I would like to say that I booked my flight to Paris for a good reason, but I would be lying. I knew I just needed to get away. I needed space from the prison that used to be a home, somewhere to be when she was posting photos from the trip that was to be a celebration of our anniversary. I’m not on that on that trip; I was asked not to come; it’s not our celebration anymore.
So I ran. I don’t even think I was looking for anything when I landed, strung out, out of sorts, lost in grief, less than lucid from the lack of sleep and the sleepless rest on the plane. I suppose deep within me somewhere I knew there was something here, something I was in fact looking for. I did not know what it was, nor did I know how even to look for it.
I read, visited museums, walked, and walked. I drank wine, walked, ate some good food, and went to church. I drank coffee, journaled, cried. I didn’t sleep — sleep never comes easy when something’s on my mind. I thought I could find it, whatever it was. What I did find was that I was wrong.
You see, as I was finishing up Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son,” I started to understand that Henri might be right and my search might just have been doomed from the get-go. That sounds fatalistic, but hold on.
What I found were the seeds of contentment, love, and stillness. What do all three of those have in common? They are not searching or wandering about, but rather they are consistent and, well, still. I have begun to find that what I was looking for I could only find if I allowed it to find me. The only way I could find myself, love myself, find God even, was to be still long enough with a heart ready to accept what found me in my stillness.
What I have found in the City of Light I believe is Light itself. I found me and realized I am the same person that I have shunned, that I have seen thousands of times and hidden because I was ashamed of who I saw. So, I tried to be something of which I was less ashamed; I set my mind to be the fake. Similarly, the Father I found isn’t much of a man by our society’s standards. No, He’s leaves a bit wanting in the masculinity department as we have defined it today. But He is so much more gentle and nurturing than we typically define masculine men. Once again out of shame, I hid my Perfect Father and instead ran to a fake father.
Sitting in Monet’s garden today beside the lily pond, reading “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown, I put together the shame piece to my puzzle. I hadn’t quite figured this aspect out and I know there’s so much more to unravel, but all of a sudden I knew that this was all one big ball of yarn at which I am pulling. Much of my life has been motivated out of shame.
Let that sink in for a moment. I think I still do as well. Shame is probably the single greatest motivator in my life and that is a grave truth. My lack of self-love, my selfishness, failings at loving my wife, others, my unfulfilling gods, all stem from a deep-seated shame response that has been reinforced externally and internally over nearly thirty years! Holy shit! Looks like I have my work cut out for me.
This last truth is a bit hard to stomach, as the challenge in overcoming this shame is unsurmountable. On my own, it. Is. Insurmountable. But who ever said I was doing this on my own. One of the precious things I’ve come to realize in the past few weeks is the only reason I do just about anything alone is because I pridefully choose to go it alone.
This leads to a more powerful truth: I am lovable. I look at my friends and family and, yet again there is yet another — perhaps more powerful still — truth: I am loved. And I believe these two truths will make all the difference in moving forward. These two truths make the impossible possible.
Honestly, I’m not sure how it will look moving forward, but in this process of letting Love and Compassion, as well as myself, find me, recognizing shame and fighting with all the vulnerability I can muster — friend, my heart is beating so quickly right now — I feel I have found a sense of purpose here. There is so much pain in my heart right now, but that pain is a mixture of sorrow, joy, life, and hope, and I feel that perhaps this may be my gift to the world. Perhaps by living in, experiencing deeply with emotion, and sharing openly and honestly, just maybe I may have something valuable and authentic that I can finally offer to the world. Because I can hide behind my shame and fear no longer. Be free; be loved; be vulnerable.