On Shame and Fear and Writing Anyway
I keep sitting down at my computer with the intention of writing a blog post, only to find myself staring at an endlessly blinking cursor.
I wrote a post just last week where I encouraged writers to just write. "You are the story," I said (and meant).
It's easier to give advice than to follow advice, yeah?
So it's 2:42 am and I'm wide awake because I went to bed at 7 pm. I'll get in the car at 4:15 am and head to an early (early, early) morning meditation.
I thought about staying snuggled deep in my new bed until my alarm clock buzzed but I felt called to get up, brew a cup of coffee, and sit down to write.
Hi! I'm here, I'm writing. And I'm writing something that feels hard, so be gentle with your judgment, ok?
When I was in middle school and high school, I kept journals. I wrote about everything -- my wildest dreams (magazine editor, author), my painful experiences (mean high school girls), and my biggest fears (that I'd never accomplish anything worthwhile). Of course, I also wrote about how mean my parents were and how I wanted to be "anywhere but here." High school girl stuff, with a hint of existential crisis thrown in for good measure.
I came home one day and my journal was gone. My hiding place beneath my mattress was not as secure as I thought. As it turns out, my step-dad had taken my journal and read. every. word. And he photocopied the pages to "keep on file" (yeah, I don't get it either). I was grounded for what I wrote in my journal. For the feelings I expressed. For my most intimate thoughts and pain and excitement and my exploration of what it meant to be me, in terms of myself, my family, and the world.
Considering that all I've ever wanted to be was a writer, this felt like the deepest betrayal possible. (My opinion on that hasn't changed.)
After that, I didn't write. Aside from essays for school, I refused to document my feelings or thoughts for fear that they'd be exposed and I'd be punished for them.
This was 12 years ago. On one level, I'm past it.
I know that, most likely, they were doing the best they could with what they knew.
But underneath that, I've realized I still hold this fear that what I write will have consequences.
That my words, no matter how true, will hurt someone. Or my ex-husband will find a way to use them against me. Or my now (and forever) husband's family will judge me (more than they already do) for sharing my experiences. Or my clients will look at this personal side of my writing and not want to work with me.
So while I know, logically, that it is safe for me to write, on a molecular level I'm still holding onto that energy from my teenage years that says "Your words will be used against you. They will turn on you. You cannot write this."
And so I think that acknowledging this and how painful it is to hold the one thing I've loved my whole life at arm's length is kind of a breakthrough.
I'm actively trying to shift my beliefs about myself and about the world and part of that is shining light into dark corners.
When we can pull shame out of the shadows, we can heal.
There's also forgiveness. I forgive my parents for not knowing better. I forgive their parents for not teaching them how to be better. And I forgive myself for letting fear run my life for so many years.
The truth is, I love to write. I love the end result, the "this resonated" because, hey, validation is nice sometimes. I also love the intense, messy process that sometimes only flows smoothly at 3 a,m.
Whatever it was in your past that is keeping you stuck in a cycle of fear or anger or pain or shame, drag it out into the light. Shine a spotlight on it. Call it what it is. And then let that shit go so you can move on to greater things.