It’s the Shame that Makes You Sick.
Lately, I feel like I’m afloat in a sea of the mentally ill.
There aren’t nearly enough rafts to carry all of us. Meaning some will flail, and possibly drown.
Of course, there are those in our community who don’t appear to struggle to keep their mental health intact. Some of these people, bless their hearts, are perfect.
Perfect hair, perfect teeth, perfect homes and perfectly well-behaved children.
These folks will deny to the high heavens that their child could ever say or do anything wrong.
“That’s not how we taught them.”
“That’s not who we are.”
Fingers point, point, point everywhere but toward the crystal hearts tinkling behind the décolletage.
Often, the people at the tip of those perfectly-manicured fingernails buy the ruse and wallow in shame. How can they be so perfectly pitiful when others are so perfectly perfect?
All I know is which human being I want sitting across my steaming mug of chai.
I don’t have much patience left for people who won’t show you the stuff shoved under the bed. Because there’s always stuff shoved under the bed.
Now, I do have compassion for these folks. I’ve been there. I’ve been afraid to be myself.
But I’ve come to realize that the real sickness in our society is the need to hide the messy truth of being human.
It’s the shame that makes us sick.
When you step out in the open, displaying your particular affliction like a medal, something amazing happens. It loses its power over you.
The shame dissolves like the dew.
Your heart blooms with compassion. You begin to invite other people to set down their burdens and enjoy the freedom that comes with admitting you’re not perfect.
Or even normal, whatever that is.
“Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.”
~ Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
Truth is, we are all afflicted with the condition of being human. No one gets a pass, not even those sparkly-eyed heart-squeezers we call our children.
For years, I kept pretending we had a shot at reaching normal, a place which must be a speck on the map, if it even exists.
Why did I waste so much time in the fruitless pursuit of what others would think?
Maybe it was my subconscious awareness of how far short I fell from that illusory island. I never made it there myself despite stellar grades and perfect attendance. The angry, flawed human being inside kept poking through.
Still, if I just pushed hard enough, maybe my kids could flop their way onto shore. Maybe they would make the team.
Now I think, to what end? Whose approval could be worth such a weighty lie?
We’re flawed, deeply. We make mistakes, daily.
But, around here, we’ve begun to celebrate our quirks. We look at each day as an opportunity to learn how to get better at negotiating this life thing. Really better. Not just on-the-surface better.
That means being honest and open about our struggles. It means asking for help.
So, I’m not going to be invited to Little Miss Perfect’s birthday party. That’s okay. I could never figure out what to give her anyway.
And, really, it’s not a group I aspire to be part of anymore.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all sunbeams and dandelion crowns over here. This journey takes strength and fortitude. You can’t just drift along with fingers crossed. You have to flag down your ship and climb aboard. And you have to face the fact that there’s no end in sight and certainly no blue ribbons.
I don’t know.
I still think Normal must be a strange and lonely place.
But I’m not sure I’m ready to move into Abnormal, either.
Me, I’m looking for an affordable condo on the island of Human.
Let me know if you hear of anything.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel
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