Although I was still pretty nervous I was super proud of myself for scheduling weekly Facebook LIVES in my group to share the years of knowledge and wisdom I had acquired on my journey towards my most authentic self. I remember very early on thinking to myself …
“If I could make a living out of reading, learning and sharing I would be the happiest person in the world.
And there I was making that happen! I named the LIVE series Motivate – HER Monday…pretty clever I thought…a chance for me to share what I have learned doing narrative research and through the thousands of pages I’ve read that support, explain and uncover my understanding of the world.
So it is not a huge shock that when I decided to cancel last night’s Motivate – HER Monday LIVE I harbored some disappointment. Here is the story of how a massive storm, which took a split second to take hold of me, caused mass devastation and how I was able to access the relief I needed.
It all started with a FB post I put up congratulating my 6-year-old daughter for becoming a Word Master at school. Because that’s what you do on Facebook you put up the highlights of your life in hopes that people will think you are rocking this whole parenting thing (boy are they wrong!).
There I was at the girl’s swimming lessons, sitting on the bleachers, checking my feed (as I do to see how many people would like or comment on my great parenting…aka Addie’s accomplishment) when I saw a comment from a family member who I don’t often (if ever) see in real life… Now she does like, share and comment on a lot of my stuff… which I guess means we’re close. But in reality I don’t really know what I would call our “relationship”. Her comment was…(and I am paraphrasing a bit)
“It’s too bad you didn’t make it to Nana’s on the weekend. You must be really busy. I was waiting to see if you showed up so that I could drive out and see you. Oh well tell Lucy I say Happy Birthday”
Sidebar…you may not have seen it but, a shame storm just launched the biggest of funnel clouds over my head and it was about to descend and annihilate every capacity I had to stay grounded.
Here’s the thing, I harbor all kinds of guilt (and shame) for not spending enough time with my grandmother who is not getting younger…our relationship is complicated for me…there’s my mom and the fact that she doesn’t have much of a relationship with her…there’s the fact that 10+ years ago when I didn’t speak with my mom I turned to my Nana for support. I battle daily on how to manage these conflicting relationships and find myself stuck with my head in the sand. I feel a ton of shame about the fact that I am not really dealing with any of it. So ya…shame pile covered with another shame pile… so shocker…this comment sent me spinning.
I scoured her FB page to see if there was evidence of some big event I had missed (or forgotten to go to) and found nothing. I then decided that her comment needed to be forgotten…I really had become an expert at numbing and deleting things that were too much to handle and so I pulled out an old favorite and mindlessly scrolled Facebook until I forgot what I was trying to avoid. Mission completed!
But was it really? Fuck no!
It wasn’t long after I had forgotten what I needed to avoid, that my chest started to feel tight and heavy and my breath had become shallow…both symptoms of a brewing shame storm and similarly what nerves often feel like. I attributed my angst to my upcoming LIVE…even though I felt prepared before we left for swimming lessons. I remember thinking as I packed the kids up, how excited I was to share what I had learned about people pleasing, boundaries and numbing behavior…I know the irony!
So when my anxiety level started to rise, I thought…”Oh I’ve go this… a little relaxation breathing…I’ll just close my eyes and take some deep breaths, say my positive mindset mantras and I’ll be FINE!” (you remember FINE don’t you Freaking out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional…right?!??) Anyway there I was breathing and loosening the ick building up in my chest. Then when I felt sufficiently sated, I opened my eyes to find my kids and revel a bit in their swimming joy!
It wasn’t long before I watched Addie and her class swim down to the deep end, towards the diving board, for some much-anticipated dive time! I held my breath as Addie nervously made her way to the end of the board and her teacher, who was in the pool, ready for anything, literally tried to talk her off the ledge…no luck. She walked back and she went down the ladder, having to maneuver past the kids who were eagerly awaiting their turn.
Once down, she made her way to the edge of the pool, and I thought for a minute that maybe she just wanted to jump from a lower point…There she picked up her goggles and said something to her teacher…to which she nodded knowingly and said “Okay”. Addie made her way back in line and I could see, she too was now eagerly awaiting her turn. (That’s my girl!)
All of a sudden a kid from her class came running towards her, he slipped and fell on his back and banged into the wall behind the diving board. I was happy to see him get up unscathed (as kids do) and saw Addie say something to him. The proud parent in me wants to believe that she said “Are you ok?” the practical parent in me knows she probably channeled her momma and said “That’s why we don’t run by the pool…you can slip…and oh ya…are you ok?”
Whatever it was that she said, he didn’t seem fazed or concerned with her in any way and promptly cut in front of her in line. I could tell that she was pissed and noticed as she tried to tell him so…again it appeared from my vantage point that he wasn’t all that concerned for whatever it was she was saying. And knowing what I know about her, it’s possible there was little to no volume in her voice.
I watched as she literally shrank and seemed to disappear behind him. His turn, up he went and did a kick-ass jump of the board (btw if you happen to be this kid’s mom…I’m so sorry I may have called your kid a dick in my head…just for a second and if you are reading this you will learn very quickly that the real dick in this story is me…)
What happened next, I must have chosen not to see… Yes I saw it, yet I was too wound up in the upcoming storm to notice it consciously. Not until reflecting upon it this morning, did I see the moment clearly. What I had missed then was that when it was Addie’s turn she confidently walked up and courageously took her jump (with her protective goggles on). As I think back now I can see her pride and also see how she chose to not let a dick (again sorry) ruin her experience…good advice that I wish I had gotten in that moment!
The next part of the story I come off really really bad…heads up I am about to describe some pretty shitty parenting (followed by what I choose to believe is the ideal in parenting…learning and growth filled with love and acceptance)
The shame storm was NOT over. When Addie was finished and I went to collect her and Lucy, wrapped them in their pink flower towels and signed them out, I noticed Addie was quiet and withdrawn. I quickly attributed this to the “incident” with the kid at the diving board. She said “Mommy I didn’t get 3 turns like everyone else” to which I quickly responded with “Yes I saw that Addie and I saw that kid cut in front of you. You need to take charge a bit more! Be more confident! Use your big girl voice! You tell him that he can not just cut in front, respectfully of course (a good girl should always be respectful…seriously how many deep seeded issues can come up in one story! Fuuuuuck!) and hold your space, hold your ground!” “Ya but Mommy I didn’t get 3 turns, I need to tell my teacher that it’s not fair and that next time I want my 3 turns.” “There is nothing your teacher can do now. There is nothing you can do now and it definitely is not worth crying over!” (fuck I hate when I say that!) “but Mommy…” “Let’s go! Mommy has to go to work and you guys are going to Nanee’s.” “but Mommy…” “NO! LET’S GO NOW! I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS” (and yes this was in front of all of the other parents and tots…awesome…argh!)
In the change room things did not get better (for any of us). Addie’s complaining turned into full on whimpering and whining, my anxiety instantly started to peak (partly because I really feel uncomfortable in the crowded change room full of anxious parents…including me…trying to get our kids to get dressed and partly because during a shame storm I find most sound …especially whining…like nails on chalk board. My shame storm does not often invite compassion to the party).
The words I used got progressively meaner and my patience had worn completely away. I finally told her that she needed to stop talking completely because the sound of her voice was irritating me. Lucy, just being a kid (like her sister) was standing on a stool trying to turn on the dryer to dry her hair…brilliant! And all I saw was a potential slip and fall followed by the room full of judgement. (Not to mention the fact that both of my kids were taking up both dryers…what if someone else wanted one…how rude of us! Seriously people please much Dionne)
In an attempt to coral Lucy, which was met with repeated vehement NOs, I stripped her suit off and forcefully made her get dressed. She responded with screaming at the top of her lungs “YOU HURT ME!” and not only did I wear that like a pile of shit on my head what I heard was a voice as shrill as I could make it, scream inside my head…
“You are a terrible parent! EVERYONE can see that!”
I am not sure how long it took me to get them dressed and out the door, it felt like years, it could have been seconds. I was completely lost. It’s like I was stuck inside a mason jar with the lid screwed on so tight that no amount of banging or hot water would open it. I watched as poison leaked from my lips and as my children bared the brunt of my tyranny…which was all meant for me. Is that what was happening? The more I raged and behaved in ways I loathe, the more I was choosing to torture myself. Proving to myself that I am awful… see proof…just look at me.
By the time we got to the car Addie was pleading with me to give her a cuddle when we got home. I told her “NO you are going to Nanee’s I have to work” (I know…remember I am pretty fucked up at this point). She then started to plead with me to go and get her favorite stuffy, Molly. My immediate response was NO!. I am not sure why the answer had to be no. We were 2 minutes from home and only 2 minutes away from my mom’s (Nanee’s). There was no logical reason why she couldn’t have the one thing that would help her to feel better (as I was a complete lost cause). I was swirling the drain of rage and anxiety and in my blindness I chose to target Addie. Could she have been a little less whiny…I doubt it. She is an energetic sponge and if she was picking up half of what I was putting out it’s a wonder she didn’t dive off the deep end with me.
I drove straight to Nanee’s and left them there to pull themselves together. Nanee was the absolute right person for them at that time. She, unlike me in that moment, could see them both for who they are and gave them what they needed.
By the time I got home 5 minutes later, I was literally shaking and what felt like de-toxing, turned into a very clear conversation with my Self. I began to hear my Self for the first time in over an hour.
“Be with the people that matter. The people you matter to. Let go. Let go. Remember that the nights may seem long but the years are short . You need the people that matter. The people that matter need you.”
I promptly decided to cancel “work” and reconnect to what really mattered…ME. I felt the mason jar lid loosen and the rush of invigorating oxygen fill me up. I could see what I needed and that was love. I needed to be in a space where I could reconnect with the love I have for my Self and then share that with those that I truly care about.
So that is why I cancelled my LIVE and that is why I felt compelled to get up at 4am to show up here on the page.
In the moment, (or in the hours afterwards) I couldn’t truly identify everything that was going on within me, I just knew that connection, real-life, real-love connection was exactly what we all needed.
What I realize now is that my shame storm and the devastation that it caused was triggered by one suggestion, one comment that I chose to believe was proof that…
I am not good enough.
I am not a good enough mother.
I am not a good enough person.
I am not good enough to help others.
I am not a good enough grand-daughter.
I am not good enough at planning my time.
I am not good enough at keeping it together.
And even though I had yet to articulate that these statements are not true and that the voice screaming them at me was me ego…(which btw I choose to listen to or not), I had good sense to know that what I really needed was to weather the storm with the people I loved. So I let my friends know that I needed to focus my energy on my girls and I went and hugged my littles…hard! (And yes I absolutely brought Addie her Molly!)
I am so grateful for this time to reflect on this powerful moment. I can not know the intention behind that comment but I do believe that it was not meant to be shame laden and storm inducing…that was completely my fault. I take 100% responsibility for my actions, my thoughts and the outcome of my behavior and I also take responsibility to move forward from this.
I will suffer under the veil of my shame storm again, but I believe that my ability to reflect on moments such as these will give me the strength and capacity to curb its effects, minimize the damage and reinforce the relief efforts.
I am not perfect.
However I am perfectly human, flawed, fault ridden and often frightened. I forgive myself and will focus on forging ahead with the knowledge that I am doing the best I can with what I have.
And what I have now is the courage to face another storm and the confidence that it will not break me!
What could I have done?
Where could I have shown my Self more compassion? (I mean fuck, I did do some breathing…why didn’t that work?)
I didn’t hear my soul screaming when my shame trigger went off…I mean I heard it but I didn’t offer myself the chance to really listen. I pushed it aside, ignored it. Which only pissed it off more…
“Oh yeah Dionne…well here is some acute stress to get you thinking…not working okay how about some anxiety and rage. And just for good measure, let’s make sure we add more shame to this shame storm by having you target your child who will mirror back every single fucking thing you are doing wrong…how about that bitch!”
If I had just listened…wait stop that!
Okay…in an effort to stop shoulding on myself…I choose to pull a deeper sense of personal awareness from this experience. I will choose to remember this event…not to shame myself in the future but to remind myself that for every trigger I have a choice. And that my desire to live and stand in my integrity (not often fun, fast and easy) may require that I face some limiting beliefs head on, in the moment, in order to stave off the storm.
Moving forward (which is the only choice really…) I will do my best to choose integrity.
Does this story resonate for you? Can you see parts of yourself on the page? Do you know what a shame storm feels like and understand it’s devastation?
Remember you are not alone my friend. We are all doing the best we can with what we have and that starts with our willingness to reflect, reconnect and recreate ourselves through our experiences!
All good things are rooted in love, laughter and learning!