After reading Glennon Doyle Melton’s memoir ‘Love Warrior,’ I’ve been thinking a lot about honesty, shame and vulnerability. In her book, she speaks to the idea that we have these impossible societal constructs within which to live and rather than be our vulnerable selves, we send our ‘representatives’ into the world. They laugh on cue, they look the part, they diminish their voice, check out and hide, or fall in line. It becomes a life of survival rather than a life of authenticity, and instead of thriving, we suffer and cope. We find a pulse in various comforting addictions and the secret knowledge of these habits, fill us with guilt and shame.
When Edward Snowden announced that the government had been spying on us and other countries, invading our personal freedoms and privacy in the name of terrorism, we didn’t take to the streets. There was no rioting. We rolled over, scratched our bellies and said, ‘Yeah, not surprised,’ and went back to sleep feeling powerless. In the same way, we’re not surprised by Glennon’s truth telling. ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah… We all know we live in guilt and shame. Sweet Lord, don’t make me think about it.’
The thing is, I want to think about it because I crave healing. I want to be healed because I want to live a life that is powerful and full. I want to be so full that I’m able to offer something to the world. I want these things for all of us because... imagine that world.
There are many reasons, we send out our representatives but for me, my shame and guilt, pain and grief, all stems from my weight. It’s so incredibly… painful. It is such a deep river within that when I think of my wedding day– my wedding day!— the feeling that first comes to mind is: FAT. I had gained a ton of weight, was so uncomfortable and wanted to crawl back in bed for a do over because this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This wasn’t my soul’s wedding. This was the wedding of a fucked up, embarrassed and guilt-ridden failure. (Thanks to family and friends, it was also a day I’ve never felt so loved, a testament to what love can do).
My representative wants to tell you about my mountain life, my adorable cats, manifesting a life of creativity and having a wonderful sweetie. These things are all very true. I feel absolutely blessed and my life, oftentimes, divinely inspired. But, truth be told, it is not the story in my head, the underlying programs; these are the voices I wake up to every day and the ones that scream me to sleep at night.
These voices require that I live the 'Walk of Atonement' on Game of Thronesdaily. I am both the observer and the observed. I am an overweight, short, guilt-ridden and shamed, Cersei, naked and vulnerable, making my way through King’s Landing. I am mocked. I am hated. I am covered in spit and garbage. A man exposes himself to me? I’m sure I deserved it. I question the people in my life that love me and what is wrong with them. I am also the one throwing the garbage. I detest myself. I spit and spew. My fat is nauseating and I hate looking at it. This is how the standards I have set for myself, after being an A+ student in bullshit, make me feel every day of my life.
For anyone that has ever tried to lose weight and failed, it is because it is almost impossible to will one’s self into perfection. And if you do have that sort of panicked will power, a neurotic workout and diet regimen is just another hamster wheel. On a diet, there is good and bad. There is right and wrong. It isn’t a matter of health or listening to your body. We are programmed to believe that to be thin and lose weight at any cost is a success and to be fat for any reason means you’re a failure. From doctors we hear, “Eat 4oz. of skinless chicken with one cup of steamed broccoli and brown rice.” From society we hear, “Eat less and work out, fat fucks. It’s not rocket science.”
There are problems with this…
It speaks nothing to the holes within us that cause us to eat in the first place.
It speaks nothing to the shame and guilt that we feel toward ourselves on a daily basis.
It speaks nothing to the programming that thin equals success and fat equals failure.
It speaks nothing to how women view each other and how we’re taught to view each other.
It speaks nothing to the spirituality of our bodies.
It speaks nothing to the indoctrinated mindset of society that fat people are allowed to be the butt of a joke and are incompetent, nauseating, ignorant, unworthy of existence, etc.
It speaks nothing to how our feelings as individuals, regardless of the reasons for our shame, cause us all to exist in society.
It’s FUCKED UP! And it’s not just about weight.
To me it feels heartless, calloused, superficial and just plain wrong that as a society we don’t allow ourselves to talk about our feelings. It’s only after we’re thin, fixed, have gotten sober or lost the addiction, that we’re allowed to admit to our issues and how we felt 'less than.' Only after the fact do you get to write the memoir, because to mention in everyday life that you are sad, alone, addicted, fearful, anxious, depressed, frustrated or angry makes society really uncomfortable. It’s just not the American way.
I also learned in church that this was God’s ideal. To be without joy, was to be separate from God. You’re either in the dark or you’re in the light. I was a determined and sensitive kid that took to heart God’s satisfaction and dissatisfaction with all of my thoughts and feelings. Not only did I feel God’s disapproval and judgment every moment of the day, but on top of my own, it was too great a burden to bare. It caused so much guilt and shame, you could have tattooed the word ‘grace’ on my forehead and I still wouldn’t be able to look at myself. So, the best I could do was play the part and if I could never be good enough, hopefully, at the very least I could trick my community. Proverbs 31 woman? No pressure.
Inner trauma is everywhere. We all have it. It’s called being human. Society wants to fix it. I am absolutely guilty of wanting to fix it and my Christian upbringing required that I always had answers. It’s a trait that I’ve had a difficult time shedding and I know I’ve hurt people in the process. We hate to see people in pain, especially people closest to us, but I dare say, we need to start seeing people feeling their feelings. We need snot, tears, laughter, hand holding and not just at our therapist’s office, but also at our therapist’s office. Not just with our close friends but especially with our close friends.
I’m realizing the timeliness and imperative value of diving into this shame because it is such a disservice– not to the idea of this woman with the mountain life, the baker with adorable cats, but to the perfect and vibrant soul that was born joyfully into this world. Our world! The skin sacks we choose don’t make us who we are, that soul we were created to be is everything. I am learning that taking care of my soul is my biggest priority right now. And personally? My soul wants a healthy skin bag. I’m also learning that self care can mean more than a bubble bath. It could mean spending time on the elliptical, spending less money, laughing more, going to therapy or taking photos and connecting with someone. It’s different for everyone.
On 9/11 we accepted each other’s pain because we were all in pain. That pain was beautiful because it was honest, heart wrenching, vulnerable and true. Each face in front of us was our own. It united us. Do we have the guts to do this everyday? Can we tell our very honest stories and see ourselves in each other without ego or judgement? Can we just sit in each other’s messiness without an answer to be had?
What is our shame? Let’s start with what is true…