The Avett Brothers have a song called “Shame” with the chorus saying
“Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame (blame), please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop”
Though The Avett Brothers song is about a broken relationship between a man and woman the chorus to “Shame” well fits the way I feel about blame and shame in my own life. I promised that my next blog, this one, would address a quote I shared from my therapist Stephanie’s “Anchoring Hope” facebook page that said “once you have accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you.”
My problem is those “automatic thoughts” that Stephanie has tried to help me combat. I use my own faults and perceived faults against myself. That inner voice that is my Mamaw blaming me for every wrong thing that ever happened in or around our home still haunts me. I have terrible trouble combating my inner voice, that voice of Mawaw telling me how many mistakes I have made, why something is always my fault and even if it wasn’t, I was still at fault in her eyes and made to take the blame.
The very first memory I have of Mamaw forcing me to take the blame for something I didn’t do I was small, but big enough to have playmates over. On this particular day there were two girls at the house. One of them took a shine to Mamaw’s pretty crystal punch bowl that had twelve glasses hanging from the sides. She kept this displayed prominently in the dining room on one of the two antique buffets that sat in the dining area.
For whatever reason Mamaw thought especially highly of the older of the two girls. She was always bragging on how sweet she was and not while that child was around, but anytime that she wanted me to feel less than sweet and loved. Mamaw would make over other children often, talking in a sickening sweet voice about how good THEY were, how PRETTY, how SWEET, and how PERFECT. She often reminded me how unlike other children I was. She would say to me, looking down at with a furrowed brow and scowling expression ” you’re different from all of my other children.” She meant Jack, Kenny, Jeff and Tammy, her adopted son and his kids. At the time those words hurt me, because she adored them, gave to them hand over fist and thought they could do no wrong. Now as an adult I’m glad I’m different than them. I didn’t end up in jail or tangled up with the law or drugs at any time in my life as all of them have.
However as a little child, who sought and needed encouragement and praise, her words stung me and she knew that. So on this particular day when the girl had picked up one of the crystal punch bowl cups and commenced to break it, it was I who was blamed.
I remember standing there shaking with Mamaw and the girl and telling her through tears that” I didn’t touch it, I promise, it wasn’t me, it was her. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please Mamaw, please it wasn’t me.” She didn’t say anything until the girl left, then she took me to the punch bowl and commenced to beat me up with her words. Sometimes words can do as much damage as fists, I’ve had them both and know the pain they each cause.
She told me that it didn’t matter if the other girl did it, it was still my fault “little girl.”
You are the one that had the kids in the house, you are the one who allowed her around the punch bowl, you will take the blame whether you did it or not.
YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU!!!!!
The sad fact is, I wasn’t even near the girl when she touched the glass cup, I only heard the break. How could it be my fault? Didn’t she know better not to touch an old woman’s beloved pretty’s? I knew not to touch them, I lived in the glass house surrounded by the what nots, trinkets and all manner of glass objects that were easily broken. I hated all the glass things, they were the bane of my daily existence.
A little child plays, they need to run and have fun even inside their homes. I could not, even in the huge home I resided in, there was no room for me, only the things. I was just a hazard, a nuisance, the trinkets were the treasure. I was to remain still, quiet, in the basement, outside and/or out of the way. If one of Mamaw’s flea market finds or something I was set inside a dumpster to dig out or other beloved pretty little things came up broken or missing I was blamed.
You can not imagine how careful I always was in that house. If you look back at the cover picture of this blog at the shelf behind me, you will see hundreds of glass pieces The shelf was covered from top to bottom in things. That is only ONE of many, many shelves that were stuffed into the house, that held all the breakable things you could imagine, from roosters to tiny houses, fish and even nude statues. There was no shortage of of Mamaw’s collectibles and no shortage on rules for being around them.
I was tasked to dust these shelves every Saturday. I had to meticulously lift hundreds of pieces of this junk off and back onto the shelves, dust them and the shelving, make it all clean and shiny. In my entire life living there I only broke one thing and it was because I accidently bumped a shelf where a ceramic cat almost identical to the one you see, had been placed just on the edge of a shelf. There wasn’t enough room to support it correctly. As I was cleaning the dresser next to the shelve I backed up and into the book shelf, where no books were held mind you and the cat fell off. Part of the cats back chipped off, not a large piece, but big enough of a mistake for me to be terrified of the repercussions. I knew there would be more work, less of seeing any friends and more BLAME, more pressing, pushing down, terrible guilt.
A person couldn’t have paid me to break one of Mamaw’s things. I knew how much she loved them and I wasn’t a mean child. I also didn’t want the backlash that would come, so I was careful. I often wondered for as cruel as Mamaw was to me for ever finding a broken object, why she put me to cleaning them so much. A white bird came up broken once, one of maybe 50 she had. It’s tail was broken completely off. I have no clue what happened, I just know that I was made to feel as though I had burned the entire house down.
As with everything else that happened I was the scape goat at home. I was the easiest to blame, the easiest to punish and the one who still carries with them the shame of ever making a mistake. I can’t allow myself any grace to fail, to falter, to make a mistake in the least. I apologize profusely when I blunder. Something Mamaw loved. She gained pleasure out of seeing me cry and beg her to forgive me or pleading with her to believe me. Life with her was a constant struggle, a battle for her acceptance and love.
I can remember folding my little hands, getting down on my knees and laying my head on Mamaw’s lap, begging her to please forgive me. She wouldn’t so much as touch me, but rather look down at me sternly and sometimes with a smirk of gladness for my bowing at her feet. She wouldn’t forgive me, but loved and relished in my pleading. So I learned to apologize for everything over and over and over until I felt I had some sort of acceptance. I still do this today and as I type this I want to say “I’m sorry.” I’m sorry that I apologize too much. I also say thank you over and over, because I want someone to know that I do appreciate their kindness so very much.
When a child grows up knowing they are not trusted, believed, ever forgiven for a mistake or so much as told, “honey, it’s okay, that old thing doesn’t matter as much as you do, it was an accident and accidents happen.” That’s what I tell my child, but when this is lacking it makes an adult like me. One who knows every flaw they have and uses it against themselves.
I torture myself with guilt and shame, blaming myself for any bad or wrong in my life or those around me. Mamaw instilled this fear and this shame in me. She made me into a person who has no confidence that the people around her actually love and accept her. I honestly do not know how to forgive myself for my wrongs. If someone ever becomes angry at me for something it kills me. I cry and ache and weep bitterly in true sorrow for any pain I have caused them, for in my mind I believe I’ll never be forgiven or loved.
This goes back to the “automatic negative thoughts.” I have to retrain my brain how to think. Do you know how hard this is? It feels nearly impossible! There will be triggers that cause the thought to just burst through, have you ever tried to STOP your thoughts? How can you do this before they ever come or when they ease in when you’re trying to sleep or if a song comes on the radio or a smell hits your nose. It’s so hard friends, but I am trying to combat the bad and replace it with good.
I am training in mindfulness, to be conscious of my thoughts. It’s been suggested for me to talk to myself in the mirror, but I can’t. I’ve tried and I cry. The person I see is a fragile little girl inside, she doesn’t believe anything good about herself, because she was blamed for making mistakes she didn’t make and bearing the brunt of the mistakes of others.
God forgives me for my wrongs, He loves me and I know this. I just have to forgive and love myself.