Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Stories I Don't Tell

It’s funny that I’m co-editing a book on shame, because if you’d asked me a few years ago, I’d have said I was a shameless woman. What I mean by that is I don’t have a lot of regret. I made some mistakes when I was young, but that’s what youth is for. I feel good about my life in general. And yet…

There were some things I just never talked about. That’s what interests me now: the things we don’t talk about. Shame is the part of your story that you don’t tell. You may not dwell on it, but it dwells in you.

For instance, all my life, I tried to push away from the truth of who I was and what I came from. In the Shame Prom, I write about the fact that I was an unwanted pregnancy, born to two juvenile delinquents. My father was in jail when I was born, and would end up spending my entire childhood in prison. My mother, a 16-year old rebel, became a single mom who worked nights in bars. We used food stamps to buy our groceries.

But I wanted to be a Brady Bunch kid. I was a cheerleader. I wore the right clothes. I got good grades. Not until the last several years, after I wrote my memoir, did I start talking about my history. In denying that part of my reality, I became a fractured woman plagued by anxiety attacks and fear. Once I finally claimed that part of my story, it no longer held power over me. It freed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined, and opened new doors in my life.

I remember when Rob Lowe’s big sex tape scandal broke in the 90’s. Soon after, he was on Saturday Night Live, poking fun at himself over it. He never made excuses or tried to hide it. Suddenly, no one cared anymore. He claimed his shame, and it no longer had power over him. Look at him now- successful career, happy marriage and family. When you claim your truth, you take away the blackmailer’s power. YOU hold the power.

So that’s what this Shame Prom movement is all about. So far our Shame Prom writers have turned in gorgeous essays about the stories they never told:

Elizabeth Geitz, an Episcopal Priest and leader of her community, reveals her shame over her mother’s suicide
Kristine Van Raden comes to terms with the mother-guilt of her daughter’s eating disorder, and her daughter, Kate, writes a companion piece
Laurenne Sala struggles with her teenage shame over her gay dad
Julie Silver recounts the day she was banished from her loving community, and how she found redemption
Robyn Hatcher tells a fascinating story about carrying the shame of her race
Rachel Kramer Bussell, an erotica writer who would appear to be shameless, tells her  secret – she is a hoarder

If you think you don’t carry any shame, ask yourself…are their parts of my story I leave out? Parts of my history I’d rather not talk about?

There are for me.

Everyone knows I’m married to a wonderful man for 22 years, but few people know I had a previous failed marriage.

And no one, I mean NO ONE knows what I am about to reveal to you now, for it is perhaps my greatest shame ever.

In 1982, I voted for Reagan. If you defriend me on facebook right now, I’ll understand. I just couldn’t hold it in any longer.

So friends, this is what our mission is about, and Amy and I want you join us. Let’s get it all out, free ourselves, connect with each other, support each other, celebrate all we have survived and the strong women and men we are.

Let’s move from Shame-full to Shame-less.


  1. I still love you. After having the privilege of reading your memoir I would forgive you for anything you did. It is amazing to me that you survived at all with the ability to be the wonderful Mom you are today and wife and friend. It wasn't learned from your family as far as I can tell. Yet, you got it. Love you lots.

  2. This is so true. Sometimes we really have to 'embrace the scary' part of our past in order to move into the present. Thank you for writing.

  3. I was wondering what the pic of Reagan was going to have in common with you and shame -


    Love the twist your post took at the end and I can't WAIT to read this book.

    You are just too fabulous, my friend. In every way.

  4. Love this post! There are shameful things I would love to be able to admit, but my family would never forgive me. So, I keep those feelings to myself. I do have another shame story about myself that I could reveal that I swore I would never talk about. It's baaaaaad. But I never voted for any of those guys you all did thank goodness.

  5. Reagan was a great president. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

    I liked the way you explained what shame really is here. Not regret. What you leave out when you tell your story. NOW I get it. Thank you!

  6. I just discovered your blog and I love it! Your writing is honest and open.

    And Reagan? Nothing to be ashamed about there! We could use a little Reagan all up in the government right about now...

    Usually I don't get political in blogging or comments, but yeah, I just said that! Something about what you wrote made me feel write it! :)

    Great entry!

  7. Thanks beautiful ladies. ( and hmmm...where are the men on this post? I think Shame is a tough subject for men)

    I appreciate you letting me off the hook on the Reagan thing...I am a devout democrat, so that was hard to admit. : )


I love hearing your point of view- thank you for taking the time to comment and be part of the conversation!