Us, on the fridge, Canon Rebel Xti
“Shame can’t survive when empathy is present,” she told me. Something got rearranged in me when she said this. “Shame thrives in secrecy, it transforms in empathy.”
I’ve been listening to Brene Brown’s audio cds The Gifts of Imperfect Parentingthis week. Okay. I’ve listened to them three times. I am usually wary of parenting books, manuals, how-tos…being such a vulnerable new parent, I’m afraid to read about the way I’m supposed to do things, and inevitably go down the shame spiral. My policy has been to trust myself as much as possible and ask my sister and friends about the rest. But these cds made my heart feel lighter and gave me so much hope and confidence. It might be the only parenting book I ever need.
One of the most important things I drew from Brene’s lecture was a distinction she made between guilt and shame. Said very simply, the self-talk for guilt is “I did something bad.” The self-talk for shame is, “I am bad.” How many of us spill the carton of milk on the floor and lash out at ourselves, “You’re so stupid! God! What a clutz! Stupid!”
I do this all the time. This is called shame, and according to Brene, I am shame-prone. Eek!
As I contemplated these lessons, I got more clarity about why I blog and why I shared my infertility journey here. While I was struggling to get pregnant my self talk was not, “I am good. I am not pregnant yet, but I am whole and loveable and good.” My self-talk was much darker than that. It was something along the lines of, “If you were only more feminine, more nurturing, more of a woman, you would get pregnant. If you weren’t so damaged, broken, f**ked up, selfish, you would have a baby by now. If you were a better person, thought more positive thoughts, were less attached, more zen, you would deserve this child. If you weren’t so jealous and angry you might have a fighting chance.” The details changed, but the message was basically this: You are not good enough to have this baby.
It’s not that I was ashamed to be struggling with fertility so much as I thought I was bad, like there was something deeply wrong with me that it wasn’t working. This is the kind of shame I am talking about.
“Shame can’t survive when empathy is present.” This is where you, and this community come in. You sat with me, you shared your stories with me, you held my hand. You told me you’d been there too. We cried together. And this is the empathy that helped me to heal.
This is why I’ve always believed in storytelling. This is where we cultivate connection, compassion, empathy. This is where we can liberate ourselves from what holds us back, whether it is our shame, our fears, or our history. It is a space in which we can heal, forgive ourselves, and dream bigger. It is where we find hope.
That is what this blog is about. Every post may not be this tender, or this bare, but my commitment to you has always been about inspiration and liberation. I have always wanted to be a gift to the world; nothing makes me happier than that. It is in this spirit that I write each post. It is with an ear out for this that I share my stories. It is in the spirit of empathy that I take risks here to be vulnerable.
Reading the whirly wind of comments yesterday made me stop and question all of it: My intentions, my choices, having this blog at all. After I wiped all the tears away, I found that this is a choice I feel really good about. (I also honor people who choose differently) Creating space on this blog for my community to share their work, their books, their art is exciting to me. Being paid for my writing allows me to show up here in a more committed way. With very little time to write these days, creating space for this feels like a wonderful gift to myself and hopefully a gift to you as well.
Thank you for being with me on all of my journeys.