Shame: A Hollow Souvenir

This pain is a noose. Choked beneath the weight of my past, I can’t breathe. The past and the present look nothing alike; and yet, here I stand, feeling every bit as naked and ashamed as I did then. As if all the growth and change still isn’t enough. As if I, still, am not enough.

I pride myself on my rigorous honesty. My almost embarrassing level of truth telling that has always exposed me just a little more than I can contain. While I feel as though I am supposed to apologize for that, I simply can’t.

Having someone stand in the cracks of your past is a scary endeavor.

Will they get lost in there?

Will those cracks become bigger than me?

Will they become stuck between the then and now just as I once did?

Will they find their way back to solid ground? Back to me?

I dragged my body out of there and tried to find the balance between acknowledging what it was and never looking back. I stand in the truth of the present and despite my fight, that history still has its hands all over me.

Shame is never too far away. It sits and waits for small, dark opportunities to silence and suffocate. The quiet of my shame pierces my ears; and as I speak my truth, it pierces the ears of those I love too. There is no victory in the face of that. The only victory I know is in continuing to stand, continuing to breathe, continuing to speak despite the strength of that deadly noose, lest I allow it to take all I am, yet again.

I want to hide. Standing here right now I feel like I’m being devoured by my own life. The mirror is held up again in its taunting method of discovery and it sneers, “Remember that ugly little thing?” I have no choice but to say, “Yes,” as the one I love most stands beside me watching what the mirror reveals.

Death was in that reflection. I died a thousand deaths, a thousand different ways; and despite my life today, the power of the past still tries to destroy me.

“Lioness,” you thought? Ha! You’re still that weak piece of trash you always were.

And though I know that lie is tired, it doesn’t stop my heart from becoming exhausted when I hear it again.

Vulnerability has rescued me; and yet, it feels like an all too familiar imprisonment choking me back to death. It grips me in my openness and stifles my freedom. I hold my scars up as a sign of strength and while that tissue covers the wound, it can’t deny the truth. The birthplace of healing is also the birthplace of pain and one can’t exist without the other.

The courage to be real, to be vulnerable, to be seen—that level of bravery feels as though it should come with a reward. But depending on the presentation, instead of a glowing prize, all it seems to provide is a hollow souvenir. Some meaningless memento to carry in my body with the sloppy engraving, “For all your naivety and brokenness, here’s a keepsake for your pain. Keep it to yourself.” 

I know better than this. I know that hollow ache is no longer where I live. I know the past served a purpose and my wholeness is who I am. That knowledge, however, doesn’t stop me from questioning it as soon as someone else does.

I have learned over and over that despite the broken rage that rises up within me anytime my shame speaks, this is part of the journey. This is where the healing comes. This is how the healing stays.

I don’t have to be comfortable to be whole. I don’t have to hide to be healed. I don’t have to lie to be loved.

The truth is that not all truth is pretty. Not all truth is welcomed. But truth is necessary in the journey of wholeness. Truth is, in fact, the only path to that destination; and truth must be told no matter how ugly it is.

Pain is a price tag on the keepsake of our life; and although I paid too much for that old hollow token, it helped me heal. Shame says, “Stay broken.” Truth says, “Get up and claim your wholeness.”

So today I choose to stand. I stand on my own, and I stand next to the one who chooses to stand with me. He runs his fingers over my broken places and even if its sharp, he doesn’t run.

He doesn’t run and I don’t apologize.

We sit in the pain together. We face the discomfort provided by the vibrations of the past and wade our way back to solid ground. That’s the true victory. That’s the reward. The ability to feel shattered once again and rather than being devoured by it, we crawl inside of it and heal again.

That’s a worthy souvenir.