The other day I reblogged one of my older posts about Anonymous Kindness because I was thinking a lot about writing what I’m going to write today.
A few years ago (2 at least) I started leaving small anonymous gifts for someone I know. I did this for two reasons: 1. I
thought knew this person was under a lot of stress and going through a bit of a difficult time, and 2. I felt I was not in a position to be able to give this person the small surprises without them feeling “odd” for accepting them. While I do get a certain level of personal satisfaction from leaving these small offerings for people and imagining the surprise and/or elation they may feel when receiving them, I do it mostly because I think about how something like that would make me feel when I am in the midst of a personal struggle or feeling like I’m at the end of my rope.
Anyway, the point of this post is that I’ve still been leaving this little gifts for the same person since this started. The time between gifts averages every 6-8 weeks, and they are usually small little nick-knacks with a cute card, a thoughtful quote and a $5.00 Starbucks coupon. I leave them in random places where I know they will be found or delivered to the recipient. However, since I started this little endeavour, the relationship between me and this person has evolved into something more meaningful (no, I am not cheating on my husband…). For those of you who know me well, you might be able to guess that this person is K.
When this started, she was not “formally” mentoring me, I was seeing her as my obstetrician for my pregnancy with E., and our contact was limited to my prenatal appointments and an occasional email, usually about something in a professional context. Since then, a lot as changed. Most notably, I worked up the courage to ask her to be my formal mentor (about a year ago now) and our relationship has gotten much closer. After beginning the formal mentoring, I questioned whether or not to continue with the gifts and decided that it couldn’t hurt every once in a while. I got to a point, however, where I felt that the small gifts were not really cutting it, at least from my end: I knew that she was going through something and I wanted to let her know that I cared. So, I went through all of this.
Since then, things have really been great (despite my insecurities and what I might say on this blog) and I’ve again been wondering if I should continue with the gifts. I enjoy doing it, but does she enjoy getting them? In March I did an elective with her and I decided that I would put the whole “project” to the test… I left an anonymous gift for her on a day that I was there just so I could see what her reactions were. Thankfully, she seemed quite excited to find another gift from her “secret friend” and she was extremely curious about where it came from. She asked every person whom she passed, and she asked me. I tried very hard to keep my poker face, pretending that I knew nothing of this gift, and before I could give a verbal response, she said “You have no idea what I’m talking about… And, you’d never lie to me.”
I contemplated, in that moment, admitting that it has been me all along, but I hesitated. I then talked to her colleague about this “secret friend” throughout the day and I learned that this other doctor thought it was kind of weird… She said this “friend” was sometimes leaving strange and inappropriate gifts (which really piqued my attention because she was describing gifts that I have never left). When K showed me the gift later that day, I asked her about her “secret friend” too and she said she used to have two of them, but she figured out one of them because they were leaving frustrating gifts to try and out her in her pregnancy before she was ready to tell people. As for the other person, she has no idea who it is, but she was really hoping to find out who it is because she wants to thank them and return the favour. After hearing this, I decided to stay the course.
Since then I’ve left three other gifts. It is getting almost impossible to deliver these gifts anonymously now that I’ve almost completed my obs rotation and all the nursing staff knows who I am. For the last gift, I had to implicate a “helper” just to ensure that it got to her without me being caught. She saw me later that same day and commented that her “secret friend” left another gift and that she thinks she figured out who it is. Luckily, it wasn’t me whom she suspected. PHEW.
On Thursday, though, there was almost a breach. I was in the OR all day and I was wearing a cloth scrub cap (because the paper ones irritate my skin). I was walking down the hallway and I ran right into her, completely unexpectedly. One of the last 3 gifts I left was a cloth scrub cap. She had this “all-too-telling” look on her face but she quickly came up with a reason why she looked at me funny. While we were talking, I mentioned that the rest of the OR had been cancelled and I had nothing left to do so she offered for me to spend the rest of the day with her. At one point in the afternoon she brought attention to my scrub cap and said it looked a lot like the one she got from her secret friend.
“Oh?” is all I could bring myself to say. “Is that why you you looked at me funny this morning?”
“Did I look at you funny? Well, I thought for a second that maybe you are my secret friend, but then I figured it wasn’t possible, and you wouldn’t lie to me about it… I just feel bad about not knowing because I really want to thank them for the gifts!”
At that point I was completely lost. Thankfully the conversation changed and I didn’t have to make a decision in that moment. As you can probably see, my anonymous kindness is starting to land me in a little bit of a pickle. I want to tell her it’s me, but I don’t want her to think I’ve been lying to her. I feel like I haven’t been lying because she never actually gave me a chance to deny it: I never said “no, I’m not your secret friend.” I guess it’s more of a “dishonesty by omission” than a flat out lie. I feel like if I were to tell her, I would want to give her a little bit of an explanation of why I started and why I continued with the gifts. My other options would be to continue with the gifts and tell her at some point in the future, or stop with the gifts and tell her in the future, or not tell her at all. I really don’t know what to do.
I asked one friend and she suggested that I continue with the gifts and pick a certain “significant moment” (like when I graduate, or at Christmas or something) to leave the final gift with a letter explaining the whole “secret friend project.” I liked that idea when I thought about it, but then a comment on my anonymous kindness blog made me re-think the reasons and motivations for the gifts. Am I just doing it for myself now? Is prolonging it or not telling her just going to make her more frustrated with the possible thought that I lied to her for so long? I just don’t know anymore!
I think I need some outside, objective advice here…