Hi, everyone! I have been sick, sick, sicketty-sick this past week with a nasty flu bug and am just now able to hold food down. I have really missed connecting with you all! This was the post I had scheduled for last week’s astrology happenings, and I will have a post up for the upcoming new moon. Hope you’re all staying hale and hearty out there. <3
Below: video by Mel Robbins on her perspective around posting on social media. SO worth the watch!
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I woke up the other day feeling bummed.
Wait, rewind. I woke up feeling fine. Then, the machinery in my head kicked in. Within a fraction of a second, my thoughts began to race along well-worn grooves in my brain, and before I even flung the covers aside, my limbs began to feel heavy.
By the time my feet hit the floor, I was telling myself I was depressed.
But that wasn’t true. I wasn’t depressed.
When I looked a little more closely, I saw the faint outline of shame under the heaviness I’ve always associated with depression. Or, as I like to call it, feeling bummed.
Shame is a shapeshifter. It’s a sneaky little rascal that attaches itself to bigger emotions, taking a free ride like a barnacle on a whale, almost undetected. You see the bigger emotion: fear, anger, depression…but you usually miss the fumes of shame in the background.
Once I recognized that what I was dealing with wasn’t just being bummed out – because that made no sense. There was nothing I should be bummed out for. Things aren’t easy, but there are no major crises in my life – I started to follow the breadcrumbs.
Why was I getting out of bed with such heaviness in my arms and legs?
Sometimes the question is the answer. Just wondering about that, being curious about why I would be “bummed” first thing in the morning when nothing has actually happened was enough for me to hit pause on the loop of racing thoughts.
I spent the morning following the bloom of bumminess to its roots and discovered they came from my social media posts.
It seems like a small thing – posting to social media, but as anyone who posts regularly knows, it is a risk, every single time. Each post is a question. Who likes this? Who can relate to it? Is anyone listening? Am I seen? Am I understood? What value is my contribution, my offering? Am I worthy? If I don’t post anything will anyone notice? Will anyone care if I never said anything again, ever?
The more truthful and authentic the post, the more vulnerable you feel. Pictures of my cats or landscapes or trees are not as hard to post as statements about my political beliefs (which are statements about my beliefs around power) or pages about a painful life experience.
When my first book was published, I was initially exhilarated by the validation. A major publisher had deemed my story worthy of a large, mainstream audience. It felt unreal and magical and affirming in a way I never thought was possible for someone like me.
I eagerly wrote other novels, buoyed by what seemed like acceptance – belonging – but the responses from publishers were that they already had their “Asian” novel for the year, or that “issue novels” about race weren’t hot anymore, or that writing about “East Indians” wasn’t universal.
I could unpack the extraordinary racism in those responses, but that’s not what this post is about.
I want to talk about the impact of shame, and all of those comments reinforce shame I adopted early on as an outsider, as an “other”, to help me cope with being ever on the outside.
No one likes to talk about shame. It’s a squirmy topic.
So let’s come at it sideways. Let’s talk, instead, about shyness, embarrassment, self-consciousness.
That feeling of being exposed and wanting to hide. Wanting to disappear.
All emotions have thoughts attached to them, and the thought attached to shame is “There’s something wrong with me” or “I am wrong” -- not “my answer is wrong”, or “that thing I did was wrong”.
I am wrong. Something about me, on a fundamental, foundational level is just…wrong.
Shame is so powerful we build entire monuments around it to hide the raw tenderness at the core.
I am intimately familiar with shame. I am the physical manifestation of my mother’s shame. I was the illegitimate child that could have her ostracized, humiliated, cast out (literally), or worse. I was embarrassing for her. I was, quite simply, proof of her “mistake” — her longing, her disobedience, her wild and uncontrollable nature.
In India, when I was born, women could be set ablaze for things like this. We were just starting to see Hindi films challenging the ages-old practice of bride-burning; I remember watching those as a child. But broaching those walls of deeply rooted “tradition” still seemed impossible.
You know those traditions…witch-burning, bride-burning, widow-burning. Burning, burning, burning of women, traditionally, all down the ages.
The fact that my mother didn’t love the man she was compelled to marry was no one’s problem but her own. She could not disobey, she could not question her elders, she could not stop the marriage because it would sully the family name.
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