All I know is that I did it again. I bolted from a social situation where I was feeling a sense of panic and fear, for no visible reason, and in my worry I propelled myself home without so much as a glimpse in the rear view mirror. As I loped up my apartment stairs into my empty home and turned the locks on my security, I wasn't filled with relief or gratitude for the safety of home. Each click of each lock sliding into its designated space filled my heart with sadness. I recognize now the irony of my fear: I long to connect and I evade it all the same. We do that sometimes.
In her book I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), Brene Brown says: “Shame is about the fear of disconnection.” Many of us, from a young age are told we are “too” of something. I was always too loud, too emotional, too much of a dreamer to hang out with the cool kids, or even my own family. So I spent my growing up years (meaning until last month) trying not to be those things because being those things meant being alone, disconnected. My efforts to not be those things turned into anger at myself because I could not successfully fight being myself. This resentment incubated in my person and eventually unleashed in many painful, tortuous ways. I nearly lost my life for all of the anger I had at myself for being who everyone else told me not to be, for being what kept me living in isolation, disconnection, and shame.
I was only able to emerge from this disconnected space when I was able to share my story with a community I trusted. In exposing the ugly truth of who I really am, I was able to see that I’m not that ugly: I’m human. Slowly, others stood up and said, “Me too!” and I wasn't so alone any more. We can do that; end another’s loneliness with that simple revelation.
Tonight, I heard the words I've so often spoken and thought behind closed doors, painful words that label and cage and bruise. But they didn't come out of my mouth; they were from a friend, of herself. And tonight I had the opportunity to connect with her, to be the voice shouting in the dark “ME TOO!” And I didn't I let her heart fall flat on the floor, bouncing around, and I stared on like I had no idea why it was palpitating and oozing like that.
Vulnerability brings connection; shame brings disconnection.
She was open to connect, crying from the pain of the openness, and I stayed silent and closed off, thereby leaving her, to some degree, in shame. Her freedom is my freedom and both of must risk to be free.
I want this freedom. I want the friendship and I want the togetherness of “me too.” Can I silence the voices of all the people and systems who tell me not to be me because it is wrong or ugly or unacceptable long enough, courageously enough to end another’s shame?
To end my own?