Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Shame and the Fat Wagon

I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. The fears we hold in common and fears unique to each of us. Last week I was Skyping with my friend and mentor and I told her what might possibly be my biggest fear.

Oprah with the fat wagon.
I know.
Let me explain.

I remember very clearly when Oprah came out triumphantly on the stage at Harpo Studios, rolling a red wagon full of animal fat behind her. She wore that iconic black turtleneck and those jeans that clearly date the segment proclaiming loudly she would never go back. It was an electric moment. And that is what made the turnaround from it so devastating. At least I imagine it to be devastating.

I cannot fathom anything more humiliating, more heartbreaking, than to make an announcement and then have the very thing turn awry in the most public of ways. That moment of television history had such an effect on me that with the exception of my first child, I have kept most of my announcements, news, and ideas pretty close to the chest. Oprah herself hailed it as her “biggest, fattest mistake.”

But as I’ve been slowly reading Brene Brown (I cannot emphasize how extraordinarily slowly I am reading her books) I have attempted to let people in a bit more to the parts of my life I’d prefer to keep to myself. Mainly, my hopes and dreams.

About two years ago I had a big dream. I shared it with a few people but not many. And that dream came really close to happening. For the first time I allowed my excitement to get the best of me and I told people and it felt amazing. I realized how the sharing with others made it so much sweeter. But then, do to circumstances out of everyone’s control, the dream died suddenly.
It was my Oprah with the wagon moment. Or at least that is what it felt like. In that moment I was so utterly decimated I stopped. And not just temporarily. Sure, I said I was still working on it, but the truth was I couldn’t. I would sit down at my desk and waves of shame would wash over me; it felt like drowning.

But if I’m really honest, and push past the emotion to the truth, the dream itself did not die; it was merely the hope of having it realized in a specific moment of time. It’s taken me a while to figure that out, and even longer to be able to make peace with it.  

This morning I read something my friend Ed Cyzewski wrote. He states, “By keeping our struggles, flaws, and imperfections secret, we leave ourselves vulnerable to their attacks, the shame they generate, and the feeling that we’re inevitable failures in spirituality.”  Well then.

So here I sit, two years later, at the same Panera I visited when I was full of hope. Typing the same words on the same laptop. I’ll let you know how it goes.