Not So Classy

I felt thrilled and a little proud-ish to have enrolled in a class at the local university.  I was satisfied by my initiative, planning, execution, arranging time off work, applying for tuition assistance through my company and mostly about becoming a student and learning.

And then the shame, because I had not fully understood the nature of graduate work.  It is not normal or healthy to feel shame for not knowing a thing.  I guess a part of me still worries about what the judgers will think, what it might confirm for the people who do not wish me well. But then I remembered, that is not my business. Anyhow, I had believed that if you take a course after you graduate, you enroll as a graduate student and therefore take a graduate class—because you are not an under-grad, right?  Wrong.

Well– graduate level study assumes a wealth of prior knowledge on the subject matter, of which I had none.  I felt equally excited and confused in day 1 of class, struggled to complete the week’s assignments and checked in with the Professor after the second meeting. She confirmed that it would be a difficult for me to participate and complete assignments.  By that time, the date to change or add classes or to request a full refund had passed.  So, not only did I forfeit the Spring Semester of learning, for which I yearned deeply, I lost money for tuition, parking, books and I felt crummy about myself-but only for a minute.  Because, once I did share with Favorite and Sweet Greg, they each assured me that they too, would have assumed the same.  I knew better than to feel bad- but still felt uncomfortable with myself for not knowing better. It is true, we are only as sick as our secrets. Until I shared about it, it was causing me suffering. Sharing with trusted others is key.

Recovery allows me to develop shame resilience through the understanding and excercising healthy boundaries.  Boundaries, for me, are like a spiritual skin.  They inform me of where I stop and where others begin.  My boundaries have only to do with me– helping me to recognize and honor my own personal & unique needs, limits, and responsibilities — and to leave the rest alone.  What others think, falls outside of my boundaries, and so I waste no energy there. Boundaries guide me to work only on the things I can. (the wisdom to know the difference)

Because I was raised by and with people who blamed others for their behaviors and did not acknowledge or regret their own hurtful and harmful contributions, my perceptions of accountability and culpability were distorted for many years.  I often experienced crippling guilt and shame for things over which I had no control.  And so– I was quick to offload shame and blame to others.  It was all I knew.   Unwarranted shame and guilt left me wanting to hide, deny, and to pretend— to pretend to feel, want, possess, or know things which I did not.  It seemed impossible to identify what I had control and responsibility over. It was confusing–and painful, for everyone. I am grateful for the process of unlearning.

Today, I thought to myself: I am grateful that course did not work out because I would still be missing out on the classroom experience I craved, now, with school closures for CoVid 19.  It is just one of those things.  I am unlearning the myth of shame and working to break the cycle of taking it on and passing it to my children– and this makes me very proud, the most proud. The miracle really is inside the mess, always.

Much Love,
Magda Gee

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