Friday, July 13, 2012

Is one the other...

I was thinking today about shame and embarrassment and wondering how they are associated or if they are separate things.  I mean, I was thinking that embarrassment is a feeling whereas shame can be either a feeling or a state of being or both.  For me, it is primarily both if not solely the former.

I forget things.  I hate that I do.  I forget things all the time.

That I forget terrifies me.
That I forget triggers my temper.
That I forget makes all thoughts of being gentle with myself flee.
That I forget shames me.

The seminary wife staying in the basement asked if she could use my tub.  Up until that moment, I never thought about being a woman and having only a shower stall in which to bathe.  I knew immediately what she needed.  Small shower stalls are not conducive to certain types of personal grooming.  Not at all.  I promptly agreed and did not give it another thought.  Late last night, when I walked into my bathroom to get ready for bed, I spotted one of my "forgettings" and literally sank to my knees in shame.

The woman had bathed in a bathroom with a toilet that had not been flushed.

I forget where I am.  I forget who I am. I forget what I am doing. I forget what I have done.  I forget what I am supposed to do.  Life has become very transient, very fleeting.  And no matter who I try to talk with about this, no matter how many doctors I mention it to, I find no help and no support in dealing with this.

I burn food. I lose things. I leave doors open.  I miss bills. I miss appointments.  I miss medications. I get stuck on elevators because I cannot remember to push a button.  I leave things behind.  I leave things undone.

When it comes to using the toilet, all too often I forget to flush it because I have already moved on to washing my hands and whatever comes next.  When I walk into a bathroom and spot a full toilet, my spirit sinks and shame washes over me.  When I walked into my bathroom and realized that another person now knows of my inability to even flush a toilet, the public nature of my failure was too much for the moment.

Truth be told, I did not want to see her today, to talk with her, to be around her, so great is my shame.  I could wish never to see her again.  But she is living in my basement and sharing my first floor.  Such is not possible.

As the strain of battling my shame wore on this day, I started to wonder about it.  I mean, I cannot tell you why I feel such shame.  In part, it has to be because I was raised that leaving toilets unflushed was gross and tacky and something the worst sort of person would do.  It might also be that doing so is public evidence that  I am struggling to take care of myself.  Or something else which I cannot pinpoint or voice or even understand.

But part of what I have been learning is that my emotions are limited.  By that I mean I have avoided feeling so much that I honestly cannot identify many emotions.  So, I wondered if what I am feeling or should feel is more embarrassment than shame.  I cannot really explain what I mean, just that I have been wondering if shame is embarrassment or embarrassment is shame.  Is one the other?  For others?  Or perhaps they are so just for me?

In any case, wondering about the difference between embarrassment and shame at least took my mind off the forgetting...for a while.


I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

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