It was almost two years ago that I came smack up against my shame gremlins.
I was on a similar “break from the rainy wet coast for some sun on a tropical island” vacation and I had brought Brene Brown’s book on shame with me. I didn’t really think I had an issue with shame but Brene’s other book on letting go of other’s expectations of me helped me so much and so I thought I’d give the shame book a read.
One of the exercises said to outline things that you don’t want to be seen as. The first three on my list – fat/ugly, financially irresponsible and stupid seemed pretty self-explanatory as reflections of perfectionism. All are subjective in that they change from situation to situation largely dependent on how I feel about myself. On how secure I feel.
And then there was the fourth – single. Not subjective but a cold, hard fact that I had been banging my head on over and over without realizing it.
It was both a moment of sheer horror and sheer revelation. A naked, exposed moment of vulnerability. A wave of hot, flushing cheeks, of an acknowledgement of deep pain, the breaking of a dam of long held-back emotions and an overwhelming urge to run and hide forever.
But, also a moment of great hope. Of the beginning of a journey to ask why something which is not shameful should make me feel that way. And, the beginning of accepting that expecting myself to be brilliant, thin, financially padded and married might just be the source of unhappiness and anxiety, rather than the fact that I am not any of those things.
I am reminded of that pivotal moment here on this tropical island. This place that celebrates couples. Of honeymoons and 50th wedding anniversaries. Of couples discounts and romantic sunsets.
To be honest, the first few days were a bit of a jolt of “I don’t belong here” and “this isn’t my world”. And so, as I have done again and again over these past two years, I have had to set aside what I think my world is supposed to be and ask myself what do I want my world to actually be?
So far, my rain break world has included overcoming anxiety about wearing a wetsuit so I can snorkel with a manta ray, lazing on the beach, exploring some sacred places on this island, good talks with one of my best friends, and last night, standing near the top of one of the highest places on earth with the sun setting on one side of me and the full moon rising on the other.
A moment of perfect balance and beauty. A moment where I was filled with gratitude that I am smart enough, thin enough, financially responsible enough and singularly me enough to stand in that moment in perfect contentment.