Photo / Milada Vigerova
I dreamt about shame last night.
In the sweaty shine of sheet and twilight, I wrestled with twisted images of disdain and exclusion.
I'm not surprised my dreams were invaded with this particular brand of monster. For the last six months, I've been thinking a lot about shame.
This year, I left my marriage for another relationship. To be more specific about some of the nuances: this year, I left my marriage to one of the most amazing humans I know, with whom I was absolutely in love. I left to be with another man. I left because I felt a kind of deep knowing that cannot be encased in words. A kind of deep knowing that cannot be translated to anyone outside of the knower.
And the deep knowing said, here is your life partner and he is not the man you married.
There is no softer way to say it. There is no type of explaining that makes it more logical or acceptable.
I can tell you that my mind scrambled in the wake of my own sense of truth. It shook its head vehemently. It said NO to letting go of someone I love. It said NO to sacrificing a companionship I cherish on the altar of this so-called knowing.
It said, are you Fucking Crazy?! You are Not allowed to hurt someone you care this deeply about.
It said, are you Fucking Crazy?! You are Not allowed to leave a marriage, unless the marriage is not functioning or the partner is cruel and ill-suited for you.
It said - what's Wrong with You?! Marriage is about sticking it out, No Matter What. A community of treasured friends and family celebrated and supported your union. You will let everyone down.
You will alienate yourself by doing this. You will be misunderstood until the end of time.
Meanwhile my heart rocked back and forth like a scared child, whispering, I don't want to break.
And then the knowing - which I can only call my soul - it chanted without words. It fused all the disparate parts of me into one pulsing animal of sixth sense.
That sixth sense is what I chose to follow. I chose to follow it because I believe in that part of myself. I chose to follow it because I vowed to my former husband to grow truth with him. I followed it because even though this wasn't the truth I expected to grow - even though it is hard for people to view my divorce in this light - I wanted to honor the man I chose to marry with the truest truth that I discovered.
It's confusing and it's paradoxical and it's wildly charged for most everyone I know, but ignoring or disavowing that truth does nothing for his wholeness or for mine.
The human disposition is fickle. We have access to a limitless imagination, yet we are inclined to box up other people’s lives into a ‘this or that’ framework. We are inclined to decide who is bad and who is good - who is right and who is wrong. Because it makes the mind feel safe to have definitions, we create rule books of exclusion over and over again.
We exclude love.
If you left, you didn't love him.
We exclude change.
If your marriage ends, you failed.
We exclude connection.
I know what happened, I don't need to reach out to you and ask directly about your experience.
We exclude paradox.
This is true and that is false. This is more and that is less. This is better and that is worse.
Lately, I see paradox as the medicine for humanity.
Specifically, I see the ability to hold space for paradox - for coexisting view points, ways of being and truths - as the most important thing we can learn to do.
It is our secret super power.
In an earthly reality - where we are both human and spirit, mind and soul, heart and ego - constant oneness is not possible and neither is constant duality.
We have to be the thread that weaves between. We have to be the music that translates the threshold. We have to be the oneness and the two-ness.
So here is my paradox:
I miss my former husband in ways that shred me open. I grieve him everyday. He is one of my favorite people in the history of time.
The sadness that accompanies the choice I made to walk away will be with me forever.
I feel clarity in a wordless way that teaches me.
I feel happiness.
I feel strength.
I feel all these things swimming together.
It will never be one or the other.
At times, holding space for paradox is the hardest thing to do. I encounter my own judging, definition hungry mind, daily.
Discernment is important, but on it's own it is lethal. Discernment, without spacious empathy for the complexity of truth, is a weapon of limitation. It is the fuel for shame and shaming - which brings me back to the beginning.
I am dreaming shame out of my system. We are all dreaming shame out of our systems and it's hard fucking work. We humans have collaborated to create a consensus reality that encourages shame. We chartered an agreement to navigate the terrifying potential of our own power - to manage the wild truth that we are beings of change in a universe of change. Then we signed it and we passed it down to each new generation.
To live in accordance with the agreement means to be accepted. To live out of accordance with the agreement means to be excluded. The agreement speaks in terms of an us and a them, a hero and a villain, a success and a failure. The agreement does not allow two contradicting emotions to inhabit the same space for an extended period of time. The agreement says there is not enough room for everything or everyone or every part of the human experience, especially the parts that cause discomfort. The agreement makes you promise to never get too shameless.
If scarcity is our bread and butter, then one person’s liberation will surely starve the rest.
As the tightness in my chest eased this morning, as my dreaming state bled into waking, I laid in bed and formed a new agreement:
Being small and ashamed will not protect us or anyone we love.
We are meant to adore this planet with the scintillating abandon of our most activated creature-hearts.
We are here to dance with change and evolve.
We are meant to feel it all.
The deepest pain and the deepest pleasure.
We are here to call each other into the great work of being shamelessly human.
Because when there is all that extra space inside - the space where the shame used to live - our whole self rushes in and ignites.
And when we embody our whole self - our whole, delicious, joyful, shameless, love prone self - we alchemize the antidote to isolation. We forge the key to every prison. We rewrite the agreement.
Then one by one, we can stop trying to shrink.
Then one by one, we can feel worthy.
Then one by one, we can be free.