This morning started out fine, a snuggle with some of my favourite furry friends, clear blue skies with the first rays of actual warm sunshine streaming in through my windows, a delicious cup of coffee and goodbye kisses as my love left for the day. Delightful, really.
And then I decided today was the day to look at my finances. And it really was. Because OH MY FUCKING GOD WHAT AM I GONNA DO I’M FUCKED I’M FUCKED I’M FUCKED HOW DID I GET MYSELF INTO THIS MESS OH YOU STUPID STUPID AND YOU CAN’T EVEN FIND THE PROPER PAPERWORK WAY TO GO – and throw in some snot and sobbing and general flipping out and self bashing.
And you know, despite that… just as I was launching into a litany of not-good-enoughs I stopped myself. Dead in my tracks.
Something I have been coming across in the last couple of days is this idea of derailing the Shame Train as soon as it starts to turn it’s wheels. It is the least helpful train of thought I have, and you have, and effectively renders us incapable of dealing with shit.
The first time I came across this idea was in Amy Poehler’s book Yes Please in which she describes herself saying to the Shame Train, “hey, don’t talk about my FRIEND Amy like that. She’s my friend and I love her and I don’t tolerate that kind of talk about her. So shut up.” Or something like that, I’m paraphrasing (she’s so much more polite than I… in her book anyway…?). I liked it so much though that I quoted it on facebook.
Later, I heard about it from Brene Brown and her approach was to say to the inner critic, “thanks for your opinion, but you’re not in this with me so your opinion is not valid.” Again paraphrasing but you get the drift.
Most recently, it was in Eastern Body Western Mind by Anodea Judith, a book I have had for maybe 2 years and only read the first two segments because that was plenty to work with. I am now in the third segment which deals with personal will power and healthy ego and self esteem development (it follows the analogy of the chakra system which we are all welcome to take as literally or figuratively as we want). In it she discusses the role shame plays in the thwarting of developing a healthy ego and self esteem. The internalized shaming of past experiences becomes the mantras of our personal Shame Train and we stoke it’s engines whenever we find ourselves in a problem that, at least in my case, could have been avoided by different behaviour. Her shut down phrasing was along the lines of “hey, I’m doing this for the first time and it’s not gonna be perfect and I’m allowed to make mistakes. This is how I learn to do it better so lay off.”
These three brilliant women have the right idea and, to return to my story, I’m so glad that I have been exposed to this concept because my Shame Train was getting ready to drag me down to shitsville for the ENTIRE day. And it was a beautiful day – first day that has felt kinda like spring in about 6 months.
As I wandered around my livingroom helplessly, uselessly, trying to find the necessary documents that I knew were inaccessible to me in that exact moment, documents that wouldn’t actually make the problem go away at all but were the evidence of how badly I had “fucked up” and could maybe mitigate the damage just a wee bit, my mind raced forward with the above statements. Worthless. Stupid. Lazy. IRRESPONSIBLE.
And then out loud, to my bookshelves and half dead house plants I said “No! No I’m not going to let you talk to me that way! I made a mistake and that’s fine! Mistakes happen. And this kind of abusive talk does NOT help me fix the problem it makes it worse. So YOU go and SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
It was kind of amazing. It actually shut right the fuck up. And for a few seconds there, that tiny little voice inside me said… Ah, she’s starting to get it! Putting it into practice! Good work Jenny. I didn’t really feel any better, and I kept crying and looking but at least I was on my own side which is the side I should always always ALWAYS be on. No matter what.
Eventually I spoke with a friend and low and behold she had been in almost the exact same predicament as me, but with a whole heap of other, much more pressing “life and death” matters surrounding it and she said hey, been there, dealt with it and look? I’m still here and I’m ok. You’re ok too. She had some great advice for me but more importantly, she had CALM for me. Calm and the sort of Wisdom that says, ah honey, when you’re 60 like me you’ll remember this day with a certain kind of fondness. You’re fine. No sweat. (Thank you and munay ❤ I hope to be 60 and rocking it like you 30 years from now.)
I attempted to go back to “dealing with my financial slump” and realized that nope. Nope nope nope nope nope. Enough for one day. Sometimes you have to know when to disengage from a negative stimulus and seek something much more pleasant.
So I borrowed my love’s camera and went bird watching. I was tender and raw and they were tiny and sweet. I flirted for 3 hours with Chickadees, Nuthatches and even a Woodpecker. Cardinals hooted and flashed their fancy colours in the distance and Dark Eyed Junco’s stayed all capped and mysterious at the edges of the bird seed island that was my palm. I was even graced with aerial displays by Red Tailed Hawks and, in the distance, I suspect I saw my second Vulture (for me these guys are a SURE sign of spring.)
So I guess the point of this story is this; the Shame Train has its own, strange allure. There is something kind of addicting. Maybe it’s simply because it is the familiarity of failure and familiar feels safe and secure. Maybe its just masochism. But it has had the habit of running roughshod all over everything I have ever attempted, whether or not I was successful, and it is always always the first in line at the shit flinging party when I make a mistake. The Shame Train is a fucking asshole and my day-to-day is MY party and I get to decide who shows up. And The Shame Train is officially uninvited. I know it will show up but today I learned something really important; its not difficult to kick it off the rails. A firm stance, fists clenched on my hips and a loud, outside voice boldly proclaiming that it’s opinion is not welcome and yes please it can take a hike and no thank you but I have better things to do with my time than listen to you because I’m LEARNING right now how to do it better and this is VALUABLE.
Here are some of the better pictures I took of my cute feathered friends.