On the Shame Spiral and Making It Stop
Nov 3 2014
I spent Thursday night and Friday morning in a shame spiral, unsure whether who I am is an OK person to be.
This isn’t a woe-is-me post. Just sort of a woe-is-me first sentence. I mean, it’s hard to use the words “shame spiral” without admitting it is, in fact, a touch woe-is-me. Although now I think about it, it’s a good thing I added “unsure whether who I am is an OK person to be” to describe “shame spiral” because it occurs to me that a spiral can go in two directions, either up or down, and I could have been talking about an upward shame spiral where I’m spiraling out of shame instead of a downward spiral where I’m plummeting into it, so — WHEW! — good thing we avoided that confusion!
I just took a break from writing this to make myself a hot toddy** and steal some fun-sized Butterfingers from my kids’ Halloween candy because I don’t know where to go with this now that I’ve told you about the shame spiral and promised you this isn’t a woe-is-me post.
After some grounding whiskey and fortifying processed sugar, I feel like we should agree to put that whole Not Woe-Is-Me thing on temporary hold so we can go a little further with the woe before spiralling back up.
Shame spiral. Back to it.
You guys, I don’t participate in shame spiraling very often these days because I’m mostly happy to be me.
After a long time and a lot of work learning to speak kindly to myself — to be the gentle friend to myself that I am to others — I like me. I’m exactly the kind of weird weirdo I want to hang out with. I like all the right cheeses. I love my neighbor. I adore my family for more minutes than I don’t. I have excellent taste in questionable vampire novels. I only sometimes want to run away to Mexico with its beautiful beaches and cheap tequila. And, although it’s still a daily struggle, I’m learning to be less dogmatic about never ending sentences with prepositions.
I’m a work in progress, in other words; wonderful and wild, magical and messy, awesome and awful, and generally OK with it all.
But Thursday and Friday were different.
Because I let the critical voices in.
I let them pull up a chair.
And I heard them out.
Now, don’t get me wrong. A certain amount of self-evaluation is a good idea. A certain amount of listening to constructive criticism can do a world of good.
But allowing the critical voices free rein? Bad idea, friends. Bad idea.
My voices unearthed my persistent fear that maybe I am too much, after all. Too loud. Too irreverent. Too ridiculous when the world is serious. Too serious when the world needs levity. Too Jesusy. Not Jesusy enough. Too big. Too sweary. Too unfit for polite society.
And it took me hours to pull myself back together. Which is better than the days it used to take. Or the weeks it took before it took days. Or the months it took before it took weeks. But still. Still. I spent hours huddled in on myself before I shook it off. Before I reset my barometer. Before I remembered what the Quakers teach is true — that there is that of God in everyone. That of Love. That of Light. And to be on the lookout. In ourselves and each other.
I wish that was all there was to it, but shame spirals? They have aftershocks. One hit Saturday afternoon, before the Portland Area ComeUnity Group came over. You know, those groups we formed based on authenticity and vulnerability and being our real, messy selves? Yeah. THAT group was the one coming over, and, I don’t know quite how to tell you this, friends, but I cleaned. CLEANED HOUSE. I washed counters. I badgered kids into picking up clutter. I conscripted Greg into washing the couch. I BAKED so the house would smell good. Abby washed behind the toilet. I did 3 loads of dishes, 4 loads of laundry, and I scrubbed, like, half a window sill before I came to my senses and realized the window sills are a lost cause. IT WAS HORRIBLE, and it was because I was sure I wasn’t OK. I was sure I was about to be found out.
Then a group of self-described misfits arrived at my door. And I let them in. And they let me in. We ate and we drank and we talked about our lives and our fears and what makes us wish for wings that work. For friends. For the freedom to be ourselves. We saw that of Love and Light in each other. Which banished the voices of criticism. Of too much and not enough. And it was GOOD.
And so, friends, I thought I’d take this moment to ask you how you are. To ask you about the voices in your head. To ask you if you’d join us misfits in sharing a piece of yourself.
What do you LIKE about you and what do you fear? And do you KNOW yet there is that of Love and Light inside you?
P.S. In case you need to pull up a hot toddy for this one, here’s….
**The Very Best Hot Toddy Recipe EVER
- Heat 3/4 cup (6 ounces / 170 grams) of water to HOT hot.
- To the cup of hot water, add 1/4 cup (2 ounces / 57 grams) of honey bourbon. Or bourbon. Or whiskey. Or rum if you don’t detest rum the way I do.
- Add 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of brown sugar.
- Add 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of butter.
- Stir until sugar and butter are melted.
- Sprinkle with a dash of salt.