Shame is an interesting thing. And people are often their own worst critics.
When I was in college, I got to briefly date an amazing guy. He was intelligent, handsome, charming, and he would text me his favorite passages from his favorite novels to help me get through some of the general-education/core classes I was required - but didn’t want - to take.
He passed away suddenly at the end of January 2013. It was a really hard thing to experience - that sudden, unexpected loss - especially because so many of the details and circumstances surrounding his death were uncertain.
I beat myself up for a long time about it. What could I have done? Could I have done anything to prevent it? Could I have intervened somehow to change the course of events? What could I have done differently?
He made me dinner once before one of his formal events. It was one of the first times ever that a guy I’d dated had cooked me a meal. He’d made a meticulous list of the things I liked and didn't like, allergies, preferences, etc. and decided on a salad, steaks, and green beans with peaches and vanilla ice cream for dessert. He was incredibly nervous that he was going to burn something and that the ice cream was going to melt. It was very endearing because I was just thrilled he had gone through the effort to do something nice like that for me. He could’ve burnt the entire meal, but I still would’ve eaten it.
He was also the first person to show me the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” I still get chills when I watch it, especially now that he’s gone. It’s one of my favorite movies to this day because of how relatable it remains to everyday life.
I mentioned before that I beat myself up for a long time after he passed, wondering if there was anything more I could have done. There wasn’t. Time heals everything, and although I still think about him from time to time, it’s not a sad thing to me like it was immediately after the fact. Of course it’s still sad, but I realize now just how beautiful it is that a person can live on in the memories of others even after they’ve left our world. The times we had together were incredibly special, which is why I love “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Jim Carrey’s character realized almost immediately that he didn’t want his memories erased. He didn't want to lose the bad memories if it meant also losing the good ones.
We’d spend hours discussing that movie, as well as our favorite novels and songs. We’d spend hours discussing themes and dissecting lyrics. As time has gone on, the not-so-great memories have faded while the good ones have stayed ever-present. I can pick up any of his favorite books and when I come across one of his favorite passages, I can still remember the delight I’d feel getting the text in class.
I have written about him before but mostly in metaphors. But life isn’t a metaphor for something else; it’s an intentional verb meant to be lived. He died so young, but I still he think he understood that intention better than many. I think that might be why we were in each other’s lives - that recognition in each other of wanting a full, intentional life. Even though time was not on our side, I learned so much from that person about empathy, about love, about life.
And I don't beat myself up about it anymore. There was nothing more I could have done, and that feeling of beating oneself up? That can become burdensome and shaming. And when it comes to shaming behaviors, everyone would be better off realizing that everyone has his/her own individual journey and it's important to let that negativity go.
So that’s what I’m going to write about for Wednesday: letting go of shame.
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