I poked myself in the eye with a spiky pot plant leaf last week. It hurt, but I was rushing (of course) because my mother-in-law (let’s not get picky with detail) is the BEST acquirer of free stuff and had acquired me some house-cladding off-cuts to put in the garden bed to stop the world’s biggest puppy digging it up. So it was 6pm, the kids had just gotten home from her house, dinner was on, I had an evening client, and BAM. Poke in the eye.
It hurt. I left it and got on with my night and the next day but about 24 hours later it was streaming tears and hurting so much I couldn’t keep it open and I even made the late-night optometrist call to my optometrist friend. He reassured me somewhat but did drop the words “ulcer” and “damage” and perhaps even “blindness FOREVER” (no, sorry that’s just me being dramatic) and I went to bed promising my eye that I had gotten the message and would definitely take it to be seen to in the morning. I did have a mild anxiety attack at 3am and worried perhaps I would be blind in one eye FOREVER and it would ALWAYS hurt.
Anyway, long story short, I saw an optometrist the next morning, got a contact lens “bandage” put on my corneal abrasion and spent the rest of the day wearing sunglasses inside and lying on the couch unable to write, read, work or watch crap on TV.
So (if I’m going to make meaning of all this like I always do!) the main thing I wasn’t sure I wanted to do on Saturday was to play water polo. I have started again recently and it has been great but I’m not that great at it, and I don’t like being the NOT GREATEST at stuff. So I’m continuing on with it because being not great at something is more my challenge than shit I’m great at. If that makes sense? And until my eye hurt so much and I couldn’t do ANYTHING for 8 hours, I probably would have preferred a poke in the eye with a blunt stick to a game of water polo with NO SUBS, but after about an hour of sore eye I wanted IN THAT POOL more than anything.
Anyway, it got me thinking about things I’m not GREAT at and why I don’t like being the NOT GREATEST (or if you just want to frame it up like a normal person, why I don’t like sucking at things) and it all comes down to that crazy little thing called SHAME.
I’ve been reading a bit of Daring Greatly (by Brene Brown – check it out if you haven’t had the chance yet) amongst about 4 other mind-blowing books this week and I have thought about shame a bit.
I’ve always been a blusher, and a blusher who flushes and then gets embarrassed by flushing and blushes HARDER and REDDER and MORE and then it’s like all DYINGLY BLUSHFEST and…..well if you aren’t going red reading that you ain’t got no empathy! There’s always one. Who has to point out the fact that you’re blushing. As if every other person in the room can’t see and those with the empath gene are getting the creeping red neck of sympathy. You know who you are either way.
Embarrassment is a thing I’ve said I felt and shy (not that anyone ever believes that about me) and nervous. But I wouldn’t have said the word shame without the jokey shout-out tone “Awwww, SHAME!” when someone does something embarrassing at school and you want everyone to notice. Like blushing.
But, when you read about it and it resonates I’d say it is shame, something deep. Way deeper than the blush. Something connected to the deep not being good enough that seems to haunt most every person I know at sometime or another. Except the one’s who think it’s too shame to admit to shame. They don’t have it. Sometimes I want to be like them, and then I remember I used to be, and it didn’t feel like this. Brutiful.
In the end, now I can see it, so much of my heartbreak was connected to the shame I felt. I can honestly say that I had never felt so humiliated in my life as I did the moment I realised (the guy who is not) my guy had left me to start a relationship with a 19 year old who had lived in our home and cared for our children for 6 months. Who I had confided in as my heart broke. That I hadn’t seen or noticed. Me. The relationship and life coach. The really good relationship and life coach. The person who’d invested 10 years of her life learning how to love the way I loved him, with open adoration and vulnerability AND who told the world about it. Me. Who was so good at so many things and it turns out, once again, SO the NOT GREATEST at this. This thing called relationships. And I promise you there would have been many a time I would have said during that time that I’d prefer a poke in the eye with a blunt stick than to cry another river or ache another heartache or gag in the morning or have to tell another person and have them say they already had a funny feeling about that. I think that one was the hardest one. All the people who saw before me. And the people who didn’t know me, but heard the story, and I wondered what they wondered about me. That felt like shame.
But shame is a funny thing, because when you notice it, and acknowledge it and allow it to be, it’s stops being so powerful and you stop reacting to it. When I felt shame I stared into the mirror and could not see my own beauty. When I felt shame I could not forgive myself for loving him so much. When I felt shame I questioned if I was any good at coaching anyone on anything. When I felt shame I forgot everything.
But once I knew it, it stopped being true.
I’m a great coach. I get so excited by the possibilities. I believe in love. I’m a great relationship coach, because of what has worked and because of what hasn’t. I do not fuck around with people now. Being married (or in a committed relationship) or having a great life is about the choices you make every day to show up (or not). It is simply that. I’m a fricking awesome girlfriend and I am so proud of myself for learning to love like that. I didn’t know how to do that before. And if I knew it would end this way I WOULD NOT HAVE LOVED HIM ANY DIFFERENTLY. Because that’s the way I love people. All open and real and true.
I would have loved myself differently, I would have stood up for myself and asked for more for myself and been better at letting go, but the actual loving bit – that shit is amazing. And I’m not going to stop that because he wasn’t my person. Because he poked me in the eye with the world’s biggest, bluntest, mother-fucking stick.
You can heal that. Rest and medicine and caring friends and time and something to believe in.
And then you realise the stick was a MAGIC ONE. Holy-fucking shit.