“Aren’t you embarrassed? You are embarrassing yourself and your family.” Anonymous Gmail and Baseball Mom.
I’m going to be brutally honest: the email in my inbox knocked me on my tush as did the comments from the mom at my son’s baseball game’s. For 5 years, I have spoken frankly on the air what it’s like to be cheated on, suffer through a traumatic divorce and foreclosure, and bury my mother after a long term battle with breast cancer. Additionally, my words written and spoken reached over 1 million people – quantified by Google, iTunes and the Texas based radio station who hired me. In 2013, I was the recipient of numerous awards, accolades, honors and fan mail.
But that email and comment stuck in my craw. For a few sleepless nights, I tossed and turned giving those comments a lot of consideration. Like anyone, compliments are nice, but criticisms need examination. I preach about continual improvement so I had to live my own message.
I started thinking about embarrassment and, more specifically, shame. When I first started on my crash and burn journey, I felt a lot of embarrassment, shame, personal emotional pain and fear. So I hid. I hid for almost a year thinking that I had done something wrong, that I was a failure and that I was not deserving of love or acceptance. Why this happened is another blog altogether, but for the purposes of this blog I need you just to accept me on face value that I was there.
The second year, I was put on the radio and I began to talk. I talked about the shame and humiliation of being cheated on. I talked about the embarrassment and failure of divorce. I talked about the personal pain of losing my mom. I talked about the fear of losing my condo and living life without my mother raising two little boys on my own. People tuned in.
I also began to write. Writing has always been a huge part of my life, so write I did. My words flew out like healing doves, and louder and louder my voice grew. I was published. I was interviewed about confusion, grief, pain, abuse, death, dying, anxiety, fear and eating disorders. The more I spoke, the more people listened.
The more I spoke, the more I realized I was touching on difficult topics that most people kept hidden and were reluctant to discuss. There I was blabbing away. And people listened and people read and people wrote to me. When I wrote about shame and how I felt shamed by my spouse’s behavior, letters flew in. Apparently I wasn’t alone.
Then I got another email. A 72-year-old man from Oklahoma wrote to me his story about being married for 30 years and for 25 of those his wife had an affair with his life-long best friend. Though they had divorced some 20 years earlier and had raised five children together, the man said he never spoke about what happened. He said this was the elephant in the room at every event since he had not remarried.
He read my post about the shame felt by the person when their spouse cheats. He said I spoke the words he couldn’t. He said I explored the feelings he felt. He said he read as much as he could find about divorce, cheating, grief and loss that I had written because he finally had words to put to his experience. He also said that, for the first time in two decades, he no longer felt alone and ashamed. He said he began to use my words at first, then his own words to talk to his children and his family. He told me that I helped removed the elephant in the room and as a result he and his children and family have better relationships.
From my own experience and hearing the words of this man, I realized that shame can only live in darkness. Shame can only live in silence. Shame can only take over our lives if we don’t call it out of the bushes and give it a beating. Shame is thinking “I am bad” — and it’s never a good thing. Everyone feels shame, but people don’t talk about it and certainly don’t talk about dealing with shame and how it can hold us hostage.
The man from Oklahoma let something that happened to him shame him for over 20 years. What I would give to give him and other people and myself the time back lost from shame. So, I would like to publicly answer the anonymous email. I would like to publicly answer the mom from my son’s baseball team.
My answer is a resounding NO! I am not embarrassed to talk about things that make people uncomfortable. I am not embarrassed to talk about my feelings, my failings and my faults. I share these things so that people know at the most basic human level that they are not alone.
I share these things because I had to learn how to handle the issues that arose from the crash-and-burn days from friends, family, experts, books, websites, shows and movies. Imagine how much less stressful and painful some of these tragic events would have been had I had better tools. Imagine how much less stressful and painful things could be for our loved ones, our family, our children, our friends and our selves with this awareness.
In hindsight, I think if people only see me as the yapper in the media poking at the sore spots with a flashlight, so be it. Anyone who thinks I do this for attention, really needs to listen and read because many of my writings and shows are raw, painful, unflattering and brutally truthful to my experience. That’s not the stuff of award shows- but how I use them to inspire others and educate the population sure is. And getting that email from the man from Oklahoma was the best gift of 2013.
No, I am not embarrassed.
My kids will live in a world where shame has no place. My children will live in a world where they can talk about their feelings, so they can deal with them. My children will live in a world that when bad things happen, they will have the tools to solve their own problems.
Bouncing with Style is all about taking ownership over your feelings, including the ugly ones like shame, fear, anxiety and grief. If you are embarrassed by the things I talk about, then I invite you to examine why. You might just find that shedding the light on your own traumas might just let you Bounce with Style.