Some secrets feel more sacred, embarrassing or scary than others. Members of the IU community are invited to anonymously share their secrets with one another. Your secret may be big or small, serious or funny, and about any topic such as your experiences with family, friends, relationship partners, love, sex, fear, school, health, religion, hope, or desire.
Here’s how to share your secret:
- If you have an IU Secret postcard, write and/or draw your secret on the blank side. Otherwise, use a postcard or a blank index card (3x5 or 4x6 is preferred but size is flexible). The secret you share may be something you have never told anyone, or something you have shared with only a few people.
- Be creative by drawing or pasting pictures or using a variety of colors.
- Drop your secret in Campus Mail (no postage is necessary if using the campus mail system). If sending via campus mail, add “CAMPUS MAIL” in big letters on the card or envelope.
- If you mail your IUSecret via the US Postal Service, you will need to add appropriate postage.
Send your secret to:
Dr. Debby Herbenick Dept of Applied Health Science, School of Public Health, SPHB 116 Indiana University Bloomington, IN 47405
Please do not include any photographs, names or other identifying details of yourself or others. These secrets are meant to be anonymous. IUSecrets cards are sometimes displayed publicly on the IU campus. If you are worried about your handwriting being recognized by others, type your secret or cut and paste words from magazines onto the card rather than handwriting your secret.
This project was inspired by Frank Warren’s PostSecret project. The IUSecrets project is not affiliated in any way with PostSecret, which you can learn more about at PostSecret.com or through reading the PostSecret books available in bookstores and online.
The IUSecrets project was initially started as a class assignment in Dr. Herbenick’s Human Sexuality classes. The idea was to show students that people just like them - men and women their same age, in their same community, who they sat next to each week throughout the semester - were going through very similar things (and sometimes much more difficult experiences). Since then, it has broadened to include the IU community, in partnership with the IU Health Center, during Wellness Week 2011 and 2012. In Spring 2013, the IU Secrets project was featured in the Indiana Daily Student newspaper and in May 2013, the IU Secrets project and Tumblr were featured in Men’s Health magazine. We’re grateful for the coverage and for the hundreds (thousands?) of women and men who have shared their secrets as part of our community.
“I wanted to see where beauty comes from
without you in the world, hauling my heart
across sixty acres of northeast meadow,
my pockets filling with flowers.
Then I remembered,
it’s you I miss in the brightness
and body of every living name:
rattlebox, yarrow, wild vetch.
You are the green wonder of June,
root and quasar, the thirst for salt.
When I finally understand that people fail
at love, what is left but cinquefoil, thistle,
the paper wings of the dragonfly
aeroplaning the soul with a sudden blue hilarity?
If I get the story right, desire is continuous,
equatorial. There is still so much
I want to know: what you believe
can never be removed from us,
what you dreamed on Walnut Street
in the unanswerable dark of your childhood,
learning pleasure on your own.
Tell me our story: are we impetuous,
are we kind to each other, do we surrender
to what the mind cannot think past?
Where is the evidence I will learn
to be good at loving?
The black dog orbits the horseshoe pond
for treefrogs in their plangent emergencies.
There are violet hills,
there is the covenant of duskbirds.
The moon comes over the mountain
like a big peach, and I want to tell you
what I couldn’t say the night we rushed
North, how I love the seriousness of your fingers
and the way you go into yourself,
calling my half-name like a secret.
I stand between taproot and treespire.
Here is the compass rose
to help me live through this.
Here are twelve ways of knowing
what blooms even in the blindness
of such longing. Yellow oxeye,
viper’s bugloss with its set of pink arms
pleading do not forget me.
We hunger for eloquence.
We measure the isopleths.
I am visiting my life with reckless plenitude.
The air is fragrant with tiny strawberries.
Fireflies turn on their electric wills:
an effulgence. Let me come back
whole, let me remember how to touch you
before it is too late.”—Summer Solstice. Stacie Cassarino. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/239402
Come with a man on your shoulders, come with a hundred men in your hair, come with a thousand men between your breasts and your feet, come like a river full of drowned men which flows down to the wild sea, to the eternal surf, to Time!
Bring them all to where I am waiting for you; we shall always be alone, we shall always be you and I alone on earth, to start our life!
So There's Me, Bloomington, and this Sense of Place
“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”
― Alexander McCall Smith
Some people, when they find out that I’m from Florida, say that it must have been hard for me to leave Florida for Indiana. However, coming here wasn’t difficult at all. When people want to know what brought me to Bloomington and what’s kept me here, the short story I often give is that I came for love (I originally came to spend what I thought would be 6 months with someone I’d been in a long relationship with) but stayed for sex (in the sense that I took a job studying sex, then went to graduate school, and then took another job studying sex). Saying this makes people smile or laugh and it saves us all the longer story.
In fact, I did first come to Bloomington for love of a person. But I stayed in Bloomington for love of this wonderful, beautiful place.
Although the relationship that brought me here wasn’t meant to last more than a few years after my move, my relationship with Bloomington developed in special ways from early on. I was lucky to make friends at work who helped to acquaint me with the town. One friend took me to a nearby trail at Griffy Woods, a trail I have now walked and/or run on hundreds of times, with countless friends and often times in glorious solitude. My favorite walk there was years ago, in winter, when it was just warm enough that the snow was melting and someone had sculpted dozens of perfectly rounded snowballs and placed them on tree branches throughout the trail. He or she had also built a snowman and a snowdog. It was a beautiful morning.
Another friend and I took up running. We weren’t particularly fast but we were curious to see the neighborhoods that bordered campus and, some years later, I moved into that neighborhood where I live now and walk my dog each day. With someone else, we ventured out to numerous hiking trails and secluded spots of lake. We played Frisbee in the stadium parking lot at midnight. We walked up and down the city and neighborhood streets sometimes starting at 1 or 2 in the morning. At other times, I’ve gotten up at 4 or 5 in the morning to run the streets alone. Combined, it means I’ve gotten to know Bloomington in all lights of day and night.
For several years, I babysat the children of some friends. They lived near campus and close to the park. I loved walking to the park with their children and taking them to the playground. Another time we walked into town to the library and to get ice cream. Mostly, though, we sat at home or played in their backyard. These days, when I pass their old house (where they moved from years ago), I can still see the kids in the front yard or else when I see the upstairs windows of their old bedroom from the street, I think of all the times I tucked the children in at night, singing invented songs to them as they drifted off to sleep.
It was a lucky thing to find a sense of place in Bloomington so early on. And so as life changed and I made choices about school and relationships and work, staying here is what I wanted to do. I can find my sense of place most anywhere – even in a city I’ve never officially lived in like San Francisco, I have my regular routines, places I stay, markets I visit, and morning walks that I take – but having a sense of home in the place where I’ve put down my roots means something more to me.
Having this sense of place is non-accidental. It takes care and attention. It involves noticing. Lately I’ve been doing this, in part, by taking slower walks. I stop more and I look at the stars and the sky. I listen to the sounds of the evening. I let my dog sniff places in the ground for as long as she wants to, perhaps in some way inclined to foster her own sense of place and neighborhood. I talk more to people at work. I like that I know a fair number of my neighbors. I like that, each December, I have neighbors who have a daughter who visits and sells pottery from her parents’ home, and that I’ve seen her baby grow each year she’s visited. An author who has written about this town and their home and our neighborhood lives only a few blocks away and I appreciate the sense of history I have of this place, thanks to the words he’s written. The park nearby is where I’ve seen families grow and bands play and where I’ve picnicked with friends and co-workers over the years. It’s where I take my dog so she can learn to be comfortable around other dogs. It’s where I run in warmer weather. And it’s where I often think to myself, “I should play tennis there some time” but then I never do.
Sometimes – as with all friendships and romantic relationships – there are bumps in the road, moments where I can’t wait to leave and see some other place for vacation or work. As much as I’ve come to like the cold, sometimes I long for warm weather and the ocean. It’s not that Florida is any better that Indiana; but sometimes I dream of the kind of warmth that feels like home to me in an indescribable way. And there are days when I realize that much of my life takes place in a one mile radius (where I eat, sleep, and work) and am happy with that. Other days, I remember living in or around cities where my life radius was perhaps a little bit bigger and I wish for that.
Then I think what I like about this place. I re-center. I think of the neighbors I pass in my small area. I think of how often I see people not just on Facebook but in real, waking life. And I think of the people I’ve met who have taken me outside this little comfort zone – friends who have done triathlons with me in Indianapolis, who have walked me around farms 15 minutes away, or who have taken me to listen to a band in Nashville (Indiana, not Tennessee). I think of the houses I’ve lived in, gone to potlucks in, and the people who I have adored throughout this town over the years. I think of the church I sometimes go to and the teenagers who I first saw as children, and the retired people who I first knew as colleagues. There’s the Farmer’s Market, with some of the same people who have sold me zinnias or corn or tomatoes for years. Sometimes, it all gives me goosebumps to think about this spirit of place, the way that time moves, and the way we all move with it. Sometimes I’m just quiet and content about it. Sometimes I wonder.
There is so much to love here. And I find that this sense of place I’ve developed takes a little luck of meeting good people and that it’s a practice, too, in the sense that meditation is a practice. Just as my little front yard garden with its forget-me-nots and its spring bulbs and the mums I brought with me from my old house is something I cultivate each year, relishing the old flowers and making room for new flowers, herbs, and vegetables, so too is my sense of place in this town something that I tend to.
This past year, in particular, has been full of change for me in ways I think I knew were coming for a long time. I’ve quietly reached out more to different circles of friends, to new people, and to community groups I used to admire from afar but wasn’t as involved in as I would have liked to be. I’ve been more connected with local groups, I’ve toured gardens and food pantries and met with local leaders, in the background, to talk about this place we all love and how things might change. But mostly I walk my dog, I tend my garden, I gaze up at the stars, and feel grateful and alive. Bloomington is a very good place for me to be and to call home.
Kurt Vonnegut, Technology, and Carol out in Woodstock
One of my Twitter followers was kind enough to email the following to me which is said to be from Kurt Vonnegut, Harpers Magazine, September 1996, Page 26. But Andy (from Twitter) tells me it’s from an interview in Technology Magazine from 1995. I don’t know who’s right but I know that it’s great. And that I’m grateful to Andy for sending it my way.
UPDATE: Andy’s right. Apparently, Harper’s just reprinted it. Enjoy!
I work at home, and if I wanted to, I could have a computer right by my bed, and I’d never have to leave it. But I use a typewriter, and afterward I mark up the pages with a pencil. Then I call up this woman named Carol out in Woodstock and say, “Are you still doing typing?” Sure she is, and her husband is trying to track bluebirds out there and not having much luck, and so we chitchat back and forth, and I say, “Okay, I’ll send you the pages.” Then I go down the Steps and my wife calls, “Where are you going?” “Well,” I say, “I’m going to buy an envelope.” And she says, “You’re not a poor man. Why don’t you buy a thousand envelopes? They’ll deliver them, and you can put them in the closet.” And I say, “Hush.” So I go to this newsstand across the street where they sell magazines and lottery tickets and stationery. I have to get in line because there are people buying candy and all that sort of thing, and I talk to them. The woman behind the counter has a jewel between her eyes, and when it’s my turn, I ask her if there have been any big winners lately. I get my envelope and seal it up and go to the postal convenience center down the block at the corner of Forty-seventh Street and Second Avenue, where I’m secretly in love with the woman behind the counter. I keep absolutely poker-faced; I never let her know how I feel about her. One time I had my pocket picked in there and got to meet a cop and tell him about it. Anyway, I address the envelope to Carol in Woodstock. I stamp the envelope and mail it in a mailbox in front of the post office, and I go home. And I’ve had a hell of a good time. I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you any different.
Last night, a few of us went to hear a wonderful night of jazz music as part of the IU Presidential Concert at the MAC. My eyes were drawn, over and over, to pianist Alan Pasqua. Music or joy or feeling or something flowed through his body and out through his right foot, which tapped and danced under his piano stool.
This morning I was out running with my dog and thinking about the dancing, tapping feet from last night, and then about a friend who played jazz music on his keyboard. At the time (this was years ago), I lived with a man who - as a sort of side hobby/business - had turned our basement into a full-fledged recording studio. Musicians of all sorts regularly drifted in and out of the house. And my friend who played jazz music recorded a couple of his albums there. On one of the albums is a song recorded for me. He also had me paint the album cover for the one he recorded before moving.
Sometimes when my friend was recording, I would come home from yoga or the market and sit outside on the deck with the wind and his moving music blowing around and through me. Only when he was done playing would I go in the house, walk down the stairs to the studio, and let them know I’d come home. Mostly I just sat and listened, content.
“for there is nothing heavier than compassion. Not even one’s own pain weighs so heavy as the pain one feels with someone, for someone, a pain intensified by the imagination and prolonged by a hundred echoes.” ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being
I haven’t used my Tumblr in ages but now, looking back, I’m surprised at how much life has changed since I last posted in the Fall.
The dog I worried about not having enough space or energy for? We adopted her days later and she is one of the best decisions I’ve ever been a part of. Little Jezebel is my heart and my wonderment.
Other things have changed, too: I’ve signed a contract for a second book (it’s about vaginas and vulvas and I’m writing it with a friend/colleague), there was a huge rainbow in my town that everyone but me seemed to see one day, I’m out there swimming and rollerskating and bellydancing, and I’ve made new friends and watched a good friend move away.
There are precious, wonderful moments of lovely and tough moments, too, but such is the pattern of life. I hope you are enjoying yours, whoever and wherever you are.