Shame

Just before my 60th birthday, Beth and I made a decision and acted on it with great speed. We sold our home of 17 years in Yorktown Heights, NY and took off on an RV trip, the journey we called, “Beth and Scott’s Adventure.” Over the last fourteen months, I am proud and happy to have captured most of our experiences on these pages. As planned, it has been a combination of a travelogue and an exploration of thoughts and feelings about the journey and the people we spent time with along the way. Unfortunately, part of the adventure also included the loss and the grief we felt when we lost our canine friend, Bradley.

For the last six months, we’ve been living in a rented carriage house in Youngsville, a small town in Sullivan County, NY near the southwest corner of the Catskill Mountains. We’re not too far from the Delaware River and eastern Pennsylvania. As I look out the window, there’s an inch of snow on the ground and covering the trees. It’s quite beautiful here, not too different from the view outside of our old home in Yorktown Heights, but much, much quieter. Sometimes it feels like it’s us and the deer.

What I want to talk about today is hard for me to write because I’m feeling something that I’ve buried for a long time – shame (unworthiness). Like many, I’ve constructed a wall around my deepest hurts and self-doubt to protect me from shame, to convince myself and others that life is mostly positive and pleasurable. I even told myself that when life was hard or uncomfortable, it was a learning experience. I thought I had it all figured out.

This shame is what I don’t want you to know about me. And it’s what I don’t want to acknowledge in myself. I want you to see me as smart, truthful and vulnerable. I don’t want you to know that I’m confused, feeling lost and even questioning our decision to give up our home and leave everything I knew.

One of the reasons I’m in touch with this pain is because I’ve stripped my life down to its bare essentials and removed some of my crutches like drinking alcohol and obsessive shopping. But I have also left many communities behind and not just our neighbors of 17 years. I’ve left men’s groups, accountability groups, musical groups, hootenanny communities, and therapists. I moved away from friends, family and clients. Recently, I isolated myself even further. I stopped posting and reading Facebook and, in many cases, stopped making or returning phone calls and emails from close friends.

In some cases, there were good, logical reasons why I stopped communicating or participating with others. I grew out of some relationships and making a break made sense. In other cases, though, I think I separated from people and groups with some haste and it hasn’t worked for me. Hopefully, I will revisit those relationships and start reconnecting myself. Isolation is not healthy.

But shame is something entirely different and more difficult to “fix.” It’s a deeper wound and mostly in shadow because it’s old, painful and often tied to our family of origin. Shame is referred to as the second arrow (Tara Brach) because after we make a mistake (arrow one) comes shame (arrow two) and we think, “I’m bad, damaged, etc.” This is so deep in our subconscious that we don’t even see it. It’s often hidden by emotional numbness and a combination of things like work, substances or other culturally acceptable distractions. In my case, it was often a shopping excursion on Amazon (which caused more shame, btw).

Now I see it. I see this darkest part of me because I’ve done the work to get here and it’s like a truckload of mud was dumped on my head. In short, it sucks.

My yoga teacher, Todd Norian, has told me that we will be working on this in our training. There is a lesson we’ll cover called “Name Your Shame” where we will attempt to integrate this shadowy part of our subconscious with our conscious self. This gives me some hope, but I’m scared of it, too.

I’m going to trust my path. And I’m going to place some faith in Todd, Beth and my Higher Power. I’m going to keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope that around some corner I receive some wisdom that puts me back on the track of love and light. I believe in it even though I can’t see or feel it clearly, now.

If you’ve read this far and you feel something that causes you discomfort, I hope that I haven’t caused you unnecessary pain. It is not my intention to have you worry about me or stimulate your own discomfort. I’m glad that I was able to write down what I am feeling, to cleanse myself of some of the mud. I appreciate your attention while I go through this. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

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