Cleaning the Shame
“What about this?”
She holds up what you know looks like a ratty, tattered book. It is a ratty, tattered book.
But your undergrad professor gave you that book. It contains information about the first excavation of Incan ruins.
You flip through it. The content is outdated at best, and racist at worst.
“Why don’t you get rid of it?”
You can’t get rid of this, no matter how tattered, how racist. This reminds you of when you were young and full of hope. This reminds you of all the dreams you had back then.
Dreams that seem further and further out of reach.
It’s your weigh-ins from Weight Watchers. All those years ago. You flip through it. You were doing well. Wow, really well. You were almost skinny.
You could be almost skinny again.
You can’t get rid of this, either. It’s a reminder that you could do it. It’s motivation.
It’s a jumble of yarn…a blanket you were making for your best friend’s baby. That baby is 7 now.
But maybe another friend will have a baby.
It looks like junk, but it’s not junk.
They’re projects you’re going to do. Once you have the time and space.
You’re a motivated, smart person.
You’re going to do all these things.
You can’t do them if they’re thrown away.
The archeology, the weight loss, the crafts.
These are all a part of who you are.
You cannot let them go.
After several hours, you decide to throw away the yarn. Not because you’re giving up on crafts, but because that yarn is too old and tattered. It wouldn’t make a good blanket now. You’re going to get new yarn.
And you’re going to start again.
Because this is a part of who you are.
The new yarn makes you feel new. So you keep going.
A new diet book.
Weight Watchers is so yesterday. This is what’s new. This is what is going to work.
It’s just a matter of motivation.
And you’re a motivated, smart person.
You subscribe to an archeology magazine. The information is shiny and new. There are more scientists of color, women scientists. You beam.
You get rid of the weigh-in chart.
You’re going to start with the new book.
New yarn, new book, new magazines.
You keep the book, though.
Books are different.
Books cannot be gotten rid of.
No matter how tattered, how torn, how outdated, how racist.
Now that you think about it a little bit more…
Maybe the book can go.
Not now, though.
The magazines get stacked in front of the book get the yarn put on top and the new diet book is covered in yarn and you are looking at the pile and all that new, shininess is gone.
The hope is gone.
There it is again.
Shame that you are not thin, that you’re no longer in the world of academia…that your information is old and outdated, and you would need years to catch up.
Shame that you didn’t follow through on the blanket for your friend’s baby, and shame that you thought, for some reason, you would finish the task this time.
You shove all of these things into a corner.
She is back again. Helping again. She is frustrated before she arrives.
“Can you get rid of this yarn? This has been here since last time.”
“No. That’s actually different yarn. I did get rid of the old yarn.”
“And you bought more?”
The yarn is tangled. Useless. Again.
You just got an article in your inbox debunking everything in the new diet book. And, apparently, Weight Watchers is coming under fire for shaming people.
You throw away the yarn out of anger. Then you regret your decision. You finger the clean bits of yarn resting at the top of the trash can.
The feelings of hope and shame mix together. You cannot tell the two apart.
You take a shower.
You don’t want to clean the house. You don’t want to throw away the yarn. Acknowledge the passage of time.
You want to believe there is still time. That there will always be time.
But there won’t always be time.
And when you realize that, the hope and shame turn into a black, ugly fear.
You need to clean all this off of you. You think of playing some of your favorite songs, but you realize they’re all over a decade old. You don’t know how to get your blood moving again. Everything is so stuck.
So you take a shower, a hot one.
You imagine all that shame and black sludge going down the drain.
And all the big, grandiose fantasies, too.
Maybe you can play with yarn for fun.
Instead of expecting yourself to make baby clothes.
Maybe you can eat well and exercise for fun.
Instead of expecting yourself to be as beautiful as everyone claimed you would be when you were a child.
Maybe you can read more about anthropology in your spare time.
Instead of expecting yourself to be an expert, a discoverer, a trailblazer.
Along with the shame go the big, big dreams.
And that’s a little okay, maybe.
The burden of all that ambition and all that shame swirls down the drain like bodily fluids after a one-night stand.
And you have more room to breathe.
You kept saying you needed more space, more room.
This was actually the space you were thinking about.
This space right here.