Today is my mother’s birthday. She is 79. She is one of the most positive, enthusiastic, intelligent, and wise women I have ever known. She continues to inspire me. A week ago, she moved from her home of 36 years into an apartment at The Meadows, the assisted living facility where my sister and I worked as college students and where my father died in 2010. She is having an absolute ball collecting stories from the residents, entertaining dinner companions, playing the piano in the chapel and lobby, and making connections within her collage of life. She says that her Bucket List has been reduced to a Shot Glass List, and she’s grateful and content with all that she has enjoyed. She told me that she doesn’t ‘make’ New Year’s Resolutions, she allows them to ‘surface’. She shared that the phrase that is surfacing for her this year is “Live peace; take joy”. That conversation made me think of what is surfacing for me. What is surfacing is Shame. And I’m resolved to do something about it.
I have been thinking about shame for some time. Listening to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame has brought about some introspective reflection on my history and patterns. I was raised by a very authoritarian father, a devout and dogmatic Christian. He was an intellectual, and my mother very candidly told me last night that although he could understand rationally that our behaviors and social constructs must evolve and change and that they weren’t based in any ultimate reality, he didn’t know how to navigate the emotions involved, and so he would fearfully nail those down into a ‘safe’ corner to protect himself. What he then communicated to me, his daughter, was that we are all fallen creatures, sinners whose nature it is to be not good enough, and that we couldn’t be trusted, so to be saved, we must follow a carefully prescribed path and check ourselves frequently for deviation. Our wills are suspect; God’s will is perfect. My deepest desire was to please my father and to be loved by him, so I became a very compliant child. And I bought the idea that whatever I wanted was probably not good, or good enough, and that I would fail to be good most of the time. My best hope was to be obedient, and so I did that to the best of my ability. I became accomplished in being obedient. As I grew up and my father became less central in my daily life, I transferred that obedience to God, the Church, my husband. Finally, after my husband died, I think I took that authority and transferred it to myself, but I ended up carrying out the same message. Now, I tell MYSELF that I am not good, or good enough, and am likely to fail to be good most of the time. In other words, I have taken over my dad’s role in shaming myself.
Needless to say, this is not freeing me to take risks, be vulnerable, be creative, be self-determinant or self-reliant. Instead, it is keeping me in ‘customer service’ when Steve is itching to make me a full partner in a home business (or series of them) so that we can be self-employed and embody the values and lifestyle that WE find important. How do I make the changes necessary to gain this freedom? First, I have to stop telling myself that I can’t. Or shouldn’t. I have to stop shaming myself. I have to become aware of the times when I do it, and I have to let go of them. Like the bubbles surfacing in my champagne. POP! “So, here comes that shaming bubble. I don’t have to analyze it, give it power, or trace it back to someone to blame. I will just notice it, watch it pop and let it be gone.” That’s my resolution for this coming year. Take a cup of kindness, and stop shaming yourself, Priscilla! Then move on.
I am also posting my blog summary for 2013 today. I want to give big cyber hugs to my Bestest Blogger Buddies – Helen, Stuart, Jamie, Naomi and Elena. Thank you for supporting this vulnerable venture and helping me trust myself to create something. (Something ‘worthy’? Something ‘good enough’? STOP. You don’t need to judge it. Create something. And just leave it at that.)
And here’s a sample of what I’ve created on this blog this year. If you’re new and see something you like, please browse around!
You speak so clearly and it hits home. I have my own goblin that sits on my shoulders and whispers into my ear all the reasons that I will fail, am unworthy, etc. Probably most of us do. I know it has kept me from reaching my full potential. It’s a constant struggle to keep brushing it off, refusing to listen, keep putting one foot in front of the other. I wish you all the best in the coming year. I wish you to drink deeply of the cup of kindness–get tipsy enough to take the risk, go into full partnership, write chapter one of that book that only you can write, and continue to love and raise and play with your wonderful family. Best wishes for the coming year, dear friend. May it bring joy and adventure, the thrill of stepping into new and dangerous ground.
I like to know that I can surround myself with other courageously non-perfect people who have dared and lived to tell the wondrous tale. I love those tales! May your year bring you more of them to live, tell and share! (I like the evolution of Bea’s camel…a freed character indeed!).
Thank you, Scilla! I will pass that on to Bea, too.
This is such a positive post…a great way to start the new year, a lesson in aging. Many blessings, happy 2014.
Thank you, Victoria! A happy 2014 to you as well!
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Ah Scilla such a moving piece of writing. Guilt and with it shame are, as you say, emotions that hold us back, stop us taking risks and tie us to the past when all we have now is the present. I’m sure you and I will continue to work on strengthening our self-love.. sending virtual hugs right back at ya . (((((( Scilla ))))))
Loving, moment by moment, is a great life plan!
I confess to being a little in love now 😉
Watch out, that kind of thing can grow! 🙂
I know.. I am anticipating growth 😀