Shame dies in the light
So I am sitting on my balcony across the street from the beach with the sun rising and a cool breeze, but I still feel warm. Last night I went out in shorts and a tank top and I wasn’t cold at all. That is the way it is here right now. Warm, inviting, and I would call it paradise. I still wake up every morning in disbelief that this is my permanent home. I still feel like I am on vacation and I will eventually have to return to my old life. I wonder when that feeling will go away. I have been here for a year now.
I honestly cannot believe it has been a year. I flew out of Portland Oregon on Halloween, the morning of October 31st, 2019. I have not seen my Ex husband or Portland since that day. I arrived with 4 suitcases, and my car packed with the rest of my belongings came 3 days later. That is it. I left everything else behind. I brought no furniture, no bedding, no pets, no anything that was going to have the energy of my old life in it. I brought most of my art and my journals with me, and my photos of my daughter.
Do I ever miss any items that I left behind? The answer is No. I never do. I had a 2 story house with every closet and storage area stuffed to the brim.I left it all behind and don’t miss any of it. Once I got here, I got rid of even more things. I cut most of my shirts and leggings into crop tops and shorts, and I ordered swimsuits online. The truth is as well as not having a lot of possessions, I don’t wear a lot of clothes now either. My apartment has all white furniture that I ordered and assembled myself. The white furniture allows the sun to reflect when it shines in my many windows, and it feels cool and light. This is my home.
For the first 6 months that I lived here, I had 3 plates, and a couple of silverware sets. I had nothing to cook with, and mainly bought ready made meals. Before the pandemic,I went through a phase of eating peanut butter and drinking red bulls, and then driving into West Hollywood to get facials and drink coffee. I didn’t cook, and I would just pick at things, plus I couldn’t really taste anything.
It wasn’t until mid-summer that I ordered some nice plates, bowls, glasses and more silverware, and started cooking again. Lately I have been making biscuits with blackberry jam, and I eat them warm with butter. They are satisfying and make me feel happy. My appetite is back, and I no longer feel the need to drink red bulls so that I am so high on caffeine that I can’t feel anything.
I realized that I was using caffeine and sugar to numb out, so in August I gave up my desserts. The sugar was numbing me, but also leaving me feeling groggy and more sad after it wore off. Not having the sugar in my body allowed my tears and anger to come forward, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. So it made me realize that the lengths that I was going to to avoid my pain, was more hurtful than just feeling sad and moving through it.
In 3 weeks it will be a year since I arrived in Southern California, in some ways I can’t believe it has been a year, in others I feel like I have been here longer. The person that moved to Portland when my daughter was a baby no longer exists. That person was ashamed and wanted to hide from her reality. My reality is that I grew up in chaos and abuse. I grew up never feeling safe. I grew up knowing that things that happened in my childhood house were wrong, and I was ashamed of it. I didn’t want to be that person. I wanted to be a person that had a nice supportive family that loved each other. So when I started my own family I also started lying about my past. I recreated myself. I so badly wanted to leave all that hurt behind.
My need to hide my shame about my past slowly crept into my marriage when things weren’t going well. I didn’t want my daughter to know about my past and now about the shortcomings of my marriage. So, I hid that too. I became a master of turning off my emotions and smiling. But who was I smiling for? I am sure my daughter saw right through me. I couldn’t handle the fact that my efforts to hide from pain, only caused me more pain. So, I became angry and frustrated.
As with any story of a person hiding their emotions, medicating, and avoiding pain comes the inevitable breakdown. For me, that was after my mom passed away almost 5 years ago. I was at a point that I could either give in to the darkness and depression, or I could slowly, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, climb out of the hole I had put myself in.
My first step was to come clean about how I grew up, and I came clean in the most public way possible, I started this blog and told everyone. Once I wrote it and clicked the publish button, I could start letting it go. The fact that people who read my words were sympathetic and not judgemental helped me to normalize my past. I didn’t have to be ashamed anymore. In fact, I could start to be proud of my courage for telling my truth, and my strength for surviving a childhood of confusion and chaos.
As I sit on my balcony with the sun rising, the slight breeze and the sound of the ocean waves in the distance writing this, I accept my past. I don’t like it, but I accept it. And in accepting it, I can let it go and create a better future.