In one of my favorite yoga classes, my beloved teacher sometimes calls out to her yogis to riff on a class topic. A few weeks ago, she asked me: "how do you mend a broken heart?" I answered, "ice cream."
I don't even like ice cream. I was very embarrassed. I know deeply that food cannot mend anything. Food is not a place of solace or comfort or recovery. In fact, I've been working on the shame and connection/obsession with food for months now. And when given an opportunity to raise up my class, my teacher, myself, the old ancient shit bubbles right back up to the top and out of my mouth - ice cream.
At first I thought the lesson was to forgive myself quickly and move on. No one in the class thought I was an idiot, so why did I? Who cares what you said when put on the spot in a yoga class anyway? What does it matter, even if I looked stupid? What do I care what others think of me?
Then I let that sit. And sit it did. Then it festered and blistered into a wound that I replayed in my head. I would worry over it like a stone in my pocket. Bring it to mind from time to time as if to prove that I'm still the same sad sack that I used to be -- all this hasn't changed me. I'm no better. [cue violins]
Then the blister popped. Raw and sore, rubbed down broken skin. And the relief of the ah-ha! Shame on me.
I allow shame to hold me. Shame throws his arms around me and I snuggle in. Tighter. It's nice to be held, I think, even by shame -- so comforting, so human. I can look around in any place, in every place, and see and hear people being held by shame, conversing with shame, shame flooding from their mouths.
I ate two doughnuts. By myself. I swear to God.
Twist my arm, and I'll have another glass of wine.
If I gain any more weight....
She thinks I'm mowing the grass or cleaning the garage.
I'm a terrible mother -- losing at momming. I love her but....
Why did I say that ice cream heals a broken heart when the answer is love or light or time or dancing or laughter or fresh air.
Today, I'm here to tell you that I'm sick of shame. Now that I can see it everywhere, in everyone. I'm not having any of it. No more shame. I will break the embrace. I will free myself.
Tell the truth and tell it fast. I may be in part who I am because of shame, but I will not allow shame to raise me anymore. Shame may have built my last home, but I burnt that one down, I remember. I still stink of smoke.
If I turn away from the light for even a moment, the darkness nips at my heels chasing me further into the dark. Come back to me, my pretty, let me wrap you up in fear and shame and doubt, let me hide you from yourself and from your infinite light and love. Come back to hate - hating yourself, hating people (I used to have a bumper sticker that said "I hate people"), hating the world.
I do all this work. Read. Write. Practice. Talk. Listen. Love. Sit in my stillness, the seat of my personal power and listen deeply - meditate. And shame is the thing that brings the dark cloud over my head. If only I was better. If only I was kinder. If only I was more selfless. If only I was a more compassionate friend. [Insert shame talk here.]
Shame on me. Shame on you. That's a phrase from my childhood.
I'm blowing the doors off. I think Brene Brown's work on shame and vulnerability is epic. I'm re-reading and listening to every podcast now. Also work from Glennon Doyle Melton and Elizabeth Gilbert is keeping me upright. When the shame comes, look to others with light to cheer you. I acknowledge, yes, you are here sitting on the edge of a crumbling precipice. Take my hand, my words, and guide yourself back to the solid ground.
I will not hang my head. I will lift it up.
What's wrong with being vulnerable? What's wrong with living honestly and not perfectly? Everything I need is already here. Can I lean back on myself, on the deep knowing, and allow gravity to hold me?