depriving ourselves, too.
It's simple. Live as though you are at war, and you will experience the pain, the isolation and the coldness that go along with it. You can be that stagnant pond, if that's what you really want.
Or you could respect that perfect gift that you've been given - the gift that is you - and share it with the rest of us, please, and let us enjoy it right along with you.
After all, isn't that the whole point of being here?
For more from this author, visit www.libertyforrest.com