Shame

Dictionary.com defines shame as:

            shame:[sheym]; noun

the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another:

            “She was overcome with shame.”



How many times does that example sentence apply to each of us every day? For me, several. Thankfully I don’t keep track. I’d probably feel worse about myself if I did. I’d shame myself for feeling so shameful all the time. But the majority of my shame isn’t necessarily driven by my own behaviors, because frankly, I’m kind of nerdy. I work, church & work some more. I’m home most weekends & I definitely don’t do much throughout the week.

No, most of my shame is driven by the influencers of my past. My sexual abusive grandfather. My ex. My son. My mother. My adoptive father. Even my biological father.

For some reason, this type of shame reminds me of the poo throwing monkeys at the zoo. You know the ones. Behind glass. Mischievous grin. Just as you get up close, they launch a poop bomb at you that splatters all over the glass. You can tell by the look on their face how deeply they enjoyed the look on yours. And they start to work on a new poo bomb for the next unsuspecting sucker to walk up. Good thing we aren’t fully exposed to them or they would be the least viewed exhibit in the whole place.

Take for example my grandfather. He began molesting me when I was 10. He didn’t just start with inappropriate actions. He began by gifting me with things & treating me special. Lucky me.

On that side of the family, I had a summer cousin. During the school year he lived in Cali with his mom. For summer break, he stayed with his dad. My grandparents & my uncle all lived on one enormous piece of land with several houses. So when Scotty came home, I wanted to do everything he did. He had a mini dirt bike. So I wanted one. My grandfather made sure I had one that summer. Scotty & I zipped around that land like we owned it. We rode back deep into the woods & ate our picnic lunches (fluffer nutter sandwiches, chips & water). We swam in the pond. Basically, I was a lot less girly, because I did not want Scotty thinking I was a sissy getting in his way. I wanted to be cool enough for him to want to hang out with.

Occasionally, Scotty had other stuff to do so he wouldn’t be able to hang out.

That was when it began. Gradual touching. I was immediately uncomfortable with it. I began trying to avoid being alone with my grandfather. It was difficult though because it was just me, him & my grandmother. I remember asking my grandma to let me take her for a ride on my dirt bike. She said she was busy but to ask my grandfather. Surely, driving fast with the wind whipping through our hair as I steered this dangerous machine around the yard would be a safe place. No. It wasn’t. Surely innertubing in the pond with the whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins…) would be a safe place. No, not there either. He said to me “this is our little secret. Just between us. No one else gets to know about this.”

But I knew it was wrong. I don’t know how I knew but I did. The molestation continued for a while. Finally, I told my mom.

She flipped out.


As toxic for me as my mom is, she did have moments where she was solid. This was one. She never doubted or second guessed me. They put me in therapy immediately. Filed a report with CSB. Cut the entire family out of communication with him. My adopted dad met with him, offered him reunification if he sought counseling. He refused. I never saw him again except at a couple of funerals.

But what happened as a result of my declaration was not something any child should have to walk through. I was forced to testify against my grandfather to a panel of CSB workers to determine if there was enough evidence for charges. They determined there was not. Remember, “just” molestation so basically “just” heavy petting. My grandfather called me early on to tell me that everything would work out just fine. It didn’t. We didn’t get to go to family functions. So my younger sister screamed at me “YOU’VE RUINED OUR FAMILY!” Yup. I had. I had split it down the middle. 2 uncles broke away with us. My aunt’s family & my grandma standing by my grandfather.

That is quite a burden on a child. To be followed with years of silence among the family. His name & “the incident,” were taboo. No one discussed either. I walked around with the assumption that everyone felt the way my sister did. I remembered that he warned me not to tell. If I had listened, I would never have hurt so many people. My guilt turned to shame.

Ugly harmful burdensome shame.


As I grew up, I realized that, yes, I had split the family in half. But because I had, I had also saved most, hopefully all, of my younger cousins from enduring the same twisted fate with him. But the shame remained.

No one had ever told me I did the right thing. That I was brave. I understand that 35 years ago, sexual abuse wasn’t nearly as open a topic as it is now, so I don’t entirely blame my family for that. It is just where society was at that time. But for me, the shame remains.

Even today.

I’m not ashamed that I was abused. But that shame holds on in a way that warps my self worth. Probably because since that time, other people have heaped more shame on top of it & now it has become a mountain range of shame.


This past Friday night, I got to see one of my favorite speakers, Christine Caine, speak at a local church. She has a remarkable book titled “Unashamed.” (Read it. Now.) During her speaking engagement, she pulled out the Bible & referred to Genesis 2:25. She read it to the crowd.

“Adam & his wife were both naked & they felt no shame.”

She went on to explain that we were never created to feel shame. It says so right there in Genesis. We were never intended to be ashamed of who we are. Because, also according to the Bible, we are all created in the image of God. So regardless of our shape or size, we are in His image & we are perfect. Big nose, big boobs, tiny ears, big feet, bald…whatever we find imperfect on ourselves is still of God & He loves it-and us.  Many of the things we see within ourselves as flaws are actually gifts from God.

So if we weren’t created to feel shame, we need to work at pushing it away from our lives. Now, understand this. Shame & guilt are two different things. Guilt is conscience for bad behaviors. Shame tells us we are bad people (maybe for bad behaviors.) However, we are NOT the sum total of our choices. We have a past, we are not our past. Every second of every day we make decisions & we can completely turn our lives around in one second. Sure it may take longer than that to see the fruits, but the decisions we make can propel us towards a new life instantly.

Dr. Brene Brown has said “Guilt says I made a mistake. Shame says I am a mistake.” See the difference? When we self talk from a place of shame, we feed that ugly beast within us more shame so he continues to grow & we continue to shrivel up.

The simple truth is that regardless of what we have done in our past, even our recent past of 2 minutes ago, we are still not the sum total of those choices. If they are bad, we obviously must face our consequences but that doesn’t require we stay on the bad choices path. Therefore, shame is a nasty lie we are told to keep us from fulfilling our God given destinies.

So, please bury this deep within your hearts: You are lovely, loveable, loved & there is no act you could do to separate yourself from the love of God. The shame you feel from your past is not from Him. 

Friends, love the uglies-yours. Work to recognize the shame lies inside & replace them with love truths.

Have a beautiful week.

Love,

Matilda.


Slipping in the Poo

imageIt’s a funny thing…This white page staring blankly at me when I sit down to “create” this next post. As if it is trying to intimidate me into being a quitter. The old Matilda may have done just that. I would have said “screw this. No one will read it anyway & if they do, they will think I’m foolish.” New Matilda doesn’t necessarily disagree. But I have decided that there may be one person (other than my amazing mother) that will find this written journey somewhat entertaining & quite possibly even helpful. You know what they say, if we can help even one person, the effort was worth it. (By the way, if that ever happens, PLEASE, let me know!) What you don’t know is that in this adorable little head of mine, sits a very ferocious beast. A beast that enjoys playing with it’s food so to speak. I mean, it’s my darn brain. Why does it work so violently to keep me from being successful or happy?

This was not the planned post when I sat down this evening. Truth is, there was no plan. I actually had about 60 thoughts running through my mind, none of which was about my foolish, self sabotaging brain. Anywho, I was discussing with my therapist once how our brain needs to process our experiences & when it doesn’t, it develops a coping mechanism to, well, cope. I believe I have mentioned previously that I’m a represser. I like to fold my mental messes up nice & neat, then jam them all willy nilly into a corner somewhere. Not so much as a thought about processing. I don’t claim to be a brain surgeon, or a therapist, but even this makes sense to me. I get stuck on the processing largely because I don’t know what this means to a “normal” person, one who processes.

Thus bringing me to my next thought. I have so many valuable people in my life & I’m pretty sure that most of them are running around this earth unprocesssed. I am working through my own crazy life, so no judgement here. All I can say for sure is that as I uncover those morsels I have jammed into the corners of my mind, I realize one thing. THIS GIRL IS A HOT MESS! As a firm believer that our experiences shape us into who we are, I’m not sad or angry about this revelation. PS. I knew I was a hot mess way before this conversation with my therapist.

I work in an office full of women. There are a handful of very unlucky men but mostly women. I don’t know most of them. I know the ones on my floor & a smattering of others. I love them. I truly do. But women are jerks sometimes. Spending 40 hours a week with anyone will quickly prove this. But once in a while, in the pile of poop, we see a shiny penny. At my office, I have a pile of pennies with a little poop. These women have carried me through the last 3 years & I can proclaim without a doubt in my mind that they are one of the reasons I survived.

My conundrum occurs here. What do I do when the pennies begin to stink? Shall I explain? Sometimes people show their ugly. Even sweet, little, lovable me. Now I told you in the beginning that I hope I love those uglies. That I control my words & actions so I do no unnecessary damage to someone else. Well, let’s just say that this week, I fell in the poo.

It has plenty of justification. In my mind. My day job recently moved into a new building. Not all of the computer stuff has moved. Things are much slower. Think snails on the freeway slow. Plus I added a responsibility due to the move that requires a good 4-5 hours a week in an already tight schedule. I am very conscientious about my work. I try to stay current, never behind. Due to this move, I am 6 days behind. So when I was getting berated at 7:00 AM Thursday by a coworker with a history of a negative attitude, down I went. Right into her poo. In front of my boss. Now, my boss & I have known each other a long time. She knows I do not behave as such unless provoked. And within a few hours, me & the stinky coworker were just fine.

This is why I prefer to LOVE the uglies. I said ugly words in response to her negative comments & there I was, feeling like a giant jerk. I didn’t make myself feel better by spouting off, I certainly didn’t make my coworker feel better or turn her into a positive thinker. Instead, I left 3 people carrying my uglies around. Sure, it’s easy to say “they can disregard it. We don’t have to own other people’s uglies.” But we all know that is easier said than done. We all know it depends on how we are feeling emotionally. Plus it takes a while to shake it off. We aren’t ducks, words aren’t water. Those unprocessed events in our lives I was mentioning above hold those callously tossed words like a sponge & can dredge up more & more ugly responses. Since we don’t know the depth of other’s journeys, it’s always best to treat them with gentle unconditional love. Even when they don’t do this for us. Especially when they don’t.

OK kids. With that being said, watch out for the poo. Share a little love. Smile. Be pleasant. Love the uglies.

So so much love to each of you! 💗

Matilda