Shame. Just the word is enough. I stop. Short breaths. Don’t want to go there. It’s a minefield of broken reputations. For so many years I’ve tried to build an identity, become the person I want to be. Fearless and brave. Fit, smart and decisive. In different ways, I always wished to be someone else, someone better. There was always something not good enough with being me.
The first memory of shame? I don’t know. I remember desperately wanting to go home from kindergarten, I was probably 3 or 4. A friend had asked me to join him in the sandbox and I said yes although my body was a screaming no. I remember it because of the feeling in my belly, this enormous pressure and pain from within. I only wanted to go home, and there was no way I could tell him. I felt so ashamed.
Pressure and pain is a feeling my belly knows well. Shame is a feeling I know well to hide.
I remember being a teenager. I remember acne and saying more wrong things than right and sperm and porn magazines and comments sharp as razors. I remember getting drunk on moonshine, the smell of vomit and what-did-I-do-last-night. I remember falling in love and being refused, I remember moving away and hating my dialect and everything I came from, I remember trying so hard to be everyone else. My body remembers even better, my palms are sweaty and I have a fist in my guts.
It comes and goes. It rolls in like a steam train, often when I don’t expect it, sometimes leaving me paralyzed. Throughout the years of working with myself, I’ve often believed I could get rid of it, become free of shame. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t, either way is beside the point.
There is something good enough with being me. It’s hard to admit, even worse in public, but I’m here and I’m OK. I often catch myself wishing to be someone else. I often feel ashamed, even more than I consciously know. It comes and goes. It comes and goes. Being me includes shame. I can want it or not, I can think what the flying fuck I want about it, it just does not matter. What matters to me is to recognize reality as I experience it, not as I think I should experience it. If it includes shame — I’m still here. And I’m still OK.
(Photo: Flickr/CreativeCommons/papertygre — The Burning Shame Temple, made by The Shame Project at Burning Man 2011)