A friend asked me what my parents’ reaction was after I told them I was published in the Huffington Post. I crinkled my eyebrows and said of course I hadn’t told them. I haven’t told them for a lot of reasons. Some of which are that they wouldn’t realize what a big deal it was for me, how proud I was, what an accomplishment it was for me. How this validated my suspicion of talent all these years. How this satisfied an itch, a longing, I’d had since I was a child. They simply wouldn’t understand, because they still view me as the child who never met their expectations. I’m an enigma they just can’t understand. I’ve come to peace with that. They’ve tried as best they know how.
The other reason I haven’t told them though, is that they would be absolutely horrified. My best writing comes when I’m the most vulnerable. When I share my insecurities and fears and mistakes and poor judgment and losses. I have found through this journey of writing, that I am most beautiful in my weakest moments. Which ironically is where I find my strength. It is when I embrace and share my pain and my truth that the beauty arises.
In my family, and in my culture, quiet, dignified stoicism is valued. Anything less than perfect was to be hidden. Not even acknowledged. It was shameful. I grew up with a lot of secrets. Questions were not to be asked. Details of anyone or anything or everything were never to be shared. Disappointments hung heavily in the air. So I stuffed it all down and chased it down with a couple shots of Shame.
It took years for me to be able to utter these sins— imperfections and mistakes and wrongdoings of my family members and myself–in the secrecy of therapy. I’d always found solace in writing, in journaling. But saying these things out loud…well, it was blasphemy. It took many more years to say them out loud to others, and own them as part of my history, my truth, my self.
I have worked hard at recovering from perfectionism. I’ve worked hard at accepting and embracing my flaws and mistakes. I’ve worked hard at not personalizing other people’s issues and thoughts and judgments. I’ve worked hard at forgiving and being love. I’ve worked hard at putting down the facade of who I wanted the world to think I was, and instead be who I really am. I’ve worked hard at doing these hard things.
And I know you’ve done hard things too. Which is why I share in my struggles and triumphs and frustrations. I don’t share to dishonor my family. We all share common moments of everything falling apart around us, of almost drowning in despair, of feeling Not Enough in some way, of feeling like I was the only one that… My family does too–fall apart, despair, feel inadequate. They just don’t talk about it. My Shame hangover was hurting too much for me, so I stopped. And started writing. Out loud.
My family would be horrified that I was airing dirty family laundry out in public. They would not approve. This would be the ultimate failure of me in their eyes. And yet this is one of my crowning moments of pride. And this is when I am reminded that we love each other the best we can. And we need not like everything about someone to love them. So I am ok with not sharing this success with them, ironically keeping my own secret. And trust me, they’re more than ok with not knowing. And we end each day knowing we love each other the best way we know how. That is not a secret.