Shame suffocates me. I can’t breathe or I won’t breathe because I am too ashamed to even suck up the air I need. I’m not sure when the shame birthed itself but I can remember hiding because of it very early in my life. The kind of hiding when you pretend you don’t notice someone you know because you don’t have anything to say that will match their perfectly wonderful life.
I am 51, reasonably attractive and reasonably successful. Yet today as I shopped in Marshall’s looking for the latest cheap deal on a dress, wearing my sloppy Sunday shorts, I caught a glance of an old boyfriend from high school with his wife. I hadn’t seen him in years but we connected on facebook last year and exchanged a few pleasantries but then I backed off. From his posts I gathered he made oodles of money, is a committed husband and loving father, all the things I failed having with a man. I couldn’t face him without looking my best. I slinked away between the shirt racks.
There is another way I hide. I withdraw from the moment. My body is there but my heart disappears.
Yesterday started out as a beautiful day with a long drive planned to a quiet beach to spend time with my daughter and her much loved dogs. From the moment she slammed the transmission into drive she was seething with anger, a fight the night before with her father lingered in every movement. Then the hate poured out of her mouth like vomit. “I hate him! I hate grandma and Sal! I hate them all!”
Pictures of long gone battles with my ex-husband and his family popped up like a continuous row of jack-in-a-boxes exploding in my skull. The buried frustration, the disgust, the disappointment rocked back and forth like clown heads on a spring. Then the shame of bringing her into those circumstances stifled any expression of love like a nylon stocking pulled down tight over my face. I couldn’t smile. I couldn’t communicate. I couldn’t be.
I lost 6 hours of my life yesterday in a time warp of shame.
I lied. I think I know when the shame started. It was somewhere between wondering where my father was and trying to not be a problem for my irritable mother. They divorced when I was less than 3 years old and I have no memories of him. Only a few pictures I found in a closet shoebox that substitute for memories that should have been. My mother was always angry, even for silly things it seemed when I was young. Not sure if she was always that way or if it was because of him leaving. Either way, I had to keep my guard up. Less than perfect would not do. If she left too, who would take care of me? If I made her angry, who would protect me?
Still stuck in this little girl place where it’s not safe, I am ashamed for even being here after all these years.
And yet, I perpetuate the shame by judging myself for even having it. It is not the shame that causes me disharmony. It is my judgment for having it.
I am allowed and encouraged to experience all parts of humanity without judgment. This allowing is forgiveness. It is surrender to what is rather than fighting and judging the temporary experience of this moment. And through the allowing, forgiving and surrendering, the shame is finally free to move on and out of my physical body and mind. Thus restoring balance and center to once again feel what I truly am, a magnificent being that is part of the Whole, yet expressing itself uniquely in this human body.