I know there’s usually some form of Try It Friday on Fridays, even if it’s a quick note about how there’s no real TiF. Things have been crazy busy, life gets nuts in the summers, and I’ve been struggling just to get the essential stuff done, so it’s been a bit of a struggle to find time for the fun TiFs. I did make a commitment, however, so I feel the need to barge into this space and say, “Hey! You know that TiF that I do on Fridays? I got no TiF!”
That seems silly, though. But I feel like I made a commitment, and what kind of loser can’t keep such a simple damn commitment? One project, once a week. And then I fall into a cycle of shame and guilt which is so typical of me, and yet, is so damaging.
Alastair and I have been having a lot of discussions about shame and guilt lately. We both tend to spiral into it, for various reasons, and I look at him and say, “What in the world do you think makes you such an awful person? You’re amazing. I, however, am a monster!”
After all, I let the TiF slide. Multiple times. I mean… my god. What kind of person does that?
Krissie’s post on guilt the other day got me thinking about it. I feel that guilt is a useless and damaging emotion, but every time I express that, there are always people who come in and say, “No, appropriate guilt, when you do something truly wrong, is good. It’s what keeps us functioning.” And I think that’s where I slide: I don’t have a problem with appropriate guilt. There are few things in my life that I feel appropriate guilt about, that I truly regret. In all of those circumstances but two (in which I didn’t realize my wrongdoing until it was so far in the past and the offense so relatively minor that it was best to just let go) I’ve made good when possible and apologized when I couldn’t fix it, and I’ve been at peace. Those two still niggle at me, I wish I could go back and apologize to the parties, but that would just bring back the insult for them, while making me feel marginally better, and I think I should own my guilt on those instances. I’m actually okay with that.
My problem is shame. Things that were never in my control, but somehow, I hold myself responsible for them. Times when I did my best, did everything in my power, but didn’t get the results I wanted. What I feel isn’t guilt (I’m sorry for what I did), it’s shame (I’m sorry for who I am), and it’s debilitating. Actions can be rectified, dealt with, and set aside. An essential failing in who one is as a person? You can’t get rid of that. It is with you, every day, making life impossible.
I made a commitment to do a weekly post here, and I haven’t been able to keep that commitment. I’m a loser. A sloth. I don’t work hard enough. I’m selfish. I’m broken. I’m Wrong, inherently, at my core, and no matter what I do well, I will always be essentially broken.
Some of you may remember that refrain from my long-ago blog at Lucy March, so you know my stumbling through this dance isn’t because I don’t know the steps. But I still find myself hitting this part of it, wondering how that move is supposed to go. This is where I’m supposed to let it go, forgive myself, not let this failure feel like a confirmation of the fact that I am essentially broken? How does that work again?
Many years ago, before I was even partially aware of how damaging my internal shame was, I was late on a deadline at work. My friend Wanda, in her typical brash Southern swagger, said, “Baby, let me tell you something. Ain’t no little children gonna die if you don’t get that in by five today. Relax. Life goes on. It’s okay.” That hit me like lightning, and I clung to it whenever I failed at anything… which happened more and more often in years to come, as I exhausted myself trying to be good enough at everything to sidestep that debilitating shame. As I missed my targets more and more, the shame took over more and more, until I really felt I was the worst human being on earth, because I got angry when I wished I hadn’t… I crashed my marriage into a tree… I failed to do a TiF by the time Friday rolled around. These are all different levels of failure, but I feel them all as confirmation that I am a failure, not that I’ve had a failure.
I did a lot of work during that year and change on the blog, and some of those things, I have to just repeat the exercise. No little children are going to be hurt if I don’t have a TiF this week. No ReFabbers are even going to care. I don’t need to be perfect. It’s okay.
Seems silly, but there it is. So in coming here to tell you that there is no Try It Friday, I am actually sharing that I am trying something new: Cutting myself a break.
I’ll let you know how it goes…