My Shame

Brene Brown says, “The less we talk about it [shame], the more we have it.” I have heard conversation after conversation around domestic violence, rape, gender, sexuality and other areas of human struggle and shame. I am not for one second suggesting that means we have healed the shame around these realities. I can’t even confidently say there’s been much healing at all. People are still so isolated from the help and connection that could begin the healing process – still bearing the burden of shame alone.

What I am saying is, we’re talking about them. That surely suggests some kind of movement, however imperceptible, away from shame. How long ago was it that we didn’t even talk about domestic violence? 50 years? It has not been very long since these topics were not discussed – not even in the safe arms of our friends and family. In every venue silence fueled shame and isolation. Only since the late 90’s have we had Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It’s been even less time that we’ve been publicly talking about gender awareness and sexuality openly. Fraught with fear, we remain silent.

What I desperately need to know is, when will the grassroots movement effectively abolish shame altogether? It starts with me. It starts with talking about it. A friend just shared with me her courage around publicly talking about the shame of childhood sexual abuse, and how through doing so she discovered that the shame wasn’t even hers. I venture to say it never is. Where the hell does shame come from, anyway??

I can tell you where my shame comes from. It comes from 1,000 – or 1,000,000 –overheard negative comments about some situation, condition, or belief that I find myself unable to escape. It comes from covert, and not so covert, messages from the media about the definition of pretty, successful, woman, desirable, acceptable. It comes from the judgments falling unconsciously from the lips of people around me – judgments about things they don’t understand, or they fear. It comes from those same judgments falling from my own lips about things I don’t understand and fear.

I don’t think people intentionally breathe fire on the hotbed of our cultural shame.  I didn’t.  I didn’t comprehend the weighty impact of my small-minded opinions, shared openly and so resolutely – about EVERYTHING. Even comments said in jest penetrate the cultural subconscious and are the breeding ground of shame, disconnection, fear, and self-loathing. They come back to haunt me as I find myself, through some life circumstance, falling in to the categories I previously judged or mocked.

We have diligently cultivated a culture of shame with every judgment. I have diligently cultivated a culture of shame with every judgment. Every judgment. I believe the only way we – I – heal this, and cultivate a culture of connection, of enough, of love, is to stop openly expressing our value judgments; to hold them in suspense and question until they dissolve back in to that space of alchemical possibility and re-emerge as grace, connection, compassion. The dissolution of shame will happen when we start making space for every experience, every circumstance, every nuance to be held with compassion. We. Me. It starts with me.

I wish I could speak the source of my shame – right now, to you. I wish I were a courageous pioneer who would at this moment name my shame publicly and create space for others – you – to do the same. I’m not there. I’m still tethered to my shame by fear: fear of judgment, fear of rejection.   The source of my shame is something I rarely hear talked about. There is no public platform for awareness, and, even among friends it is highly unlikely to be a topic of discussion. I want nothing more than to bare my soul, untether from my shame, and connect wholeheartedly.

Can we talk about this some more?

And in the meantime, can we be so care-full with our words that we create enough space for every struggle to wriggle free from the prison of shame we wall each other in?

 

Photo credit: http://www.indiatimes.com/india/indias-shame-world-reacts-to-fb-post-arrest-47788.html

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Love, Me

Dear Secret Parts of Me,

The scared. The wanting. The waiting.  I know you have been waiting a lifetime for someone. A mother, to do and be the things that mommies do.  A father.  Someone to affirm your worth.  A lover, to see the depth and breadth of your beauty.  A friend, loyal and present and completely sold on your absolute divinity.  A mentor, to cultivate and sculpt all that you are from all that you’re not.  A boss, to recognize your invaluable contribution.

Someone – anyone – to see.  And, to do more than see. To shout from the rooftops and preach to the choir about your innate, unshakeable value; your unwavering beauty…

even the ugly parts.

And oh, those parts. You’ve been waiting for them to be understood, held with grace, honored for their dutiful allegiance, held as if they were the same beauty as the rest of you – because they are.

You’ve been waiting for someone more than dependable – to do more than they say, to outshine themselves in your – and their – honor.

I have witnessed your waiting.  I have felt your desperate longing, your utter loneliness and total helplessness. I have shared your secret fear that they will not come – that you will be waiting forever.

I have seen how that waiting has translated itself in to an inability to wait – fierce and unyielding independence which allows only the god-like closer than arm’s length.  Learning skill after skill/trade after trade so that the need for help from another would be driven further and further away.

Dear Precious, Secret Self – I have witnessed your pain, your waiting.  I have added my longing to yours; waiting a lifetime for someone – someone I was convinced was everyone else – to show up.

Really, you were waiting for me.

 

 

[Form inspired by a recent letter from Gerri Ravyn Stanfield in her “Extraordinary Healing and Leadership Arts” newsletter (you can learn more here)]

 

Photo credit: https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/heart-drawn-window.html

My Next Bold Move

I need something familiar

some solid ground

where I can find my feet

I need something tangible

something to wrap my hands

or my head

around

some kind of guidepost

safe guard

security blanket

I want to stay

everything screaming to run

I want to run

everything screaming to stay

hanging on the precipice

of my next bold move

 

image credit: by Rafaelll90 in Manipulations, discovered on http://www.ordinaryservant.com

 

What is Remembered Lives

There is something exquisitely beautiful about the way my heart shatters with regret – so many things in life that I didn’t do – or love – or appreciate while I had the chance. I dreamed about my mom last night. We were in the only house I remember growing up in, other than my grandparents. She was going through her things, giving me instructions on how to handle each item. She was dying, and she was preparing. “I don’t want you to die!” I demanded. “Yes, it’s time. I’m so weak.” She was ready.

Relief swept over me as I woke up and realized it was a dream. A moment later I remembered she has been gone for years and grief sat so heavy on my heart I could barely breathe.

Sometimes, when I’m driving and a certain song comes on the radio I can see her, next to me in the seat, rocking back and forth – singing her heart out. Smiling, I turn up the radio and sing my heart out too. She is the one who taught me about being fully in a moment. She is the one who taught me that it is absolutely impossible to NOT be in the moment when I’m passionately singing every word as if it just might be my saving grace – my life’s pain and prayer in one sweet melody.

What is remembered lives.

Maybe that’s my way of being in denial that she’s gone. Maybe that’s my way of tormenting myself with the feeling that she’s standing behind me as I type, or somehow secretly spying on me as I hold my granddaughter. If I could stop this pain, or keep tormenting myself with her real or imagined presence – my heart would continue to break wide open every day.

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What is remembered lives.

shattering

I see you with her
so tender
so indescribably sweet

love pours from every fiber of your being
a miracle before my eyes
I ache with regret
all the way to my soul

those precious little moments break me
a million pieces
scattered in every conceivable direction
you are so in love with her

and I…

I have missed my chance to swim in the ecstacy of every coo
to marvel at each imperceptible milestone

I missed your first kiss – off chasing dragons

that’s the price I pay for being too selfish
or maybe too sick
to notice tender moments incubating miracles
the price when
from conception
a child is an inconvenience

I didn’t even know what I was missing

I do now.

my only salvation
is to feel this exquisite heartbreak
writhing between longing and ecstasy
knowing that this shattering
is that love

 

Photo credit: http://photobucket.com/images/eyes%20crying%20blood

Five

Life creeps in around me

and I weep

I feel out of place

disconnected

my own star, dim by comparison.

the collective looks so beautiful

there in its other world –

colors twirling, unfurling, embracing

cracks in the wall

even the ones that enclose me.

eyes down in grief,

transformative beauty before me;

the evolution that would happen

should I raise my glance

to meet its eye

aye, face down

I weep

and life creeps in around me.

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image credit: Shadowscapes Tarot

Wide Awake 7 Day Challenge

These are challenges I give myself.  Most of them have evolved from my frustration with inadequate word choices, which create the experience of disconnecting from the potency of my own story and keep me from being fully integrated with  my life.  It’s amazing the power our words hold. It’s rarely ever just semantics…

These practices facilitate a deeper connection to life and to the people in my life.  They keep me conscious and thoughtful, challenge my perspective, and keep me engaged and open.

They are listed in the format of Day 1, Day 2, etc., however they can be done on any interval.  Maybe a day doesn’t feel like long enough to practice.  Instead of moving from one to the next, add each day’s challenge to a growing repertoire.  I practice all of these regularly, except for the Day 7 challenge.  It’s the newest practice I’m challenging myself to incorporate.

If you decide to take one or all of these challenges, I would love to hear about your experience!!

Day 1:  Make a list of at least 5 qualities you admire about yourself.  Look in the mirror and say, “I am a [read your list] wo/man and I honor who I am.”  I like to challenge myself to find even more admirable qualities to add or exchange as days go by.  I also list qualities I’d like to see more of in myself, maybe they don’t feel true to say in the moment – so I say them until they feel true.  Often I feel awkward and embarrassed, so I remind myself to be courageous.  I remind myself that no one is watching or waiting to refute my statements (except maybe me).  Resisting the urge to minimize or discredit my statements can be the biggest challenge of all.

Day 2:  Eliminate the word try.  When I find myself less than 100% successful, I give myself credit for the level of success I’m experiencing – even when my conscious effort is the sum total of that success.  When I am having difficulty expressing my effort without the word try, I substitute the word practice.  We practice to increase our skill level, and the word practice honors the effort, forward movement, and room for improvement that I experience.  It also eliminates the not doing implication of the word try.

Day 3:  Eliminate the word just. I don’t know if this is a southern thing or a widespread epidemic.  What I do know is that I hear and say the word just so much I want to scream!  Why do I feel the need to minimize or justify myself and my behavior?  Eliminating just and try are probably the two hardest challenges for me.  It feels so much more powerful when I leave these little words out of the sentence.

Day 4: Eliminate all forms of the words good and bad.  These vague  words disconnect me from the potency of my experience  Why do I think this feeling is bad or this day is good?  Why was the movie good?  I am much more integrated with my life when I take the time and attention required to get in touch with and express why I am judging something as good or bad.  And then, rather than judge the experience, I like to say “I prefer” or “I don’t prefer”….that is more honest for me.  My feelings and experiences aren’t bad.  They are what they are.

I’m much more free when I let them be what they are and identify my experience as my experience.  

I’ve also found that my relationship to that which I don’t prefer has shifted from one of avoidance to one of acceptance.  I no longer have to avoid certain feelings or experiences because they are intense.

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Day 5:  Notice something beautiful, wonderful, or inspirational in everyone and everything.  I override my tendency to notice the negative with an intention to see only that with which I can connect.  My experience has shown me that I will find whatever I look for.  Today I choose to look for beauty, inspiration, and ways to connect rather than isolate or disassociate.  This is a powerful practice because I see beauty everywhere.

Day 6: Eliminate the expression “I love you”.  I do this intermittently.  It is my challenge to do it more and more.  When I feel the urge to tell someone I love them, I notice what I’m experiencing about them that I appreciate so much it must be expressed and tell them that instead.  I love you is another vague and disconnected phrase like the words good and bad.

Instead of generalizing my intense, beautiful experience of you with three simple words let me tell you exactly what it is I love about you.

Day 7:  This is a new challenge for me. Reach out to 3 people that aren’t in my immediate circle of friends or people I am most comfortable calling.  Tell them why I am glad they are in the world.  Tell them the difference they make.  Let them know they are seen and that what they do is worth it.

Feel free to shift and shape these in any way – make them your own.  I would love to hear about your adaptations and experiences!!

 

stay awake, stay wild, stay amazed