Things that once caused me shame:
- My thin awkward body and brownish (non-white) skin
- My name–the one assigned to me at birth
- My inability to calm down and focus on what matters (Also– I did not know what mattered–as evidenced by this list)
- My father’s “foreign” accent
- My nose
- The size of my feet
- The food my family served
- The clothes I was provided
- My sensitivity and emotional intensity
- My limited tastes and preferences in food along with my insatiable appetite
- Being non-Christian
- That we did not enjoy and connect to each other the way other families appeared to– the undeniable void of pleasant rituals, activities, and traditions
Shame over matters, which I did not choose and over which I had no control, caused a fuck-ton of grief, anger– and isolation from my family and a community, which never let me forget all the ways in which I FAILED to be like them–acceptable.
I sought unfortunate means of soothing and coping with things I could neither change nor accept. I raged with profanity at just about everything. I could not grasp or manage my anger and despair and did not experience anyone as interested and able to help me with those. I learned to be mean AF, to shoplift and steal. I dove into the relief of binging and purging, from age 12 to well into my 30s. I purchased items which I did not need and could not afford, in an effort to feel or appear more like others. I abused alcohol and drugs and was sexually promiscuous with people who did not even like me. Believing, if I could not make them like or accept me, getting them to use me was a win. Then, at least, I was not useless. I see now that useful and used are not the same.
It is said that a good childhood leaves you with both roots and wings. I developed my roots and wings in Al-Anon at age 40. The program teaches me how to let go of shame over the past, to make right what I can and to now, live my life aligned with principles, allowing me the gift of self esteem. It is true that when we know better we do better. I am ever grateful for 10 years of better living. It would be beyond tragic to be this age, and still behaving in those ways.
Without models to whom I could relate or whom I genuinely wanted to emulate, I was lost. To act and to feel right, with zero sense of connection and purpose–was impossible for me.
Program allows me to not only see but to intentionally examine my behaviors and motives and to let go of the idea that I can fully understand those of another. Recovery teaches me to behave well, long before I feel so. Often, the feelings will follow. But– if I wait until I feel a certain kind of good, before making a wholesome good choice, I am screwed. I do not feel so good, most of the time, and yet I make choices which I feel good about, choices which reflect who I am and what I believe.
It is also said that happiness is– when your words, actions, and beliefs are in alignment. I suppose, by this measure, I am happy.
I share all of this to say –that none of those things cause me shame. And the same goes for the things done, by me, to cope with the items on that list. They can not be used to shame or harm me. They are not secrets. They are less pretty parts of my journey. I will make no effort to hide or deny. This is true and beautiful freedom.
Here are things about which I feel good and for which I am responsible:
I survived a difficult childhood, which naturally was followed by a sick marriage. I chose to exit a bad marriage and survived a lengthy and litigious divorce. My ex and I moved back, cross country, to a place and to people I swore I’d never return, to support my mother. I worked with my boy’s father to do what was needed for our family, in spite of so very much. I am in recovery. I am a loving and protective mother, a fantastic friend and great partner to my Sweet Greg. I am generous. I am transparent with good boundaries around what I will and will not do. My work ethic and loyalty are strong AF. I am a caring neighbor and pet-haver/servant (I prefer not to say owner). I am a badass when it comes to trying, even when all I really want to do is flip out, give up, or blame. I am kind (not friendly, but kind) and honest, at all costs. I am benevolent and have a God of My Understanding AND I can now (mostly- unless you mess with my children though….) maintain benevolence toward a person whom I dislike or with whom I disagree–even when they do me harm. I will not lie to, for, or about a person. If you know me, I am 100% exactly who you think I am.
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