the secrets of objects

moma stephanie klein web
(Finding the Extraordinary on an ordinary rainy day)

I sometimes think there are hidden secrets in our lives. Not things that we don’t want to tell people, or things about which we’re embarrassed, but the kind of secrets the universe knows but we don’t. There are actual things, objects, gifts that we meant to give, that we even wrapped, where we even wrote that last minute card at the checkout counter for a birthday party that we ended up saying we were too sick to attend–but really at the last minute we just felt too fat, or too hot, or too tired, or too full to go. Now the present is sitting there, that book that’s still wrapped, at the bottom of our closet, and it’s kind of waiting for us to discover it again. Maybe it was meant to be in our lives, and maybe we’ll unwrap it and read a passage in that book, and it will change our lives.

I love the idea that it doesn’t just happen with things but also with people in our lives. Maybe there’s an old receipt in our closet, and we find it, and Oh, my God, you know what? I’m going to return that thing, that shirt that I bought that I never wore. Because the store says you can return whenever, and they have a really easy return policy, so you return it and meet your best friend.

It’s comforting, inspiring really, to know so many possibilities are hidden in our lives. Whether it’s some business card at the bottom of an old handbag, or the label on a sweater that belonged to your grandmother—one you decide to research, to see if the company is still around, and then you find something else, something new, something you never would have discovered a passion for if you hadn’t taken the moment to look. And it was just sitting there, ignored, right there within reach, as you droned on wondering what you’re doing with your life.

I just love the idea that there are “secrets” in our lives that prompt us to live our days differently. We can all look around, wherever we are, and find something, an actual object, that can change the course of our lives. Looking up at your closet full of perfume, you might realize you don’t actually wear any of them anymore, so you decide you’ll get a new fragrance.  After a day of spraying, waving, fanning, and sniffing coffee beans, you decide there are no fragrances out there that really suit you, so you begin to research fragrance, thinking maybe I’ll design a fragrance. And one day you’ll be telling this Once Upon A Time story to a reporter, many years later, who wants to know how you got your start. What was the motivation, the driving force behind your empire? They’ll want to know. And your answer will be: curiosity. Simply looking up and noticing. I believe that’s the key to an active life and mind: remaining curious. Life is never dull when you encourage yourself to learn.

Our lives are rich with possibilities, yet we have crowded to-do lists and TV shows to watch, calls to make, emails to send, dry-cleaning to drop off, diets to start, that we rarely notice the small gifts, the tiny secrets, there just waiting to change our lives.  Instead, we barrel through our habits and rituals, our routines and our way of doing things, without even questioning Why am I living this way anymore?

They’re such gifts, doors really, and yet we ignore them. Assume we’re just wasting time, creating busy work. It’s why I call them “secrets,” because all these detours are secret entrance-ways to a different life. Our lives can go in such different directions if we choose to pursue any of them or choose to open our eyes and realize I don’t have to live the life that I’m living right now. I can actually choose a new one.

I can stop everything (gradually, of course) but I can! I can decide tomorrow that I’m going to research film classes, review their reading lists and go ahead and read all the should books and see all the should films, then write my own film in my research. Who knows, and that can be my thing and the people I meet along the way can be the ones with whom I’ll grow old—my mentors, my dinner companions, the people with whom I’ll vacation, my first thought when I receive an extra ticket… the friends with whom I’ll visit the museum, the ones who’ll notice the little girl with her arms outstretched, flying over lily pads and believing anything is possible.

A YEAR AGO: Nuclear Results and False Negatives

5 YEARS AGO: Sample Sale



  1. Raise a child with significant disabilities and the world of possibilities blooms each day. Doctors said my daughter wouldn’t live – then they said she wouldn’t walk – then they said she wouldn’t eat – then they said she wouldn’t communicate. She is a beautiful teenager now who loves nothing more than skipping down the hall to the school principal’s office while calling her teacher a bitch in sign language.

    Even if no one else sees the possibilities, my daughter does each and every day!

    1. Deborah,
      I read this post and then just happened to read your reply (going along with the theme of this post)…so I was wondering if you might be willing to contact me, tell me more about your experience as a mother of a child with disabilities? I have a 2 yr old son, born 3 months early, and suffered a major brain hemorrhage. He is amazing. But I am still at the very beginning of raising a child with many challenges. I was also told many awful things that we have somehow avoided or overcome–we are so blessed, but we are not unscathed. I’d love to learn more about your experiences and your daughter if you’re willing to share!
      My email is: I hope to hear from you!

  2. Thank you Stephanie! Somehow you always seem to know what I need to hear. You are an inspiration.

  3. I love when you write this way. I have printed so many of your posts over the years and tucked them into journals that I know I will uncover one day long from now and rediscover a whole new way in which it will move me. Thank you!

  4. This was great. I love coming across “found” objects (and persons) that were there all along. I too feel that my life is crowded by errands and lists, and that I that need to be more aware of my surroundings…

  5. Beautifully written and inspirational! Also perfect timing as I’ve just started researching going back to school. A good reminder to let life, God, surprise you!

  6. Yeah…I had just gotten back together with a boyfriend (and moved back in with him) when I met this really interesting guy in a store. I thought he might be gay so when he gave me his number (he wanted to take me to the ballet) I figured it was purely platonic. I hid his card away and went about my life. Three weeks later when feeling rather bored, I gave him a call. Four years later we were married. (And no, he’s definitely not gay. He sleeps through the ballet like any other hetero male. He was just playing the “I’m a sensitive guy” card.)

  7. Smack in the middle of my forehead. That’s where this post hit me. And I thank you for it.

    There are other times I hate (being sincere, not mean) what you write. And then posts like this one come along and you pull me back in ;)

  8. This post came just at the right time. The past couple weeks have been nothing but following a script (I’m getting slammed at work) and just when I think that nothing new and exciting will happen to me again, I read your post and am reminded how easy it is to be inspired. Thank you.

  9. wow. this was one of my favorite posts of yours ever.

    i wanted to stop by today and de-lurk a bit. i always read, and comment from time to time. we’ve exchanged a few emails here and there… a couple on recipes, a couple that really stuck with me when i was in a reltaionship rut.
    i just wanted to let you know that i find your writing to be inspiring. you continually amaze me with your authenticity, your wit, your humour, your genuine realness. your blog was one of the first that i started reading, way back when, and im so glad that i found it when i did. thank you for inspiring me each and every day.

  10. Hi Stephanie – It’s your beautiful and truthful posts that I adore so much…talk about hitting home. Also, I owe you an apology for calling you a snob (the white trash water sports)…you’re not a snob, and I’m sorry for thinking that of you. Anyhow, loved this post. Thanks so much.


  11. Beautiful post Stephanie….it is full of all the things I love about your writing…honesty, wit, humor, and inspiration. I have had many of these moments throughout my life. I believe there are no accidents. Great title too!

  12. Gorgeous writing & a beautiful sentiment. Secrets do have a way of presenting themselves when you are paying attention . . . .
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. while I sit here pondering the wide open door in front of me, and the potential to my next life I have to say thank you.

  14. I don’t have to live the life that I’m living right now. I can actually choose a new one. Very inspiring. I am inventing a new life for myself and I am embracing the opportunity that has presented itself. I love your blog!

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