shame

when the levee breaks

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image credit …ozge gurer
                                                                 

Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good, 

Now, cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good, 

When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move. 

lyrics memphis minnie and kansas joe mccoy

sometimes i am in uber-love with facebook. it offers me hit after hit of glimpses of thoughts and ideas outside my everyday. my haphazardly honed adhd loves this effect. this morning it was a recording of led zeppelin’s recording of “when the levee breaks” from their 1971 album “IV” the sight of that audio post gave me permission to zoom out of my life for a minute and put on a different pair of glasses.

continually saying yes has a price. i know this. i have seen this. i have lived this. but my innate desire to excel overrides any logic i might posses. my way is to take it on, take another on, and then say “sure” again mostly because nothing else ever comes to mind. i learned early on in life how to become teacher’s pet. i purred in the luxury of excelling in the classroom and being perceived in a positive light, while the i spent the rest of my small town existence of a sissy boy queer orbiting in an atmosphere of whispers and shame. as fate (my teacher) would have it, this obsession with feeling accepted and an impulsive need for validation like a bird of prey  flies close to the falconer.

if i try to recap the events of this past week, my first emotional response is shame. and i don’t have the clarity today to understand whether this shame is appropriate or if it is primal. (i hate this not knowing btw). i ran an emotional marathon this week-

 i sat through what seemed like endless arbitrary meetings
 i waded through some large marshes of co-workers discontent,
 i called off a mini-vacation in my old hometown 
i juggled finances and made some hard but necessary choices,
 i took some more ownership of a grant application,
 i wrote a bio-sketch of my peer support experience,
 i became hyper-sensitive mid week and walked through the rest of days,
 my car stopped working,
 i asked for help and got it,
 i received a note from a colleague expressing concern about the work project not being truly
 peer-driven,
  encountered some passive aggression from a person whom i recommended be re-assigned,
 said goodbye and good-luck to a favorite work mate who transferred to another department.

i am really gobsmacked just writing all this out. these last days i have felt like a gymnast on a balance beam. it’s been daunting and precarious and felt competitive. and i have danced like a cobra for the snake charmer. i don’t know if the dam will hold. but i do believe the ride is far from over. 

the missing boy

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image credit… herr buchta

i spent 3 days in reston virginia working with a team on a design outline for a recovery oriented system of care for the state of colorado. sadly i realized that when dollars are the driving force behind a process, there is a devaluation for me. i went to a workshop which focused on a model for a peer led organization to sustain its funding. i felt my heart sink as i listened to information being disseminated around finding and sustaining funding. my experience tells me that when funding is a priority, then the intention gets really diluted. this was a revelation that came succinctly and discreetly to me. i spoke my mind and revealed my true feelings on the 2nd day which began a process which was like unraveling a ball of yarn.

i am swirling in disappointment this weekend. i haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate all this. i believe that peer services are invaluable. i couldn’t have made it this far without them. i just am not clear on my drive to find funding for them. .i am also drenched in some old shame- from where i am not sure. i am beginning to understand how some of this works for me- but not quite all. i spent saturday isolating and steeping in self-pity and anger about all this.

i know that i had a great day on wednesday. i was able to contribute and i felt energized. however there was a piece of me that felt i had over shared and was inappropriate. this piece nagged at me the rest of the time and became overwhelming by friday. i was unable to see beyond it or through it. it choked the life out of the time away.

i was on such a charge to get away from my companions, i changed my flight and left an hour early on friday. it afforded me time to go to a farewell party for my supervisor when i got home. i found being with work colleagues somehow comforting after the thought provoking melee in va. i stayed for an hour or so and then the isolating ritual began. this lasted through till sunday morning.

i went to my usual meeting and the topic was god-reliance. listening to everyone share really did quell much of my uneasiness. i remembered (again) that the journey is also about struggle. internally, i believe that my struggles lead to self knowledge. it’s the ancient part of me that resorts back to my traumatic postures such as the isolation. i got triggered and i did what i always do. i hid in shame spending over 24 hours fantasizing about picking my life apart piece by piece. thank goodness for the sunlight of spirit i was able to bask in today.

luckily i didn’t contact anyone or make any real decisions. i just sat in the dark-alone-steeped in negativity and licked some wounds. it did give me cause to wonder if i will ever get beyond feeling crazy. i understand more fully that this part of me that protects myself from feeling of shame is a very dogged champion. it has helped me to survive some very very painful and dangerous situations. i guess 24 hours of being inhabited by this walk-in isn’t the worst thing that could happen- although i would much prefer to recognize the pattern in a shorter time. this punk part of me did keep me safe. in the fear and the rush to isolate, my feelings were protected. at this stage of my life though, i am not clear that this protection is what is best for me. i might do much better walking through them.

image credit….. herr buchta

progress not perfection though. isn’t that what they say? i only hope i can remain tethered to the spirit that leads me to the light.

room for happiness

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image credit…domenico cennamo
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed………..Michael Jordan
2012 has been a series of big crazy issues. death, loss, grief, frustration seem to have over-seasoned my life’s buffet. in the few short weeks that have passed thus far,  i have found myself feeling plucked and pooped most of the time. and i have also realized that i have been overeating, watching too much tv, and toggling to porn mindlessly while online. it’s  certainly embarrassing and not the direction i would like my life to be headed.
please don’t panic…. change is in the works. with the onset of sobriety and a spiritual program, the behaviors and reactions to life that used to hurl me into chaos and darkness don’t land me out of bounds any longer. i find i still  drift to numbing out, but it’s manageable and detectable and i can work with it. 
this perspective is indeed a shift in perception for my life. a miracle. it’s not about hating myself because i have ruined my life and made a fool of myself. instead, a sober mind and a spiritual connection has offered me a time out with the skills of acceptance and forgiveness. 
image credit…. domenico cennamo
i deliberated quite awhile for a song to play with this short post. i came to rest on the idea of 1973 by james blunt. that was a tumultuous year for me. it was my 1st and 2nd year in high school. i had already moved twice and changed schools twice. my home life was rife with a very unhappy parent who was medicating heavily with sex and alcohol. i had become accustomed to feeling responsible for their unhappiness and so it came naturally that i blamed myself. i had engaged in sexual activity with an 18 year old from the 1st school who made it his business to tell as many people about it. the shame of being queer ate me inside like cancer. leaving home seemed the only relief giving solution. i left in august of 74, but began my search for a landing pad in 1973. i used some fake id’s and frequented a bath house in chicago called man’s country. it was rich with distraction  and acceptance for me.  i wasn’t the only queer. i wasn’t the only freak.  i just learned a different type of shame being around older gay men.
anyway- that was when the drug use started to climb. and the ability to face life got put on the back shelf. i ran from my life. and kept going for almost 30 years. 1973 was a pivotal period. my emotional life got put on hold for decades. here i am 40 years later- still learning new skills to help me stay in the game. 

and as an addendum, i am adding another tune. this one hails from clubland and which brings the post to the present. kaskade collaborates with skylar grey and the lyrics are a bit frothy and both music and words strike a chord with me. the add is to represent the daily reminder that i must give myself that i need to make room for happiness in my life and my heart.

Kaskade – Room For Happiness Lyrics (Feat. Skylar Grey)
Sometimes I wish I never felt the influence of you
‘Cuz now I feel a disconnect, like an open wound
Where you once were, there’s now a space that runs as deep as hell
But every morning when I wake I tell myself
Don’t be fooled by your emptiness, there’s so much more room for happiness
Don’t be fooled by your emptiness, there’s so much more room for happiness

rolling stone

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image credit… denis darzacq

here i am on wednesday evening after finalizing the agreement to list my townhouse for sale. it has become embarrassingly evident that the loss of 28 percent of my annual income has taken a toll. i am a mixed bag of emotion- shame, sadness, worry to name a few, and have been scattered and detached for awhile. once i came to the decision that i did, i have felt myself pulling back into the present.

i have changed my job duties, my job title, and the department i work for and now am beginning a transition for my residence and my financial life. i have been in the middle of a storm of sorts in my life and by the grace of a power greater than myself, i have managed to maintain a spiritual life. sometimes the ordinary can appear so very extraordinary.

it is sad to think of leaving my comfort zone. i have been here for 4 years and have grown up quite a bit emotionally here. i first truly came to feel and recognize how stunted my emotional life had been before sobriety. i never understood how toxic shame really is until i found an ancient seed germinating after reliving a drama. it has taken almost 4 years for me to learn how to begin to soothe myself when someone i trust does not  continue to be trustworthy. and it does continue to happen. and i am sure i trust much less easily.

with all this in mind, perhaps this residence shift is a metaphor telling me it is time to move on. moving on is not the easiest task for people with trauma. my experience is that i am much more comfortable when terrorized than i am when things are unknown. and today, i feel confident that moving on will reap some rewards and offer me new insight and a new focus for my future.

my friend jim chandler passed away this week. he had been staying at a hotel in ohio (on kaiser’s dime) waiting for a liver transplant. something went awry and he was in icu for 21 days and the whispered away. jim was a minister at the denver church of religious science. he contributed fairly regularly to the newsletter we publish. jim was always  wearing a positive message with spiritual undertones.

i remember when my friends and i wanted to start a gay men’s 12 step meeting that focused on meth, he offered space at the church. there were already other meetings there, however my understanding is that many board members did not want tweakers roaming free in the building in the evening. jim advocated for the meeting, citing the outrageously high number of gay men who had meth issues, as well as the hiv transmission rates that involved meth. he never boasted about this, he just did it quietly- and potently.

i watched part of the 2011 vma award show and particularly liked russel brand’s tribute to amy winehouse. he pointed out succinctly and lovingly that although amy lived with a very evident drug and alcohol issue, that there indeed is a solution for this. and he wanted to remind all the patrons of the show that a solutions did exist.

i have remarkably come to believe that living with an active faith is far more prudent than not. i love my atheist friends, but i am more enamored with the safety net that faith provides. i never wanted to have to rely on anything like faith when i was young. it seemed so weak. but as the gray antiques my temples, i realize that i struggled with relying on anything because i didn’t grow up with a lot of that around. i believed then that a rolling stone was less prone to heartbreak and i lived much of my life that way.

and here i am on the move again.

love come down

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Love come down
all the way down
no sleep last night
been dreamin’ of you
please hold me tight
’cause i can’t help the way that i feel
i just can’t help the way that i feel
thief in the night
you took my heart
now danger’s in sight
’cause i can’t help the way that i feel
i just can’t help the way that i feel

there are aspects of being a “sissy” that have caused me grief my entire life. i am not speaking of being gay, but more about being somewhat effeminate- less now than when i was younger. today, on Pride Day, i find myself thinking about what it has meant being gay all these years. i know that “coming out” was a real event and i was thrilled when i had stepped beyond the glass closet and found myself inside with the rest of my tribe. at the same time however, i found myself distanced by many because of my  effeminate mannerisms and characteristics. i would imagine this is most easily explained by internalized homophobia. but on a spiritual level, this understanding takes time and work to reach. initially, it just felt like more hate pointed in my direction, and reaffirmed the notion that i was, indeed, unlovable and not what others wanted.

this is a poignant place for me to arrive on this Pride day. i still struggle rigorously- even after 36 years being out- with this same theme. and sadly, i have turned my insecurities outward and aimed them at others over the years. maybe, i still do periodically. i hung out w/ a friend last evening that i dated for a very short time about 16 years ago. never has there been a question that he cares about me. never have i felt judged or as if i might be an embarrassment. to the contrary, he seems to admire and respect the parts of myself that i have struggled with all these years.

this perspective that he seems to hold about me is where i would like to find myself, too. the deep-rooted shame that has accompanied me through this life may no longer be of service. maybe  it is long overdue for a departure. i don’t quite know how i will work toward this, but i do completely believe it is the direction i have to go.

SHAME AND GUILT



Shame is not the same as guilt.
When we feel guilt, it’s about something we did.
When we feel shame, it’s about who we are.
When we feel guilty we need to learn
that it’s OK to make mistakes.
When we feel shame we need to learn
that it’s OK to be who we are!……… more about shame here

as i sat with my friend, i realized what a gift this across-the-board acceptance is to me. i didn’t ask him for it, but he has it completely- no questions asked. and i realize that i need to strive towards more of this naked acceptance in my world. truthfully, i struggle quite a lot with my own self-judgement as much as i am challenged by the rest of the world. now all i need is another 50 years or so…:)

Prayer to Overcome Shame


There are dark places in my Being, God. There are memories, circumstances, and scars that are unspeakable to me as I come before you. Heal my broken places, Dear God, and help me to feel my Wholeness. Bring me into the Light with You, God, and let me feel my fullness of Being as a Child of God…. from the prayer goddess