An Amazing Life

My past happened exactly how it should have happened. The child abuse I experienced growing up should have happened.  I had the exact childhood I needed to have.

Why?  For the simple reason: it happened that way.  Any other sentence about it is futile and is cruel to myself and to children who are, in this moment, living it.  And I’m done being cruel to myself.

My past lived on because of me.  This blog is living proof of keeping my past alive.  My present was my past with each blog post and the 60 some drafts that will never be posted.  I am the only one that could keep it alive.

I’m not cruel to myself about this either.  It was exactly what was needed to get where I am today.  I needed to be in the ring, figuring it out, trying to make sense of all of it.  It was a beautiful experience.  I met wonderful people who let me know that they understood.  It was such a necessary process in healing.  I know this for the simple reason: it happened that way.

It didn’t happen this way.  It was not four years of wasted time when I should have been doing something else.  I could, of course, tell myself that story.  That I spent time writing and writing about things that I could never change.  But it wasn’t.  It was a beautiful experience to see how humans could connect without meeting each other.  It was a beautiful experience that helped me become the person I am today and will become in the future.

Your past, however you choose to look at, is yours.  It is 100% yours.  That’s an amazing thing, isn’t it?  I can’t steal it from you, I can’t even tell you are wrong about it.  No one can tell me my wonderful experience was not wonderful.  No one.  Including me.  And I don’t.

It was not easy.  Nor will it be.  It is supposed to be this hard.  I was tired and I will continue to feel this way.  I’m tired in a completely different way now.  I’ve learned how to work through my old tiredness and recognise how often “feeling tired” was my excuse, my indulgence.  Even an entitlement.  I am getting better at it being this hard and not going down the familiar path of indulging in it.  Easiness does not await.  Instead, a better version of myself does.  Not a whole, complete me.  For I have already been given that gift of wholeness and worthiness, only a better version of the person I was yesterday awaits.  And that hardness of achieving that each day is different.  And that’s a different poison.

I chose the poison of life being hard because of my past for so long.  Today and tomorrow, I choose a different poison.  I share with you a quote from Professor Jordan Peterson from a debate:

“You’re going to pay a price for every bloody thing you do and everything you don’t do.  You don’t get to choose to not pay a price.  You get to choose which poison you take, that’s it.” ~Jordan Peterson @ Manning Centre Conference

I say Farewell, thank you for listening, and I am speaking my truth offline and showing up as myself each day.  I am amazing.  You are amazing.  Everyone is amazing and capable of having the most amazing life.  Here’s to an amazing life!

Hugs, TR

Worth (part 3)

Shame, shame, go away,

come back another day.

Shame doesn’t work like that.  Oh, how I wish it did some days (ok, all the time).  I didn’t know what shame was until two years ago.  I had no knowledge about it, yet, I spent my life developing an intricate system around denying it.  The body is a remarkable machine, we can suppress an emotion the split second before we feel the physical sensation come on.  And shame comes with a full body experience.

My chest gets tight in order to close off oxygen to my body.  It freezes it, no motion is allowed for a second and no thoughts run through my head.  It happens quickly, maybe less than 30 seconds.  It feels like I’ve temporally lost control and I have to remember to ‘choose’ to breathe again.

When I eventually exhale, I never seem to bounce back from it before the minute is over.  My body is still trying to catch up with my breathing.  When it eventually does, it feels like time has slowed and my thoughts gently reenter the space between my ears.  They are trying to catch up too.

I didn’t understand how much of my body is required to let myself feel an emotion, it was something I learned when beginning this chapter.  I spent the following year working on my shame triggers (vulnerabilities) using Brené Brown¹ exercises.  Within a few months, I put together a list of shame triggers and spend the rest of the year adding to it and completing the hardest aspect of her exercise – identifying its origin.  Digging meant unwrapping memories that were neatly tucked away.  Visiting painful memories was torture.

The least surprising part of this was seeing that many were influenced by my parents, cultural/societal upbringing, childhood friends – many of my triggers had to do with early childhood memories.  The most surprising were the ones added in adulthood – my MiL influenced a few.  Brown focused on the fact that we must find the origin of the trigger, otherwise, we will not gain any knowledge or understanding of our true self.

One ‘positive’ aspect of going through this was the ability to discern someone purposefully shaming me vs someone hitting a shame trigger unintentionally.  Because I had now seen, read, re-read, and stared at my list, I knew certain subjects were going to be tough to handle, which with some awareness allowed me to hear the words being used rather than only ‘hear’ my shame (influencing my blaming behaviors).

Around the time my list was somewhat complete, I had dinner with friends and we began talking about psychology as one of the friends is interested in the subject as well.  I explained Brown’s shame trigger exercise.  She then asked if I could give her an example.  I told her a few of my shame triggers and briefly the origin and she said after hearing me: Wow, those shame triggers are ones that you deal with when you first meet someone, those subjects come up usually in a first interaction.

Her comment floored me and I am so grateful for it.  I hadn’t looked at my shame triggers like that.  How they factor into social interactions and how I face shame a majority of the time when I first meet someone.  It changed how I viewed my vulnerabilities.  And maybe why I am drained from social interactions especially when it involves meeting new people.

After this discussion, I spent quite a bit of time focusing on what happens when I first meet someone.  It was so weird to ‘tally’ how many new people I actually met over the course of one year and I’m an introvert!  From new students/professors at language class to social groups to new friends of old friends, the number was enough to see a pattern.

I felt shame, in different degrees, in almost every single situation where I met someone for the first time.  I can imagine that that emotion could be read across my face and communicated subconsciously to the other person.  Thus, helping narcissists hone in on me as a potential target.  It is exactly like PWC (@Polly Want a Narcissist?) said:

“Do I gravitate towards them? Yes, it’s as simple as that. I could walk across a crowded room and collect three Narcissists on my way, I’m that good at finding the N in the room.”

I finally get why!

2013: The Year of Shame

A closing to my “Year of Shame” (as DH likes to label 2013) included what I now consider (hindsight) a ‘pop quiz’ to the work I had done prior.  During our FOO visit in December (2013), we met up with an old group of friends where one of them had a new fiancée whom I had never met.

When we shook hands, she said to me, “I’ve heard a lot about you.” and that would begin the long evening ahead and my battle with shame.

She managed to touch on every single shame trigger that could come up in a first encounter and then some.  What initially seemed unintentional became intentional when ‘weird’ questions were directed towards me to dig for more information – not to get to know me but more like an interrogation.  It felt like I was being suckered punched and the only thing saving me was the fact I decided I wasn’t going to drink alcohol that night.  As her words gravely affected me, I remembered that I don’t have to stand here and take ‘getting to know me’ as chiseling away at my self-worth.  I left and went to the bathroom several times (albeit hardly drinking my coffee).

It was in the sanctity of a bar restroom that I was able to lock myself in a stall and let myself feel shame, allow myself time to regroup.  It was my escape for a few minutes from a woman who seemed to know how to touch my shame triggers exactly like my mother.  She was smooth.

It is situations like these that I fear (anxiety).  It is someone taking an ‘innocent’ question and going too far in the guise of ‘small talk’ or ‘friendliness’.  Sending me into a spiral of self-loathing.  It is why I talk myself out of social situations.  I can see the shame coming from a mile away.  And I still run in the other direction.

After what felt like a long night, I walked back to the car in my fabulous shoes understanding a lot more about myself – not all great but more conscious of it, more aware and alive.  The cold, winter night air hit my face, awakening me in a way, reminding me that I was still holding on to the one important thing – my self-worth.

Something I need to remember as I continue facing shame:

“Every time you meet a situation, though you think at the time it is an impossibility and you go through the tortures of the damned, once you have met it and lived through it, you find that forever after you are freer than you were before.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Further Reading about Shame

Caliban’s Sisters: Shame and the Decisions We Make

Related posts @IBC: Worth (part 1); Worth (part 2)

Footnotes

¹Brown, Brené, Ph.D., L.M.S.W. (2007). I Thought it Was Just Me (but it isn’t). New York: Gotham Books.