On: Embarrassment and regret
We all know that feeling: the one where you're in the car driving home and all you can think about is that stupid thing you did. Or the thing you shared about yourself that you probably shouldn't have shared.
Junior high: one long trove of, Oh god, why did I do that?
A friend recently told me about two different periods in her life, when she had used ways of coping with trauma that now bring her shame.
What do you do in these moments? How are you supposed to feel and how do you respond?
This moment in particular stands out to me because of all the things I did not feel. I did not feel judgment. I did not feel pity and I did not feel sorry for her.
Rather, I felt sorrowful. Full of sorrow. So much so my eyes started to smart with tears. But still I didn't feel sorry for her. The weight of what she was telling me, both the trauma and the coping, was so heavy that all I could do was sit with it. Perhaps what she was sharing was so great that there was no room for me, there was no room for me to analyze or judge or come up with a response.
Here, I felt like she was saying. Will you carry this with me because I can't keep it from you anymore and I can't carry it alone?
What she actually said: "I already know I'm going to regret this, that I'm going to beat myself up on the drive home and wish I hadn't shared this with you."
And here I was thinking, This is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.
What I actually said: "I just love you. All the love I have to give you right now, I am giving it."
What is it like to hold someone with your attention and with your heart? To. Just. Hold. Not wanting them to be different than they are in any way and not wanting anything for yourself in return. (Do you hear me, my friend? Not wanting them to be different in any way.)
Pablo Neruda writes:
Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo . . .
I love you without knowing how, nor when, nor from where / I love you straightforwardly, without complexity nor pride.
How often do we fully experience unconditional love like this? Not often, in my experience. I don't feel straightforwardly love for my husband; there's too much I need from him in return, from emotional support to help with the cooking. I don't feel unconditional love for anyone in my family, really; they're too close.
But with the people who are a little more distant, often I find that either I don't know them well enough to love them or I know them so well that I start to have expectations for myself.
I certainly don't know what it would be like to feel unconditional love for myself.
So where was this straightforwardly love I was feeling for this woman, this fixed attention to hold her, coming from?
I was wrong about what I said earlier, about how there was no room for me when my friend was talking. Because holding someone is holding someone with yourself. You have to create this strong structure—while being vulnerable enough to allow an opening for someone else to enter.
In junior high, I was so preoccupied with kicking myself for my own inadequacies and tallying embarrassing mistakes, that how could I love another?
Even now, I find myself coming up with excuses to not be open to others. Oh well she doesn't really like me, she's just being nice to me because I pay her to teach, so it's just a fake-I-want-my-classes-filled-up-nice. Or, Well she is never going to like me because I'm not smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough or interesting enough, so I might as well build up all these brick walls now.
Is it possible that my friend opened herself to me on that day because there is something I have already done to grow out of that kind of kicking-myself-constantly mindset? Is there something about me now that's a little more vulnerable, a little more open, than my bricked-off junior high self?
On that day, my friend showed me how someone can be open about their mistakes. And these rough spots, when they come from a place of strength, of authenticity and self-compassion, can be not expressions of regret or embarrassment at all; but rather, they can be expressions of an openness to love and to being loved.
The kind of love that's straightforwardly.