Skip to main content

Own It

Boy, Facepalm, Child, Youth, Exasperated
Find me now at Lucid Renewal

Children have a knack for being vulnerable. As a 3rd grader I created my own skit, a type of self-revealing monologue if you will. I performed it in a talent show held in the gym in front of elementary students. Ah, an 8 year old is a special combination of the hubris of youth and absolute naivety in the ways of the world. My teacher was ecstatic, not because it was necessarily well-written or expertly performed—as the first try at such a task I doubt it was that good.  She was one of those teachers who kept waiting for her quiet and introspective student to speak up, to take a risk, and this one—me—finally had. Feeling accomplished, I climbed the bleachers to sit with the other students. A girl two years my elder and decidedly prettier and cooler than me commented, “You are so weird.” And that was it—my last monologue. She could have said I was a Nazi or a total idiot or the ugliest girl, and the effect would have been about the same. At the time I focused on the “cruelty” of her comment, but time has a way of making the supposedly obvious irrelevant. This isn’t an essay about bullying but about how we handle those deeply revealing moments in our lives. I’d like to confess it not as an indictment of her but of me. I want to focus on my battle with the embarrassment of that moment and the fear it exposes. A person can spend a lifetime waiting to not be “weird” in the eyes of others, waiting for the shame to abate, praying the embarrassment will end.

No past embarrassments could have prepared me for the shame of divorce. For a full five years I seldom uttered the words, “I’m divorced.” I never referred to my ex-husband by that title. He was always the boys’ dad. It was humiliating, and I was fully culpable in my own humiliation. It revealed me to be what I am: a weak sinner. My other sins had justifications or were simply hidden. My weakness could be masked under stoicism or when that failed, sarcastic wit. Existing as a divorced mom left me nowhere to hide. I remember having to apply to a Christian school and make sure they were okay with me teaching students as a divorced woman. I stood there naked.* Not one of my Christian friends was divorced. I was hurled into singledom by my own hand and left to watch as they talked about marriage and interacted with spouses. Again I stood there naked. There was grief and pain, but what stands out is the abject shame: I am weak. I am everything I thought I was, and everyone knows. I was Adam with no tree to hide behind.

And here is paradox: the only act that brought any ultimate relief was allowing myself to stand in that shame. Pick up your cross and follow me. As I said, sometimes I avoided any reference to being divorced in an attempt to protect myself; however, I would relent and let the shame hit me again and again. Some might protest this as self-loathing or a rejection of God’s mercy. I admit practicing a combination of self-pity and self-loathing at times. It is a common sin, and I am a common woman. In the end, I was by no means rejecting his mercy. I was letting it wash all over me. At just the moment when I knew I am the worst of sinners, I also knew the power of His mercy.  

Much of what I have been writing as of late and plan to write is like that 8 year old’s monologue. It’s me, vulnerable and exposed, full of quirks and sin. For starters, why must I be so embarrassingly self-revelatory? Because, I am. I have opinions and they are often about myself. I have other opinions about politics, science, history, religion, parenting, friendship, and on and on and on. Who doesn’t? But I seem to be compelled to write them down. At some point I realized that the shame and the writing were connected. I was avoiding the shame of failure by not writing. Not everyone likes to write, so it wouldn’t be avoidance for others. It’s true for me though. Avoidance meant not revealing any more of my sins and not being called weird. They had become two of my greatest fears. I have a dozen or more completed blog entries that I keep waiting to post. I have stories and movie reviews and essays just sitting there. Waiting for what? To be less weird and less me, to reveal less sin and less weakness. That’s like waiting for a fish without scales or a rattlesnake without venom. I’ll be dead and it still won’t have happened. Enough of that.

I’m risking the pain, slaying the ego, and embracing the shame. As my students say, “You’re a nerd, Ms. Hines, but it’s okay. You own it.”

*I am much obliged to Father Stephen Freeman for introducing me to the possible healing aspects of shame. I did not realize how similar my language on this topic had become to his work until I researched shame in his blog for this article. A good place to begin is here.


Popular posts from this blog

To Hear One More Laugh

Find me now atLucid Renewal
We buried my grandmother in July. The photo above is my last of her. I took it to show family members who needed to know she was feeling better on this particular day. These final weeks were spent in the hospital — well over a month of needles and meds and ups and downs. On this day, I happened to be up on the 3rd floor with her, and so my dad, ever her companion, took the chance to stretch his legs. On his return, he brought back coffee for each of us. Meema was so happy about it; nonetheless, I didn't put this photo in her slide show at the funeral. When someone has suffered a chronic illness like congenital heart disease, you don't want to show them at their worst. Now, after over a month, I don't know if it is her at her worst. Perhaps it is her best. The pain and the discomfort at the end made her so mad, and sometimes not like her usual self, but in this photo, her hair may be sticking out a bit, but I can see the beginnings of a smile as…

Interrupting the Shame Tape

Find me now at Lucid Renewal
As I almost hit that deer earlier this fall, my oldest son screamed from the back seat. It was a baby-like squeal similar to other sounds he makes. This is done for no articulated reason. I sense he is wishing to remain a child and cute in addition to trying to be funny.

Because he has a prefrontal cortex more closely resembling a cat than an adult human, he makes poor decisions about what is appropriate for his age and what might be humorous. The cuteness has dissolved into a blend of pre-adolescent awkwardness and obnoxiousness.

He has developed the habit of growling, hissing, cooing like a baby, or my favorite—doing all three at once. To say that it annoys me is to say that I need air to breathe. I am desperate for the day he finally stops, and I fear it will never come. And, no, I won’t miss it when it’s gone just like I still don’t miss the diaper stage or the tantrum stage.

Inappropriate Behavior All of this may explain, though not justify, why on that…

Please Just Don't Be a Serial Killer

Find me now at Lucid Renewal
I am a single mom. That sentence holds a lot of weight for me. I feel its heaviness, its sin and sadness and shame. However, I do not associate all of that loaded statement as a painful burden. Perhaps it is blind confidence or irrational optimism, but I feel my job, and the fact that I do it alone during 95% of my week, is monumental and heroic. It may be that egoism plays a part in the latter assessment.

Nonetheless, I will admit my heroism leans more toward the Iron Man or Dare Devil side of the spectrum. I can be a real jackass, and this is not conducive for parenting two boys, especially when you’re going solo. Every Tony Stark needs a Pepper Potts, but not everyone gets one.

Indeed, I am alone. There is no one there late at night to tell me to get over the pee on the bathroom floor because it’s normal my kids to take a leak everywhere but actually in the toilet. There is no hand on my side as I lie in bed crying and cussing about my child’s hurts and…