Kristin Shaw is a marketing manager by day, writer by night, the wife of a native Texan, and mother of a 7th-generation mini-Texan. She’s the author of blog Two Cannoli (www.twocannoli.com) and writes for the Huffington Post. You can find her on Twitter at @AustinKVS and on facebook.
When I was 5 or 6, my mom bought me a new nightgown. It was blue with a red gingham ruffle at the hem, and on the front was an illustration of a little girl in a big Sunday hat, with swirly script across the top that read: I just know somebody loves me.
When I received the nightgown, it was down to the floor, like a little-girl ballgown. By the time I got rid of it, it was inches above my knees; that thin piece of fabric was well-loved. In fact, one of my most vivid childhood memories was on that hot summer day in 1977 when Elvis died, and I remember reading the headlines on my aunt’s TV, wearing that nightgown.
Eventually, I grew out of it, and I remember being sad that it no longer fit. It was time for me to move on from that particular article of clothing, just as it was for me to move on to another point in my life. So I carefully and lovingly packed it up, and my mother gave it away.
Like that nightgown, there have been habits I have grown out of and boxed up to put away, and others I am in the process of outgrowing now.
In my own way, I have given away Shame.
In facing an assault, domestic violence, and abuse, and sharing it with others, I no longer carry shame. Those who attacked me no longer have any power over me if I say it publicly, and share it out loud.
Shame is a tough one to outgrow, but by finding our voice, telling the truth, and speaking up, shame becomes smaller and smaller until it eventually…
If I sit quietly and try on shame, like a worn-out jacket, it is tight and stretches across my shoulders. Shrugging it off feels good. It feels right.
I am working to give away Blame.
Learning how to say, “you’re right” and “I’m sorry” is not an admission of weakness. It is a show of strength and humility. I haven’t completely outgrown Blame, as it’s not always easy to take responsibility when I want to give it away; it is half-buried in the sand.
The hardest one to shake, and the one I’m still holding onto is Fear.
Having a child has given me a whole new set of fears. Is he safe?Am I doing the right thing? What if I do it all wrong? There are so many things I could worry about, and not all of them are things I should worry about.
I want my son to grow up strong and brave, and less fearful than I. I want him to believe in himself and try new things and love with abandon.
I don’t want my son to inherit my fears, and I put on the bravest face I can. Every stick looks like an object on which he could impale himself. Visions of x-rays of objects stuck in eye sockets flash in my head when he wants to carry my key ring around. A grape looks like a choking hazard. Every day, I try to do a little better.
Over time, I hope to try on Fear and find that it no longer fits; that I no longer need it in my life. And, like that nightgown so many years ago, I’ll be glad to box it up and give it away.
But hopefully, not to my son.