Warning: This post contains mild profanity, as if you didn’t already notice – I don’t think it’ll get any worse than the word used in the title though. I hope. However, I haven’t actually written the post yet, so here’s hoping I don’t forget to come back and change this caveat if I accidentally say fuck.
Ben (my husband) and I have this little saying about people, which bodes us very well. Our little saying generally stops us getting too down the track of being judgey at people, and ourselves for that matter, and also prevents us giving in to the temptation to pretend we are way more fixed-up and together than we actually are. This little phrase has been gleaned from years of getting off our own particularly churchy high-horse (which ended up with a broken leg and had to be shot) and also learning the very, very, very hard way God isn’t actually in control of as much as we sometimes like to think. As it turns out, the humans are in charge of most things we sometimes like to blame God for, and we mess those things up quite a lot. Surprisingly, we also discovered humans are always far more worried about the mess-ups than God is.
“Everyone’s got the shit.”
Whenever we meet someone new who tries to impress us by boasting about all their expensive playthings and how clever they are or otherwise gloat about the apparent perfection and excruciating wonderfulnessof their life, and how AHH-SUM God is – but only to them – we say to each other “Well, everyone’s got the shit”. We also remember it when we meet someone who is having a particularly hard time of things through no fault of their own, or otherwise. “Everyone’s got the shit” is not a putdown, and we never say it to people’s faces. It’s simply a way to remind ourselves that in all our 50 collective years as adults in society, we’ve never met one person who doesn’t have fears, insecurities, anxieties, emotional baggage, painful memories, shame or consequences of poor choices to deal with. Not one. Ever.
There was a time in our lives when we thought we were the only ones with problems, the only ones who ever fought, failed or fucked up. That was when we were deeply embedded in a collective society who upheld all-fixed-upedness to be the ideal, and also promoted it as attainable. The dummies. We all lauded and celebrated our master-race of leaders, who helped us ignore our actual problems by giving us a new, exciting self-improvment project every Sunday morning to distract us from doing any real inner work. In this way, for years and years and years, we and many others were able to fool ourselves into believing perfection was not only possible, but desirable and sustainable.
It couldn’t last, for us anyway. We were just way too flawed and wounded to make it stick. We were doomed to one day just DUI on all that repressed shame and insecurity about our problems and our past, get behind the wheel, drive way too fast and careen headlong into the Real World at an intersection.
You see, I got cancer. Then my husband became an alcoholic.
The Real World - where denial about problems, flaws and imperfection cannot exist - and us collided, and all our very carefully held-together pieces and all the messed-up shit which constitutes reality and The Way Things Really Are For Human Beings lay scattered across the road. It were ugly. Our blood and bone all the bits of us got mixed together with the gravel and the tar, and there was no way we could collect it all up again. All those problems we’d been holding onto and hiding were out there in the open for all to see, and all the things we’d worked so hard to achieve, our self-improvements and the things we’d been so proud of were now – to our horror – blended with all the horrible, yucky bits. In public.
Real World, people.
One thing we learned while we were making cancer go away and helping Ben acknowledge his alcoholism was these kinds of problems are not rare or peculiar in the Real World. Crashing into the Real World and dealing with our own shit helped us see just how common Real Problems are. Most people never let others see their shit, until they go DUI on shame and insecurity and lose control as well. We found we couldn’t justify the time and energy it would take for us to separate all those messy bits into perfection/problem piles, so we just decided to keep going, armless, legless if necessary, but definitely less-than-perfect, and honest about it for the very first time.
Everyone, when it comes to problems and imperfection, has the shit. We all do. Even that person you believe is self-actualised beyond your comprehension, unattainably all-fixed-up and just totally-together has nasty, hurtful stuff they’re dealing with – painful, shameful stuff. They may be dealing with it well, they may be dealing with it poorly, but they have it, of that you can be sure. Many people are well-aware of their pain and their vulnerabilities, and they ask for help, and know how to get that help into the parts where it will help the most. But others are so afraid of their own shame, they stuff it into a brown paper bag and take it down into dark, secret places, where they cry and drink up shame, and cry and drink up shame, alone there in the dark for as long as it takes.
It takes forever, just so’s you know. And let’s face it – we just don’t have that kind of time.
Acknowledging your shit, and the reality others have it too, is incredibly liberating, for yourself and for them. Ben and I are learning to embrace our own shit. It was the only way we could get bits of ourselves back together again after our incident with the Real World. We picked up the salvageable pieces – the stuff both we and others felt represented our failures and the worst of us – and we held them closer and closer to the best of us that remained, until they all began to graft to one another again. Its not pretty, but by God, it feels right. The yin and and yang. The shiny and the shitty. And I promise you, in embracing both the shitty and the shiny, you’ll help so many. There’s a whole lot of people out there about to go DUI, honey, and the best paramedics are the ones not afraid to get their hands a bit dirty.
I love comments! Leave yours below, tell us your own story of the shame, the “shit”, and about your healing journey.