“Shame is worse than death.” Unknown
My uncle’s sexual abuse didn’t impact my life as much as Mom ignoring it, and there was one particular Sunday afternoon that left unshakable shame.
The family was all together and playing croquet in the backyard when my uncle slapped my behind. I started screaming and wouldn’t stop. Mom grabbed my arm and walked me inside and up the stairs out of earshot. When she asked why the outburst, all I could say through crying was, “He hurt me.”
I begged her not to make me pull down my pants, but she did anyway because she wanted to see if he’d left a mark. He hadn’t because my fit wasn’t about how hard he popped me, but about the abuse. I knew better than to explain because it was too painful for Mom to listen to. She and my uncle had been through it also, and worse, with their dad. Her ultimatum – return to the backyard and apologize to my uncle or stay in my room. I wish I’d chosen the second. At least I would have felt a little powerful.
Because shame left me afraid to share how I felt and afraid of others’ punishment, I’ve felt shaky living through an election year that’s been similar to living with my family of origin.
I’ve snuck around Facebook trying to determine if my vote was okay
… just like I used to sit outside my parents’ bedroom door and eavesdrop on their conversations, trying to figure out if our family was okay.
I’ve kept my candidate’s name to myself even when others loudly announced voting for the opposite person, and attacked anyone who disagreed
… just like listening to my family judge people until I’d feel so uncomfortable I’d ask, “Aren’t we doing those same things?”
I offered up common ground the evening a friend brought up politics, “You know, neither candidate is an ideal choice for the presidency.” She said, “Really? I’m not so sure about that,” letting me know she believed her candidate was ideal
… just like sitting across the table from my dad and brother during one of their arrogant rants.
Out of nowhere (except maybe the election results), a friend stopped liking and commenting on my Facebook posts including grandparent ones, a commonality we’ve shared and “liked” for a couple of years now. On his page, instead of sharing his precious granddaughter, he’s posting offensive political posts, one after another. I’ve fluctuated between sad and maddened since, like Mom, he’s favoring retribution over relationships. I don’t understand, which I’ve said repeatedly this past 365 days.
This election’s taught me more about dealing with shame than dealing with politics. I’ve had to choose between these …
Be silent and feel ashamed.
Speak out and be shamed.
This time around, I did choose the second and I do feel more powerful.
I’m choosing well in relationships too because I’m no longer 13, the age I was on the stairs with Mom, and there’s no longer anyone with power to shame me (or you). Committing to these may help both of us.
- No longer giving into the uncertainty of self-doubt.
- No longer standing by for hurt caused by judgment.
- No longer heeding voices of the unreasonable and the arrogant.
- No longer reacting to another’s punishment.
- No longer letting shame silence us.
I’m proposing what my friend and fellow writer put forth. Jacqui said, “I have been working to ‘stay out in the open’ in the recent year or so, despite the palpable repercussions.”
No matter our own self-doubt and others’ judgment, arrogance, and punishment, it’s self-caring, and maybe even self-saving, to stay out in the open and not allow politics or anything else to shame us. As always, it’s easier to step into the open when we are …
In This Together,