Even our messiest middles and the things that make us hide can become stories of strength when shared in the light.
I hid myself in the back corner of my bedroom closet, crouching as low as I could, squeezing myself smaller and smaller until I disappeared. The forest of clothes dampened the volume of the screams that shook the closet walls, and the walls of my being with them.
If I pressed far enough into the back wall maybe I’d fall into Narnia.
There was a thud against the wall down the hall. Our walls were so thin you could hear a hanger scrape on a metal closet rod 3 rooms away. I was very careful to crawl beneath the clothes so no hangers were disturbed from their resting places.
Maybe I’m the broken one. Maybe I’m the one who caused this latest explosion of fury. Maybe it’s my fault. Maybe if I just disappeared everyone would be better off.
I didn’t know it then, but shame whispered all those maybes that day.
I just wanted an adult to come and find me, and tell me shame was a liar. No one did. The adults were otherwise occupied.
There are many ways to be lost in a closet. There are many ways to be trapped in the middle of your own story.
I’ve been thinking a lot about shame these last weeks.
The shame that shrouds our souls and makes us hide from the very connections with ourselves and one another that are the beginnings of a journey forward to wholeness.
Shame sets us up to feel at home in closets and cultures designed to keep us small.
Shame feasts on fear and chokes out creativity. Shame is visceral and soul-crushing. It smothers all other storylines under its weight. And the start of dismantling its power is to understand where and why it began.
The shame that strangled me in one very broken family system would set me up for shame to feel familiar and be more readily accepted in other kinds of abusive and unhealthy situations later in life. Because obviously, if there is a problem in the picture, it was me. If someone was to blame, it was me.
Shame is an inherently ego-centric, soul-sucking bastard.
Shame makes you shave off parts of who you are to fit in. Fitting in is to belonging what pharisaical door-guarding is to the open-armed welcome of a creator who is love.
I want to unpack this thing of structural shame and how it affects our humanity and creativity in part by getting brave and telling some of the ways it has shaped my own story, even without me knowing it.
Shame can stop us from showing up in the ways we most desperately want to. It messes with our perception of our own story. It makes us doubt our own intuition.
And that has deep impact on how we engage with our own creative process, its practice and the people we serve. So this is a conversation worth having.
I’m slowly realizing I can’t write meaningful anything while leaving 3+ decades of my life hidden in a wardrobe simply because I have grown past some of what my 30-ish-year old self talked about a decade ago.
If you wonder if you are enough, struggle to let yoursef be seen, always feel like you are on the outside looking in, I’m writing these things for you.
Shame states erase central parts of our stories. Parts, that if we tell them, might be the voice that shows up for someone else wishing for Narnia while hiding in a closet.
And that is a risk worth taking.
PS. Bookmark my writer’s blog, DMPerry.com, if you’re interested in reading more behind the scenes about shame-based theology and how that can affect our identity and spirituality. I was a pastor for 20 years so y’all know I have some thoughts and I’m warning you they might be a little saucy.