November 22, 2021

The Powerful Lesson I Learned about Shameful Memories from Robin Hobb.

My favorite book series of all time is the Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb.

I have read the entire series no less than five times, and each time, new insight is gleaned and wisdom exposed. It is a fantasy series packed with heart truths. Entering into the world that Hobb has so masterfully created soothes my nervous system and takes me back to my own heart time and time again.

In my most recent reading, a powerful tool became evident. There is a concept in the book of “skill stone.” This magical stone is able to, among other things, absorb a person’s memories. With enough memories, the stone can awaken into a living being. To the far extreme, in the absorption of the totality of someone’s memories, the person becomes no less than a walking zombie. A completely needs-based animal.

However, in a less extreme way, the absorption of memories can result in the lessening of pain that certain traumas leave behind.

There have been times when I have desired a skill stone for myself.

Memories come back in flashes while I am living my life in the present. They halt me in my tracks as waves of shame and misery come over me. In those moments, it feels as if my entire life is one massive failure stacked upon the other.

I just want to get rid of them. I hate the experience, and in those moments, I hate who I have been. “How could I have ever been so stupid?” I think to myself. I want to extract those moments in time from my being, and in doing so, free myself from the heavy quagmire of shame that I find myself swimming through.

Thanks to Robin Hobb, those thoughts have turned into my wake up call. It is my wake up call to stop, pause, breathe.

You see, when Hobb’s characters let their memories fall into the stone, they are left living, but not as whole as they once were. The edge of their vitality and life force is gone. They are “there” but not all the way. It comes as a cost.

As I feel the shame rear its ugly head in my stomach, rendering my arms and legs as jelly and my lungs unable to take in air, I want nothing more than to be rid of the physical sensations in my body. That is my first response.

But there is another voice that comes to remind me that this is all “me.” We are the sum of everything we have chosen in this life and everything that has happened to us. All our memories stack together to form the story of who we are. When I cut off part of the story, I cut off part of myself.

So I breathe. I make room for the painful memories to be as they are. There is a part of me that recognises that this, too, is “me.” I cannot run, as much as there is a part of me that wants nothing more than to run as far away as I can. To stay and breathe through the flashes of memories as they come and greet me in the present has turned into my spiritual practice.

They come, I resist at first. Then, I notice the resistance. I remember the cost of resistance. The cost of resistance is an existence that is not full. I remember that resistance robs me of the person I desire to be now. So, I choose to make room for the person I have been. I allow her, with her limited understanding and capacity, to find refuge and compassion in my experience, now.

Maybe one day, after doing this enough, the pain won’t be as sharp. Maybe one day, after opening the door to that past version of myself enough, she will learn that she doesn’t have to hide her face anymore. That the struggle she feels is not a struggle at all, and all she knows is the sweet release from being welcomed home.

Maybe one day. But until then, the dance continues.

Oh, to be alive. What a wondrous thing.


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