Forgiving Shame

This post is a rehash of something I had written about in my journal back on September 21. I had just gotten back from the first weekend long retreat/intensive with ALisa Starkweather. Then, just recently, a friend on Facebook posted something which quickly brought me back to this and I promised her to share the story.

The reality is I am also sharing it to explore in an authentic and transparent way, my self exploration into the person I am meant to be in this life. Bits of the story shape choices now, but I am breaking the victimhood I carried, releasing the shame around the journey and reframing the stories.

It was a typical morning, rushing out of the house, me peaking in to the lunch box to make sure my daughter had everything she would need for the day. I see what appears to be “not enough food” for the whole day and become slightly irritated with my husband. I never wanted her to know what it felt like to have no food. And then the flashback came.

I am in 2nd grade, I see myself sitting in the dark cafeteria of the old school basement, with my head down. The chattering and laughter is deafening to me as I try not to cry. Children around me eat their lunches while I sit for the 4th day without lunch. Some mix up with paperwork which allowed me my free lunch happened and after 2 weeks of providing lunch to me on good faith, the school finally just told me “sorry but we don’t have you on the list.”

My mother didn’t believe me because my sister, who was in the same school as me, had been getting her lunch just fine. I remember her telling me “How would A be getting her lunch then?” She refused to let me bring anything for lunch, telling me we couldn’t really afford it and she “knew” I was making the whole story up, just so I could bring lunch.

This day, as I sat with my head down, a boy walked up and said “here, do you want this?” And as I looked up to see what he was talking about, he quickly pulled it away and laughed, said “just kidding!” Then bounded off to his friends, where they all laughed and pointed.

The next week the boy said to me “I feel bad about last week, would you like to share my lunch with me?” I was cautious and declined, but his friend assured me he was telling the truth and somehow I was convinced to sit with them both and we’d all share. When we sat down I waited quietly and finally the boy turned to me and said “just kidding!” He proceeded to eat his lunch loudly, commenting “this is really good; I bet you wish you could have some.”

On the outside, I kept it together, just barely. No way was I letting these boys have more power.

A few days later I was back in the cafeteria, head down – or maybe I had gone to early recess, I don’t recall how it happened. All I know is my sister discovered I had been telling the truth all along. I remember her walking with me to a teacher and then to the cafeteria lady, explaining (rationalizing). Why would she qualify for free lunch but not me? I didn’t want to do this; I felt embarrassed enough, as all the kids in my class knew I got free lunch. I didn’t need everyone in her class knowing too.

But my sister told me it would be ok, that I needed my lunch. I still didn’t believe it. I went another week to claim my lunch even after it was all cleared away out of fear of not deserving it.

Now I am so far removed. I remember my sister calling me on the day I wrote about this, I was at work and I told her “I just want to tell you how much I love and appreciate you. You have been there for me in my life, always standing up for me and using your voice when I couldn’t find my own. I love you.”

She didn’t know the place I was coming from when I told her this, but on this day I began to really see her. For so much of my life I sat in silence, holding shame around my very existence. My sister, this person who I cried many tears of frustration over because of her loud voice, had been my voice over and over in my younger years. Now as I am claiming my space and my voice, she is there to hear my voice, sitting more quietly to listen.  

So thinking of my friend who posted about knowing a girl like me in grade school, I feel love, to know that compassion and awareness still go back to forgive the past. It has allowed me to go back and forgive the children who teased me, to forgive the “me” for being ashamed, silent or invisible.

I realize now, there is no shame in letting someone use their voice for you, if they can speak for your heart as my sister did. I am also learning it is my job now to use my voice; I have lived too long borrowing the voice of others and now I must let others borrow mine.

A wave of release hit me hard, it was stunning to see me leaving the baggage, after all these 20 something years, I could let go and find love in that moment.

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